The role of a Lay Observer is an unpaid public appointment, made by Ministers. It is rewarding and fulfilling, making an important and unique contribution to the justice system.

We are looking for people aged over 18 from a range of backgrounds and communities to join us. We are particularly keen to hear from younger people, those of working age and individuals from black and minority ethnic communities since these groups are currently under-represented.

Essential criteria

You do not need any special qualifications or experience because we will provide all necessary training and support during a 6 month probation period. You do need to be enthusiastic and open minded, a natural communicator and possess sound, objective judgement. As long as you are 18 years or over, your background can be as a student, a person of working age or retired. There currently is no upper age limit, though you must be able to carry out the necessary duties.

Time Requirements

Lay Observers are expected to undertake a minimum of 2 to 3 visits per month, with flexibility to choose when visits are made. Only a very limited number of courts operate on a Saturday, so prospective candidates should be able to undertake most of their visits on weekdays.  Some Lay Observers may have time to make more than the minimum number of visits.  This can be explored during the interview process.  A typical visit to court, including travelling, preparation, notetaking and report writing can last anywhere between 4 hours and a whole day.


Full training is provided to new Lay Observers through accompanied visits to court custody suites, a full day training session, online short sessions and an on-line E-Learning platform.  There is also on-going professional development to enable Lay Observers to develop their knowledge and skills through regional meetings and contact with other Lay Observers.

Additional Information

Serving as a Lay Observer is recognised as a public duty and employers are obliged to allow employees ‘reasonable’ time off from their employment to perform their duties as a Lay Observer. Employers may pay staff for this time off but they don’t have to. Reasonable expenses are reimbursed.

The training you receive and the experience you gain in the role will also enable you to develop skills that could benefit you professionally and in other aspects of your life. You will also gain the satisfaction of knowing that you are making a positive difference in your community.