Every day, the Magistrates’ Association (MA) advocates on behalf of its members. Our national officers, together with our five policy committees and supported by our small staff team, cover a wide range of issues that matter most to our members and represent the organisation on external bodies. Since our last advocacy update in February, we have prioritised the following four issues and also secured two influencing wins:
1. Devolution of justice to Wales
To shape our submission to an independent review of youth justice in Wales that has been commissioned by the Welsh government in advance of a potential devolution of justice, in April we surveyed our members who sit in youth courts in the country to get their take on what’s working and what isn’t. You can read our submission here.
2. Youth court best practice
In January, we input to the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s development of a new good practice guide for youth court advocates. We highlighted the importance of youth court advocates being aware of children’s specific communication, developmental and/or emotional needs, and advised that youth court solicitors are au fait with the various structures surrounding youth courts, engage with children, and understand the local (and available) practices that might benefit them. We were delighted to see our suggestions reflected in the new guide and to be invited to speak at its launch in May. Want to refresh your knowledge of communicating in the youth court? Check out our training here.
3. Local justice areas
Last month, we issued a media statement welcoming the delay in the consultation on the abolition of local justice areas on the grounds that it will provide time for various options to be considered before the consultation is published. We have urged the Ministry of Justice and senior judiciary to make full use of this opportunity.
4. Relationship building
Our National Chair, Mark Beattie, wrote to the new Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Alex Chalk KC MP, upon his appointment in April. This is one of the ways we help ensure that the issues our members tell us matter most to them are at the forefront of the government’s justice policy. The new minister came into office at a point of crisis in the justice system, so we reminded him that magistrates are key to reducing court backlogs and that they must be championed in the recovery from the current crisis in the justice system.
1. Knife crime
In March, the Sentencing Academy published a report on knife crime prevention orders. As well as citing our position statement on the issue, it echoed our concern that the orders had been introduced without proper consultation or a robust evidence base.
2. Women and youth offenders
In March, the Equality and Social Justice Committee of the Welsh Parliament (Senedd) published two reports that drew heavily on the oral evidence and recommendations that our Chief Executive, Tom Franklin gave last year on women’s experiences in the criminal justice system and the issues affecting children with speech and language difficulties who appear in the youth court. You can read the reports here: