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21 October 2022
Wider justice system

Weren't able to join our annual general meeting, conference and awards ceremony? Here's a round-up of some of the highlights.

On 15 October 2022, more than 250 members came together online for our flagship annual event: our annual general meeting (AGM), conference and awards ceremony. If you weren’t among this number, then you missed a treat. But don’t worry because we recorded the whole thing, and it’s available for our members to watch at their leisure.

Putting together our national conference is a year-long endeavour. Soon after one finishes, we start to plan the next. What will the theme be? Who should we invite to speak? What would make good break-out sessions? Our aim is to produce an event that delights, inspires and educates our members. It’s the biggest date in our calendar, and we put a lot of effort into getting it right. So, we were very pleased that the feedback from this year’s delegates has been incredibly positive, with more than three quarters of you reporting it being “excellent”.

Here are a few highlights to whet your appetite for watching the recordings:

1. Debating our motion about greater recognition for magistrates

During the AGM, members debated a motion calling for magistrates to get greater recognition for the work they do, as volunteers, for their community. Delegates spoke passionately about why a magistrates’ volunteering charter and long service medals are needed. Spoiler alert: the motion was passed. We’ll be working up a plan of action to campaign for these changes over the coming year.

2. Thanking our outgoing and welcoming our incoming national chairs

During the AGM, we said thank you and farewell to Bev Higgs JP, who stepped down as National Chair, after two years of significant achievements at our helm. Delegates also got to hear from Mark Beattie JP, who took over as our new National Chair. As well as outlining the importance of open justice while opening the conference, he also summarised the priorities for the year ahead—one of which is member recruitment—in his closing remarks. You too can get involved in growing our numbers via our member get member programme.

3. Hearing from two members of the senior judiciary

We had not one, but two keynote addresses this year. Sir Andrew McFarlane, the President of the Family Division, spoke about opening up the family courts to greater scrutiny and transparency—and the difficult balance to be struck with protecting the privacy of individuals, especially children—in the morning. Although his speech will be of particular interest to our members who sit in the family division, he also made many points that will resonate with those who don’t.

Lord Burnett of Maldon, the Lord Chief Justice (and National President of the Magistrates’ Association), spoke to us after lunch and we were particularly struck by his words of thanks to magistrates for keeping the courts going through the long months of Covid-19.

4. Helping our members be the best magistrates they can be

We put on five breakout sessions for members to help them: learn about domestic abuse protection orders; better understand the National Referral Mechanism in the youth court; embed the voice of the child in the family court; influence sentencing guidelines; and embrace diversity and inclusion. These sessions were designed to support our members’ development as magistrates, so even if you attended one of them, there are four others waiting for you to view. Why not set yourself a goal of watching one a week?

5. Celebrating excellence at our awards ceremony

Throughout the day we also announced the winners of our annual awards. It was amazing to read the award entries and hear what our volunteers do for their local members and branches, as part of Magistrates in the Community, and to recruit members. We’ve pulled the announcements into a video. We hope that you enjoy hearing from some of the winners first-hand and that this inspires you nominate members for next year’s awards.

None of this would have been possible without the small army of members, staff and external guests who helped to make this year’s conference one of our most successful ever, and all the members who took part. So, thank you to all of you!

Next year, we return to a face-to-face event, which will take place in Birmingham on Saturday 25 November 2023. Please pencil this date into your diary, and look out for more details in the new year. One thing that’s for certain: after several years of pandemic-enforced online events, next year’s in-person event will have lots of time built in for renewing acquaintances and making new friends.