MA response to the judicial diversity statistics

John Bache comments on latest magistrate numbers

11 July 2019

The latest Judicial Diversity Statistics have been published, revealing that 56% of magistrates in England and Wales are female (up from 55% last year), 12% are from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds (which is the same as last year) and 52% are aged 60 or over (compared to 55% last year). The average age is 58, while less than 1% of magistrates are under the age of 30.

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

‘Magistrates must be recruited from all backgrounds and the magistracy should reflect the community that it serves. There has been 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 12% in the last decade. There is, however, still more to do, particularly to encourage many more young people to become magistrates. 

‘This requires a proactive approach that ensures that the role of the magistracy and the benefits of becoming a magistrate are widely understood. Being a magistrate is incredibly rewarding but people won’t join if they don’t know what it involves. More should therefore be done to ensure that vacancies within the magistracy are widely advertised to those who might not otherwise be aware of them. 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 in England and Wales is now 14,348, down by 655 in the last year and by more than half in the last decade. In response, John Bache said:

‘These new figures are extremely worrying. The number of magistrates has halved in the last decade and there are now not enough magistrates to do the work that needs to be done. We urgently need to recruit thousands more magistrates and the Ministry of Justice and the court service must invest in a major recruitment drive to arrest and then reverse this alarming slump in magistrate numbers. 

‘However, recruitment and training take time and we need more magistrates urgently. To address this, the Ministry of Justice should also allow magistrates to sit beyond the age of 70, the current retirement age, in areas where this is needed.’

The statistics are available here.

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