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Facts and figures

Magistrates are ordinary people who hear cases in court in their community. They make many of the legal decisions in England and Wales and sit in criminal, family and youth courts.

Facts and figures about the magistracy

  • Magistrates, who were traditionally called justices of the peace, are ordinary people who give back to their communities by hearing cases in their local adult, family and youth courts.
  • They listen carefully to all evidence given in court and follow structured sentencing guidelines to reach fair decisions. They are advised on points of law by a legal adviser who sits with them.
  • This is an unpaid, voluntary role that has existed for over 650 years.
  • With over 90 per cent of all criminal cases being resolved in the magistrates’ court, magistrates are the cornerstone of the justice system of England and Wales.
  • Magistrates receive different types of training and support, both before and during their time as justices of the peace.
  • Magistrates come from all walks of life; they are ordinary people with common sense and the capacity to make fair decisions. You can find out more about the eligibility criteria
  • The magistracy is one of the most diverse parts of the justice system, but there is still much room for improvement. Latest available government statistics (July 2023) reveal that: 57 per cent of sitting magistrates are women, 13 per cent are from Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups and 82 per cent are aged 50+.

Facts about the Magistrates’ Association

  • Founded in 1920, the MA is the only membership body and the independent voice for magistrates in England and Wales.
  • We were granted a royal charter in 1962 that guarantees our independence.
  • We’re a democratic association—run by and for our 12,000 members.
  • We’ve successfully advocated to increase magistrates’ mandatory retirement age and for a national recruitment campaign.
  • We have five policy committees that steer research, development, and implementation of policy in their specialist areas.
  • We have four diversity and inclusion networks, providing a supportive environment for groups that are currently underrepresented in the magistracy, including Black, Asian and minority ethnic, disabled, LGBT+ and young magistrates.