'I start this piece by declaring an interest: I am 24 years old and I’ve been sitting as a magistrate for the last four years. I am an adult and youth winger on the North London Bench, based at Highbury Corner Magistrates Court.
'The whole time I’ve been a magistrate I’ve been acutely aware of how, when it comes to age, the magistracy is far from being representative of the people we see in court and society more generally. However, I’m also well aware that with significant budget cuts, the MoJ and HMCTS are hard-pushed to facilitate any kind of serious recruitment campaign that would target younger audiences and those who have no idea about the role of a magistrate.
'The figures speak for themselves. Although magistrates can be appointed from age 18, there are very few magistrates under 30 (1%) and only 4% of magistrates are under 40, while 85% of magistrates are 50 and over, and 55% aged 60 and over. The average age of magistrates is 59 years old, and has remained at just under 60 since 2012, beyond which records are unavailable.
'Last month, I attended the MA’s annual conference in Manchester for the first time. I was slightly disheartened to see that one of the motions put before members was to raise the retirement age of magistrates from 70 to 75. The proposer of the motion admitted that it was a “quick fix” to the systemic demographic issues with magistrates. I appreciate that we can recruit younger magistrates while extending the retirement age, but I think it sends the wrong message to HMCTS at a time when there are very few resources to prioritise certain agendas. I think we need to be much more radical with our solutions to this problem.
'An obvious barrier to recruiting younger magistrates is that employers are not giving applicants the required time to sit in court. But there are other factors that affect our ability to attract a more representative pool of candidates, which is why we need to spend more time speaking to current magistrates to get the full picture.
'MA national office is currently working to recognise and bring together individuals who are members of groups they know to be underrepresented within both the MA and the magistracy, as a whole. They then aim to form Special Interest Groups (SIGs) which will allow these members to network and discuss issues specific to them. These will be dependent on uptake, but will ideally include Young Magistrates (under 40), BAME Magistrates, Muslim/Christian/Jewish Magistrates, LGBTQIA+ Magistrates, and Magistrates with Disabilities.
'The first of these is the Young Magistrates SIG. Last month, the MA brought together a group of magistrates from across the country, all under the age of 40 and many representing other communities which are currently underrepresented within the magistracy, such as the BAME, LGBT, and disabled communities. The group will meet regularly to discuss how the MA can better support younger members and break down some of the barriers preventing other younger people from applying.
'Lord Adonis, a Labour peer in the House of Lords, has taken a particular interest in this cause and recently came to a focus group with the Young Magistrates SIG. It is amazing to have the support of Lord Adonis, as he was instrumental in founding TeachFirst and FrontLine, the social enterprises that got young graduates into the teaching and social work professions, respectively.
'There is an opportunity to start something similar for magistrates - which is why over the next few months I am going to work with the Special Interest Group, the MA, magistrates and HMCTS to develop a proposal of what a programme might look like for recruiting new young magistrates.
'The wider context is clear: we desperately need to recruit more magistrates as our current demographics show over 50% will retire in the ten years. We need to think about radical ideas that will fulfill two purposes:
i) Improve the age diversity of magistrates, better representing the public; and
ii) Create a more sustainable recruitment model that appoints magistrates earlier in life.'
The Special Interest Groups are still in development, but if you have any queries or thoughts, please contact Halita Obineche, Director of Membership for the MA.
Bedfordshire MA: anti-bullying in primary schools
On 13 and 14 November, as part of anti-bullying week, Bedfordshire MA Chair and Secretary, John Pickersgill and Martyn McCarthy, visited King's Oak Primary School to teach the children about cyber bullying and explain how a courtroom operates. They delivered a presentation and created a role play exercise that were relevant and engaging to both the Year 5 and Year 6 pupils. And the pupils’ questions certainly kept them on their toes!
The children participated in a great team building role play activity to raise awareness of bullying and its impact on its victims. They were also given a cyber bullying case and asked to decide the guilt of the perpetrator, then suggest suitable punishments.
