I’d thought about applying to become a magistrate for quite a few years.

The timing was just never right. The application process was long and somewhat daunting. I’d started to fill out the online form several times but never managed to actually complete it. Something always got in the way.

Last year, I finally got my act together, the impetus being my father’s declining health.

He’d been a magistrate himself in the past. It was something he’d loved and he was very good at it.

I remember the stories he would recount after returning from a day of court sittings - always maintaining total confidentiality of course. When he was young, my father had dreamed of practising as a barrister, but life and responsibilities meant he’d had to tread a different path. His eventual appointment as a magistrate was a way of still connecting with the law.

Ham & High: It was almost expected that Shelley-Anne Salisbury went into lawIt was almost expected that Shelley-Anne Salisbury went into law (Image: 1000words.co.za)

Growing up, it was almost an expectation that I would go into the law. I became a solicitor.

My father was delighted. The first lawyer in the family. I ended up marrying another lawyer (as you do) and our eldest daughter has recently qualified as a solicitor. There’s clearly something in the blood.

My legal training has stood me in good stead in my ever-evolving career and, particularly so, as a mediator.

By the time I finally got around to completing my magistrate application, my father’s Alzheimer’s was very advanced. Sadly, he died a month before I was formally notified of my appointment.

I told him I’d applied moments before he died. It was one of the last things I whispered to him - well, that and the fact I loved him very much.

A couple of weeks ago, I attended the swearing in ceremony at the Old Bailey.

Standing up and reading out my affirmations was emotional.

I had my father’s ring in my pocket, a ring he wore every day - the band has thinned over time and his initials are barely legible any more. I will take his ring with me whenever I carry out my court sittings.

In a lovely twist of fate, I’ve been assigned to the same magistrates’ court as my father. It’s yet another connection with him. I hope I do him proud.

No doubt, there will be challenges along the way, but, I’ll have my father right by my side.


  • Shelley-Anne Salisbury is a mediator, writer and the co-editor of Suburb News (themediationpod.net).