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Magistrate numbers: terminal decline?

Penelope Gibbs
31 Aug 2014

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.