The pupils were then tasked with each writing a diary entry based on the events recounted in the presentation – from either the victim or the bully’s point of view.
The activity was thoroughly enjoyed by all who took part. Some of their comments:
‘It was really interesting to find out about what magistrates do.’
‘I didn't realise that the consequences of cyber bullying could be so severe.’
’It makes me want to be a magistrate when I'm older.’
‘I want to be able to do the role play all over again.’
Hearteningly, the children all agreed that there are no winners in bullying and thanked their teacher and the magistrates for an exciting morning.
The school was extremely pleased with the presentation and the reaction of the pupils. They are eager to discuss a programme of works with the branch for 2019 and will be putting forward some ideas for other presentations from which they think the school might benefit.
If you would like to discuss the above or get suggestions on how to deliver similar MIC activity in your area, please contact John Pickersgill.
On 24 October, John Davidson JP, Chair of the Durham Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) spoke to Northumbria MA about the work of IMBs. His talk covered their composition and workload, the legislative framework within which they work, their monitoring and influencing roles, and some of the changes to the welfare of prisoners that the Durham IMB has been able to influence.
He also gave a fascinating insight into how Durham’s recent change in role to a reception prison has influenced the work of the board. It was clear that John’s previous experience as a police officer - and as a JP - serves him well in his leadership role on the Durham Board.
Since there is no upper age limit for appointees to IMBs, magistrates who have left the Bench may wish to consider an IMB role as a means of continuing to use their skills.
Further details may be found here.
Following the fantastic success of this event in 2018, the branch will be staging the event again in 2019. GMMA MIC Coordinator, Gwynneth Bellman, and the executive committee are firmly of the view that project is exactly the type of ‘grassroots’ event with which the branch should be involved.
The event will be held on 28 June 2019 at Tameside Courthouse.
The branch is currently engaged in raising sponsorship and grants for this event, which will be used in part to fund the transport costs for competing schools, allowing more schools from Greater Manchester to become involved.
If you are able to support this event financially or on the day please contact Gwynneth Bellman.
This October, Professor Guy Rutty of the East Midlands Forensic Pathology Unit (EMFPU) gave a fascinating talk at the Leicestershire and Rutland MA autumn conference. EMFPU, one of three training centres in the UK for forensic pathology, deals with approximately 250 suspicious deaths and 80 fatal road traffic accidents each year. There has been an increase across the region in violent crimes, providing 15-20 call outs per week in relation to suspicious deaths, mainly homicides.
Professor Rutty described the roles he fulfils including clinical, academic, research, statutory functions, advisory (including, Interpol, Home Office and MoJ) and working as a volunteer doctor with East Midlands Immediate Care Scheme (EMICS).
One of Professor Rutty’s current aims is to avoid unnecessary trauma to victims’ families by minimising the number of autopsies often requested by legal professions. The EMFPU is spearheading the wider use of CT imaging as the most effective alternative to open autopsies.
If you have any queries, or would like to learn more about the above, please contact John Dehnel.
'I am one of the founders of the twinning link between Rochdale and Sahiwal, Pakistan and have been actively involved in the Sahiwal Working Party.
'The Sahiwal Working Party has developed various projects in Sahiwal including: the Free Eye camp, a maternity care project, an education project for schools, a disability project, a waste management project, and training for the local police, maternity hospital and municipal corporation staff. I, myself, have delivered various training sessions in Sahiwal for staff of the municipal corporation, management committee and midwives of the maternity hospital.
