STEP back in time and revisit an 18th century courtroom to celebrate 650 years of the lay magistrate’s role in the justice system.

Members of the public will be able to join Dorset magistrates to mark the milestone at an event being held at Dorchester’s Old Crown Court.

The courts in High West Street will be open for all to visit on Tuesday, January 25, so the local community can witness magistrates dealing with cases as heard hundreds of years ago.

Cases will be re-enacted in line with original legislation and carried out in ‘18th-century style’ at The Dorset Magistrates Association organised event.

Afterwards, the cases will be repeated based on today’s laws to highlight the difference between the justice system in the 18th century and today.

There will be a chance to visit the cells at the courts and look at old style police and law enforcement uniform and equipment.

Representatives from other criminal justice agencies including local officers from Dorset Police and Her Majesty’s Court Service will also be on hand to give crime prevention advice and general information about how a court operates.

It will also be a good opportunity for those who are thinking about applying to become a magistrate because local magistrates will be present to offer advice and answer any questions about their role and what they do.

John Adams, a magistrate and also chairman of the Dorset Magistrates Association, described the 650th anniversary as a ‘momentous occasion’ that the community should celebrate.

He said: “We are very excited about marking this date in our history and we hope that members of the community will enjoy seeing the difference in justice then and justice now.

“It is very important that the Criminal Justice System is as open as possible in order that the community’s confidence is maintained in one of the best legal systems in the world.”

To further celebrate the occasion there will be a service of commemoration conducted by Reverend Vicky Thurtell at St Peters Church High West Street Dorchester at 12.30pm.

The free event, open from 9.15am-4pm, will be educational and informative for visitors.

Further information, including a promotional video, can be found online at dorsetmagistrates, and