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12 August 2022
Diversity, disparity and inclusion Wider justice system

To mark South Asian Heritage Month, Shazia Latif Book shares her experiences as the Black, Asian and minority ethnic network representative on our Greater Manchester branch.

I’ve been a magistrate for three years and a member of the Magistrates’ Association (MA) for most of that time. I applied to the magistracy for many reasons, but mainly due to my fundamental belief that justice can only be served effectively if benches are representative of their local communities. This means more magistrates from all ethnic backgrounds.

The MA’s Greater Manchester branch has always placed a strong emphasis on trying to ensure representation of all minority groups in the magistracy. As I do, it strongly believes that the most effective benches are those that reflect the communities they serve. This is why agreed to be its Black, Asian and minority ethnic network representative.

“I was delighted that Shazia accepted this position as Black, Asian and minority ethnic individuals are significantly underrepresented on the Greater Manchester bench. I know that she will do all she can to encourage members of our local Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities to apply to become magistrates.”

Paul Brearley, Chair of the MA’s Greater Manchester branch

As well as supporting networking opportunities for sitting and retired Black, Asian and minority ethnic magistrates, one of my core responsibilities is to raise awareness of and, hopefully, applications to the magistracy among all minority ethnic groups. So, I was delighted to be approached earlier this year by the MA’s Black, Asian and minority ethnic network about being a panellist on Starbank Academy Schools’ upcoming ‘Big Law Debate’.

The Q&A session was attended by more than 350 9-11-year-olds across the academy’s three sites – many of whom were from Asian and other minority backgrounds. The event was hugely successful, with insightful questioning from the pupils and palpable interest in what magistrates do. It was also a great opportunity for them to see a reflection of themselves in the judicial/legal world, which is so important if we are to achieve true representation of ethnic minorities in future generations.

“You were so inspirational to our pupils, especially the girls. The number of questions I am dealing with about becoming a JP has been amazing to see!”

Nadia Ahmed, Assistant Principal of Starbank School

It is through this type of national and regional collaboration that we, as the MA, can raise awareness of what our members do and hopefully inspire people from minority ethnic backgrounds to apply to become magistrates – resulting in benches that reflect the communities they serve.

If you’d like to get involved in helping people better understand the role magistrates play within the judiciary and the importance of diversity therein, why not find out more about the MA’s flagship outreach initiative Magistrates in the Community?