Magistrate has given 22 years - retires

SHE may have been a 'grandmother-in-law' but after 22 years of life on the Bench, one Knaresborough woman has now retired from her work.

Nancy Scruton, who has lived in the town for 16 years having been born and brought up in Starbeck before coming to Knaresborough, has been a Justice of the Peace at Harrogate Magistrates Court since 1982.

Her years there have seen her working in both the magistrates and juvenile courts, the latter of which she has been chairman for since 1990.

The work is entirely voluntary, with allowances for lunch and travelling, and to be a JP flexibility is essential. A minimum of 52 sessions or 'sittings' as they are known have to be completed over a year and a sitting can stretch into a two- or three-day trial.

"As a JP there are certain guidelines you have to abide by," said Nancy.

"All the circumstances of a case have to be taken into account and heard. A Bench consists of a chairman and two wingers who will listen to a case and ask questions. More serious cases go onto a Crown Court. York is the nearest one to here.

"At times the job could be frustrating and you have to remain detached. As chairman of the Youth Bench, it was sad to see young juveniles coming through. Often whole families come through with history repeating itself with the children. It's very sad. Often young men calm down once they've met a lady!"

Common incidents in the Magistrates Court included burglary, assualts, fighting and road traffic incidents. Magistrates have the powers to fine, give community service orders or serve punishment orders.

Before hearing a case, those on the Bench have to check they don't know the witnesses or anyone concerned with the case.

Nancy became a JP having married her husband, Geoff and brought up a family of four. She had worked for some time in a solicitor's office and on seeing an advert in the Harrogate Advertiser decided it was something she would like to do.

After applying, she was nominated for the role before undergoing training in the form of lectures, reading and visiting court houses. Nancy took her full Oath of Allegiance in April 1982.

There have been amusing times and sad times in her work but one highlight was meeting Princess Diana when she opened the new court on Victoria Avenue in 1991. She also met Prince Andrew when he opened the new probation centre on East Parade.

Though life was busy, Nancy still found time to be a Sunday School teacher at Starbeck Methodist Church, a Brownie leader, a qualified youth leader and a governor at Starbeck Primary School. She was also a representative on the local probation committee and was involved in the setting up of a bail hostel in York.

Nancy was one of the instigators of the Harrogate Accommodation for Homeless Young People, which is still operating and now run by the Housing Association.

Even though Nancy has now retired, life is still busy and she regularly gives talkes to groups and organisations about her JP days including visits to schools with mock trials and role playing.

"I enjoy family life with my children and seven grandchildren." added Nancy.

"However, I still work on the Valuation Tribunal Appeals committe dealing with rating assessment trials and Geoff and I host Christian Holiday Guild weeks. I also manage to knit for a local wool shop."

Nancy is a qualified table tennis umpire as well and in the summer months, enjoys playing Crown Green bowls at Starbeck.