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September 19, 2014

Magistrates…small steps to increase diversity?

If you want to become a magistrate, there are very few areas in the country recruiting, as the latest information makes clear.  Court work is reducing and there is less need for magistrates.  In my report on diversity, I suggested that one of the techniques used to save resources on recruitment was in fact likely to lead to less diversity.  Every time a vacancy became available, the recruiters (clerks to Advisory Committees) were overwhelmed with applications.  They promised to interview all those candidates who met the criteria, and so had to do too many first interviews.  So a few years back the system was changed, so only the first say, 40, applications were even looked at.  Apparently it was like trying to get a ticket for the Rolling Stones – after only a few minutes, the required number came in, and all others were ignored.  The problem with this approach it may harm diversity.  If the first 40 applications are all from white people over 50, then others don’t have any chance.  I’m glad to say the system has been slightly tweaked.  In the very few areas recruiting, the application window will be open for 24 hours, presumably allowing for many more applications to be considered.  A small and good step.  But I fear it is not nearly, nearly enough.  I await the government’s paper on the future of the magistracy, due to be published in the summer, but much delayed.  An important step would be to make magistrate recruitment consistent with that of the paid judiciary where, if two candidates are equally suitable, one can be appointed over the other, if they are from an under-represented group.  Again a small step, but better than the status quo.