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22 April 2021
Diversity, disparity and inclusion

The Magistrates Association is proud to be involved in marking Stephen Lawrence Day. 

Stephen’s murder on 22 April 1993 shocked us all; a young life so brutally ended by an unprovoked racist attack. We can never bring Stephen back, but we can honour his memory by working to ensure that the tragic death of this young man continues to drive positive change in our society.

Stephen’s murder, the way it was initially handled, and the subsequent Macpherson inquiry have already prompted some significant changes to both policing and the criminal justice system. In 2005, the centuries’ old legal principle of ‘double jeopardy’, of not being tried for the same crime twice, was scrapped – a decision that stemmed from one of Macpherson’s recommendations. This paved the way for the 2011 trial and the convictions of two of those involved in Stephen’s murder.

The MA wholeheartedly endorses the aim of Stephen Lawrence Day ‘to create a fairer society where everyone has the opportunity to live their best life – helping young people to get involved in the kind of community they want to live in and for them to have a strong voice in building a fairer and more inclusive society’. The MA encourages young people from all backgrounds to consider becoming magistrates.

Magistrates are an important part of the judiciary. As volunteers, we serve our communities in delivering justice. We are profoundly conscious of the role we play and the seriousness of the responsibility that we bear. We also welcome new recruits to the bench and have put in place training, mentoring and support programs to help volunteers take up this vital role.

One of the MA’s policy priorities is tackling the issue of disproportionality: defendants from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds are over-represented in our courts. The MA is working with partners to understand the causes and how they might be addressed.

Today is Stephen Lawrence Day, a day to reflect on our society – and on the changes we still need to make so that everyone is treated with fairness and respect. The MA believes that we should not rest there. Stephen Lawrence left us a legacy for change: each of us can be an agent for meaningful change, every day.