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MA response to the 2020 judicial diversity statistics

John Bache comments on latest magistrate numbers

17 September 2020

The 2020 Judicial Diversity Statistics have been published, revealing that 56% of magistrates in England and Wales are female (the same as last year), 13% are from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds (up from 12% last year) and 49% are aged 60 or over (compared to 52% last year).

Commenting on the statistics, John Bache JP, National Chair of the Magistrates Association, said:

'Magistrates must be recruited from all backgrounds and the magistracy should reflect the communities that it serves. There has been some progress made on improving diversity in the magistracy, with the proportion of magistrates who are from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds having increased from 8% to 13% since 2014. There is, however, still more to do, particularly to encourage many more young people and people from all social backgrounds to become magistrates.

'This requires a proactive approach which ensures that the role of the magistracy and the benefits of becoming a magistrate are widely understood and vacancies within the magistracy are advertised to those who might not otherwise be aware of them. At a time when thousands more magistrates need to be recruited, the Ministry of Justice and the court service need to put time, energy and resources into creating a modern, diverse magistracy.'

The statistics also show that the total number of magistrates is now 13,177, down by more than half in the last decade. In response, John Bache said:

'We are now facing a crisis in magistrate numbers. Even before the current coronavirus pandemic halted recruitment, the number of magistrates had halved in the last decade and there are now simply not enough magistrates to do the work that needs to be done. 

'The Ministry of Justice and the court service must invest in a major recruitment drive to recruit thousands more magistrates over the coming years. However, recruitment and training take time and we need more magistrates urgently. To address this, the Ministry of Justice should also take action now to raise the retirement age of magistrates, to allow magistrates to sit beyond the age of 70.

'The government now needs to take urgent action to address this alarming and unsustainable slump in magistrate numbers.'

The statistics are available here.

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