'In May 2018, at the Mayor Making Ceremony, the Mayor of Sahiwal Councillor Asad Ali Khan Baloch and the Ambassador of Businesses in Sahiwal Mr. Anjam Ansari visited Rochdale, met with the Mayor of Rochdale and the Sahiwal Working Party, and invited a delegation from Rochdale to Sahiwal. The following delegates and I then paid the reciprocal visit:
• Mayor of the Borough of Rochdale Councillor Mohammed Zaman
• Mayor’s Consort Mr. Sheraz Shiri
• Alderman of Kensington & Chelsea Councillor Mushtaq Lasharie CBE
• Member of Parliament for Rochdale Mr. Tony Lloyd
• Leader of the Rochdale Borough Council Councillor Allen Brett
• Chair of Sahiwal Working Party Councillor Sultan Ali
• Co-ordinators of the visit to Pakistan Councillor Asim Rashid / Imtiaz Ahmed
• Vice Chair of the Sahiwal Working Party Mrs. Razia Shamim MBE
• Public Relations Officer of Sahiwal Working Party Ghulam Rasul Shahzad OBE JP
• Member of the Sahiwal Working Party Mr. Iftikhar Ahmed
'From 1 to 7 October, we visited Azad Kashmir, Islamabad (federal capital of Pakistan), Lahore (capital of the Punjab Province in which twin town Sahiwal is situated) and the twin town, Sahiwal.
'In Islamabad, we met with federal ministers of information and overseas Pakistanis, senators, Members of the National Assembly, the President of the Azad Kashmir and other senior officials and discussed with the matters of mutual interests and issues affecting overseas Pakistanis.
'In Punjab, we met with the Governor of province, Mr. Mohammad Sarwar, who was previously a Member of Parliament in the UK and well known to both myself and Tony Lloyd MP. He invited the delegation to lunch and arranged a tour of the Governor’s House.
'The delegation visited the Lahore Wahga Border and watched the lowering of both Pakistani and Indian flags at the sunset. There were thousands of people on both sides of the gates who were waving placards stating ‘Long Live Pakistan’ and ‘Long Live India’ but the atmosphere was friendly and everyone was respectful of one another.
We visited the Shaukat Khanum Cancer Hospital, which is twinned with Christie Cancer Hospital, Manchester.
'In Sahiwal, we dined with Mr. Tahir Rauf, Chairman of the Union Council. He subsequently kindly took us on a tour of his factories and farms and then to the Union Council Office where we met the council members and members of the community. All members of the delegation planted trees to mark of our visit to the Union Office.
We also met with the Commissioner of Sahiwal, Mrs. Farah Masood; Deputy Commissioner, Mr Mohmmad Zaman Watto; and District Police Office (Chief Constable of Sahiwal), Mr. Ghulam Mubashir Maiken.
'The delegation was invited to the Chamber of Commerce and were presented with shields by the President of the Chamber of Commerce in recognition of the services Rochdale Borough Council and the Sahiwal Working Party have provided to the people of Sahiwal.
'We then visited the museum in Harappa, part of the ancient civilisation of Indus Valley that is about 15 miles from Sahiwal. On our return, we visited the Sahiwal Church and met with the priest and its staff.
'The International Rotary of Sahiwal kindly arranged a lunch – which was attended by governors of neighbouring towns and cities – and decorated us with International Rotary Badges.
'We thanked them all for their hospitality, warm welcome and the gestures of friendship between the people of these two great towns, said good bye to everyone and embarked upon our journey back, delighted with the trip we had just had.'
If you would like more information on this, please contact Ghulam Rasul Shahzad.
Following a series of successful visits in Tamworth and Cannock, Staffordshire MA has arranged for magistrates to visit the onsite activities of various Community Payback (unpaid work) teams working in the Stoke on Trent area.
Places are open to all magistrates, on a ‘first come, first served’ basis. These visits will take place on Sunday mornings and will normally start onsite at 09:30am (to be confirmed for each date/visit), when you will be met by the local supervisor who will give you a short introductory welcome. There will be ample opportunities to ask questions.
Initially, dates are 2 or 9 December.
Once confirmed, you will be provided with the necessary details.
If you are interested, please contact Jonathan Dannatt, giving your first and second choices of date.
Unfortunately travelling expenses cannot be claimed or reimbursed
On 9 November, Nick Leader and Martin Hill, respectively Director and Head of Regimes and Commercial Development at HMP Northumberland led an extremely informative and worthwhile tour of the prison for members of Northumbria MA.
