Monthly Archives: February 2014

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“Crisis” Facing Magistrate Recruitment

According to a new report from justice charity Transform Justice, the recruitment of magistrates within the UK is in crisis. The report found that magistrates are now older, fewer, and less diverse than they were at the turn of the millennium.

The report, Magistrates: Representative of the People?, suggested a number of measures to deal with the crisis. These included giving the Judicial Appointments Commission responsibility for recruiting new magistrates, and introducing positive discrimination to help boost diversity.

The study identified a number of points of concern within the current magistracy. For instance, 55.5% of magistrates are now over the age of 60, and in some areas more than 60% are aged 60 or over. This compares to only 32% in 1999, indicating that magistrates are getting older. At the opposite end of the scale, a mere 3.2% are under the age of 40.

Magistrates are also disproportionately middle class, according to the report. Only 28% of the UK population is employed in a professional occupation, a managerial role, or as a senior official. By contrast, this group accounts for more than half of all magistrates. On the other hand, sales professionals and those employed in customer services account for just 1.5% of magistrates despite representing 8% of the UK’s population as a whole.

The report also identified concerns in the representation of minority groups amongst the magistracy. The proportion of magistrates from an ethnic minority group is currently 6% lower than that of the entire UK population. In 1999, the figure was just 2% lower, suggesting that as time goes on magistrates are becoming less and less representative of the UK population in ethnic terms.

Taken together, this data means that magistrates are not representing the population of the UK, and that they are failing to do so on a number of fronts. They are not as diverse in ethnicity, age or class as the UK people. However, the report also discovered that the magistracy is shrinking – something it attributes to a “recruitment freeze.” Last year a mere 300 people joined the magistracy while 2,000 left. Since 2007, numbers have declined by 28%.

Lay magistrates, the report claimed, have not seen specific efforts to improve diversity in the ways that have been applied to salaried judges. The report suggests that this accounts for much of the problem, and suggests tactics such as positive discrimination to rectify the issue. The report also proposes making it easier for those in work to sit as magistrates, greater sentencing powers, and the introduction of 10-year fixed tenures.