Magistrate numbers: terminal decline?
Magistrate numbers are at their lowest level since I’m not sure when. Judiciary figures for 2013/14 show 21,626 magistrates sitting -definitely the lowest figure since for the last ten years, possibly in the last 20. The numbers have dropped 1775 in a year and 8215 since 2007. This is a continuation of a trend, but no less alarming for that. The problem is that, with the drop in numbers, comes a decline in diversity (in its broadest sense). Magistrates in 2014 were even older than previously, with 57% over 60 and 85% over 50. Some areas (eg Coventry and Warwickshire and Dorset) have no magistrates under 40. And ethnic representation is still way behind the population, with 8.7 % from ethnic minorities, in comparison to 14.1% in the population. Transform Justice’s report “Magistrates: representatives of the people?” analysed these long term trends and suggested that increased diversity would be very difficult to achieve without either increasing numbers or introducing positive discrimination into recruitment.