The tour started with an oral overview followed by visits to the catering, educational, work and recreational facilities, as well as the beautiful chapel and recently dedicated war memorial – as part of the prison site was previously RAF Acklington.
The magistrates also had the opportunity to talk to staff and prisoners, and were struck by their positive reports about, and enthusiasm for, the changes that have been implemented during the last two years. They were particularly impressed with the prison’s success in supporting the voice of prisoners and in enabling their rehabilitation.
Further information may be found here.
If you have any queries about this or would like more information, please contact Lesley Dickinson.
The North East and East London MA carol service is being held on 10 December at 7pm. As usual it will take place in the chapel at Snaresbrook Crown Court, Hollybush Hill, E11 1QW. There is ample parking and Snaresbrook station (Central Line) is nearby.
All magistrates and their friends and families are welcome at this event. There will be a collection for four local hospices. Light seasonal refreshments will be available afterwards.
North East and East London MA invites you to come along and enjoy singing lots of carols and listening to the choir of Forest School perform various Christmas choral items, both traditional and modern.
If you have any queries, please get in touch with Erica Zimmer.
1st Prize – Brian Nicholson (South & West Devon)
2nd Prize – Nigel Morgan (Oxfordshire)
3rd Prize - Shirley Birch (South & South East London)
South and South East London MA are struggling to find a bank that provides the level of service they need. They are currently trying to change signatures on their bank account and NatWest would like current and future signatories to attend a branch at the same time. The branch has some reservations about this.
Can any branch recommend a user-friendly bank that is prepared to cope with the very few transactions they have each year an is able to cope with the very few transactions they have each year and is able to cope with a change of signatory, periodically? Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated.
If you can be of assistance, please contact Sarah McLaughlin.
19 January 2019 - Saturday Morning Development Session
Forensic Science – Professor Guy Rutty, MBE - Chief Forensic Pathologist East Midlands. Head of Forensic Pathology Unit Leicester University.
Bentley Hotel Newark Road. South Hykeham. Lincoln. LN6 9NH
The Lincolnshire MA Executive Committee is delighted to offer Magistrates the opportunity to attend this Development Session. MA Members pay for this event through their subscription fee. Magistrates who are not members of the MA are very welcome to attend we just ask non-members to pay a small contribution of £6.00 to cover costs. This can be paid on the day by cash or cheque.
Forensic Science Professor Rutty will be talking about the work he and his colleagues carry out and the types of incident he attends.
Expenses are unable to be claimed. The Presenters are generously giving their own time free of charge.
To book your place at this session, please contact Mary Chamberlain.
23 February 2019 - Saturday Morning Development Session
Topic to be confirmed – further details will be advised shortly
23 March 2019 - Saturday Morning Development Session
Cyber Crime - further details will be advised shortly
Early June 2019 – Annual General Meeting of the Lincolnshire Branch of the MA
Details will be confirmed nearer the time
Northamptonshire MA will be holding their AGM on 23 March 2019 at Northamptonshire County Cricket Ground along with the Northamptonshire Bench meeting.
The branch is currently pulling together a team of interesting speakers, and more information on these will be available shortly.
For further information contact Gerald Lovell.
All magistrates (whether or not they are MA members) and interested others
are invited by the Northumbria Branch of the Magistrates Association to the following talks:
13 December 2018 7-9pm
The Grey Horse, Front St, East Boldon NE36 0SJ
“Dead Bodies and Dark Places”
Norman Kirtland, Retired Police Forensic Artist
A buffet supper will be served at 7pm
Please let Vivien Hollyoak know if you intend to attend.
30 January 2019 7-9pm
Newcastle Arts Centre, 67 Westgate Road
Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 1SG
“The Work of the District Judge (Magistrates Court)”
DJ (MC) Sarah-Jane Griffiths
A buffet supper and hot and cold drinks will be served at 6pm
Please let Vivien Hollyoak know if you intend to attend.