Court ushers are responsible for preparing courts for hearings and making sure that everything is in the right place at the right time. They are also responsible for making sure that everyone involved in the hearing is there and knows what to do.
Court administrative officers play an essential role in making sure that the business of a court runs smoothly and that cases progress through the system. They are often the first point of contact for people attending court.
There are different types of courts:
Magistrates' courts which hear most criminal cases ranging from driving offences to theft and assault. They also act as family courts, where they decide on relationship breakdown and childcare cases, and youth courts which deal with offences committed by young people under 18. Magistrates are unpaid, trained members of the community who usually sit in a panel or 'bench' of three.
Crown Courts deal with more serious criminal offences such as murder, rape or robbery. They also deal with appeals from magistrates' courts. Crown Court cases are heard by a judge who decides on the sentence but the decision about whether someone is guilty or not is decided by a jury of twelve members of the public who are chosen at random.
County courts deal with civil cases which include matters such as people owing money, claims for personal injury or disputes over contracts. Hearing may be formal or informal.
The High Court deals with the most complex civil cases and with appeals gainst decisions made in the county court.
The Court of Appeal hears appeals against decisions made in the High Court and the Crown Court. Any disputes from the Court of Appeal go to the House of Lords.
In addition to the courts, there are tribunals which hear cases concerning:
A court usher's duties are mostly practical or administrative. A few are ceremonial. Duties vary depending on the court, but for most ushers they include:
In Crown Courts there are several ushers, some with more specialised duties. The sworn usher swears on oath to maintain the jury's seclusion during the case.
Ushers usually work 37 hours a week, 8.30am to 5.00pm, Monday to Friday. Occasionally, they may have to attend late sittings. There are usually opportunities for part-time work and flexible working.
Ushers mainly work in courtrooms or offices or at reception desks, and sometimes travel between different courts. A sworn usher may occasionally spend nights away from home in a hotel. A driving licence may be required for some jobs, particularly in more rural areas.
In court, ushers wear smart, dark clothes and calf-length gowns.
Starting salaries may be around £12,700 but experienced court ushers may earn up to £15,400 a year.
In England and Wales the courts are run by Her Majesty's Courts Service (HMCS) and tribunals are run by the Tribunals Service. Courts are found in all cities and most major towns. There are 216 county courts and 77 Crown Courts. Crown Courts, which deal with more serious criminal cases, are found in larger towns and cities. The number of ushers varies depending on the size of the court.
Jobs are advertised in the local press, on the Ministry of Justice website and on the Civil Service Recruitment Gateway. Entry is fairly competitive.
While there are often no formal qualifications required, applicants generally have at least two GCSE's (A*-C) or the equivalent including English.
The Diploma in society, health and development and the Diploma in public services may be relevant for this area of work.
Successful applicants will need to gain satisfactory clearance from the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) before they can start in post.
There is no formal training structure at present and courts operate different training systems. Training is mainly on the job and usually takes about a year.
A new usher normally shadows an experienced usher, gradually taking on more of the duties. There are also short courses on topics such as security issues, dealing with difficult situations, working with jurors and equality awareness.
There will be opportunities to work towards NVQ's:
NVQ's in business administration and customer services are also commonly offered.
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A court usher needs to be:
In the higher courts and large magistrates' courts, an usher may be promoted to supervising usher or section manager, with responsibility for a group of ushers.
A court usher can also be promoted to the grade of administrative officer within the Civil Service.
Civil Service Recruitment Gateway
HM Courts & Tribunals Service
Ministry of Justice,
6th Floor, Temple Court,
35 Bull Street, Birmingham, B4 6WF
Tel: 0121 250 6350
Skills for Justice, Centre Court
Atlas Way, Sheffield S4 7QQ
Tel: 0114 261 1499
Tribunal Service, 5th Floor,
102 Petty France, London SW1H 9AJ
Tel: 0845 600 0877
Additional resources for job seekers and those already in a job.