Fedster + 1,307 Posted August 25, 2018 Share Posted August 25, 2018 Take on more justices with criminal records to help improve diversity, industry body suggests. MP David Lammy: 'Working-class people are under-represented as well as ethnic minorities' Date - 25th August 2018 By - Nick Hudson - Police Oracle 4 Comments More people with criminal records have been urged to become magistrates amid falling numbers in the profession. Magistrates' Association chairman John Bache argues that barring "anyone who's ever done anything wrong" is "no way at all to increase diversity". He said it was "completely erroneous" that those with an old, minor criminal record would not be considered as candidates. There are around 15,000 magistrates in England and Wales – less than half the number 20 years ago – dealing with 95 per cent of all criminal cases, ranging from minor assault to theft. Currently 12 per cent of justices are from black or minority backgrounds, while only four per cent are under 40 – compared to 55 per cent aged over 60. Magistrate candidates are expected to be "mature, understand people and have a sense of fairness", according to guidance on the government's website. It also states those who had been found guilty of a serious crime or guilty of a number of minor offences would be unlikely to be considered for a post. Mr Bache added that “we all make mistakes, we all do things we shouldn't have done," but stressed that it is essential to “increase diversity” in a justice system seen as too “pale and stale”. The industry body lead said he expected the government to increase the number of magistrates to 18,000 in the coming years. “The total number has fallen quite dramatically,” he said, adding that while there was no need to return to numbers seen in the 1990s – when the number of magistrates peaked at 30,000 – figures should rise thanks to recruitment drives by local advisory committees. Falling numbers of magistrates have also been blamed on the fact that some crimes, such as minor motoring offences, are now dealt with out of court. HM Courts & Tribunals Service, which is part of the Ministry of Justice, reviews the number of magistrates each year and is working on a new strategy to forecast the number of magistrates needed up to five years in advance. HMCTS said: “Magistrates play a vital role in our justice system but during the past 10 years the workload in the magistrates’ court has reduced year on year. “We are investing over £1 billion to modernise the justice system, making it easier to use and providing better value for the taxpayer.” More than half of magistrates are women but only one in eight of magistrates are from black, Asian or minority ethnic backgrounds — something Labour MP David Lammy highlighted in his report last year into the treatment and outcomes for BAME individuals in the criminal justice system. The Tottenham MP’s hard-hitting study found that the lack of diversity among those who wield power had fostered mistrust of the justice system among BAME communities. “Nowhere is this more apparent than in our courts, where there is a gulf between the backgrounds of defendants and judges,” he concluded. Mr Lammy recently admitted there was a “real issue about recruitment” for magistrates. “It’s probably true to say working-class people are under-represented as well as ethnic minorities, and there is a significant issue with attracting more self-employed people,” he said. Retired A&E consultant Mr Bache said it was difficult to persuade suitable candidates, adding: “The perennial problem is encouraging people from BAME backgrounds to apply, because they say magistrates are white, middle-class males and people like [them] don’t apply. “You have this vicious circle. We are very keen to break that, but it isn’t easy.” View On Police Oracle Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
Create an account or sign in to comment
You need to be a member in order to leave a comment
Create an account
Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!Register a new account
Already have an account? Sign in here.Sign In Now