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‘Computer says no’ approach to expenses won't do

The Magistrates’ Association urges a rethink


28 July 2022
‘Computer says no’ approach to expenses won't do

The MA has expressed strong disappointment with two recent Magistrates’ Leadership Executive (MLE) announcements regarding magistrates’ expenses. The MLE announced last week that:

  • Mileage allowances for travel to court will not be increased, despite the huge surge in petrol prices.
  • There will be no reimbursement of expenses related to the use of personal digital devices when working remotely, despite evidence that some magistrates are out of pocket or excluded from online work.

 

The MA has urged the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) and the MLE to reconsider their approach, given strong evidence in favour of doing so:

  • The introduction of the revised mileage rates for magistrates last year, following the magistrates’ expenses review, saw a reduction of up to 20 per cent in mileage rates for many magistrates. Since then, there has been an unprecedented 60 per cent increase in the price of petrol. 
  • An MOJ and MLE survey on magistrates’ use of digital devices showed a pressing need for a new policy of cost reimbursement. Despite this, they have decided not to change the policy, saying creating a new expense would be too ‘challenging’.

 

Tom Franklin, chief executive of the MA, said,

“We are really disappointed by these decisions. They will reinforce the impression of many magistrates that they are not properly considered and looked after, as volunteers critical to the functioning of the justice system. It really isn’t acceptable that magistrates should have to fund the costs of their volunteering from their own pockets because it is too ‘challenging’ to devise a system that properly reimburses them. This 'computer says no' approach won't do. It won't do anything for the diversity of the magistracy, as it will deter those magistrates with limited means. And it won't do anything to raise the morale of magistrates.”

This autumn, the MA will publish the results of a major survey of its members about the costs of volunteering as a magistrate. The report will put forward recommendations on how to ensure that magistrates are not out of pocket for their volunteering.

Photos by Jennifer Latuperisa-Andresen and Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

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