The MA's National Chair John Bache gave evidence to the Justice Select Committee on Tuesday as part of their follow-up inquiry on the role of the magistracy. John gave evidence alongside Duncan Webster, the National Leadership Magistrate, and Jo King, Co-Chair of the Magistrates' Engagement Group. Phil Bowen, the Director of the Centre for Justice Innovation, and Penelope Gibbs, Director of Transform Justice, gave evidence in a subsequent session.
The issues covered included the need to recruit more magistrates and in particular the need to recruit more young people and to work with employers to gain their support in enabling their employees to sit as magistrates. John highlighted the fact that more magistrates are needed urgently and that alongside increasing recruitment we should also allow magistrates to continue to sit beyond the age of 70 where there is a need. Magistrates' morale was also discussed, particularly in the context of past and forthcoming court closures, as was the need for more investment in training for magistrates. The committee also asked about access to justice and the need to ensure that magistrates' courts are accessible to all. Finally, the committee discussed problem-solving courts and sentencer confidence in community sentences, and John reiterated the MA's view that magistrates should be given the power to review offenders' progress on community sentences.
At the end of the hearing the Chair of the Committee, Bob Neill MP, thanked all magistrates for the work that they do on a voluntary basis, noting that the justice system could not function without their contribution.