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Magistrates: representative of the people?

Penelope Gibbs
13 Dec 2013

How representative should magistrates be of their community?  A report came out today from Policy Exchange suggesting that working class people are not represented among public appointees and members of parliament, ie that they are excluded from the seats of power. The lay magistracy is an institution which the report says is not diverse, and does not have enough working class members.  And they are right.  The magistracy is overwhelmingly middle class and not sufficiently ethnically diverse.  Not sure that I agree with the report that there is any real problem with gender of magistrates, which reflects the population in  most areas.  The report suggests public appointment opportunities should be actively promoted to under-represented groups.  Indeed. But there has been scarcely any active promotion of the magistracy to anyone, let alone under-represented groups because recruitment is more or less frozen.  Court work has gone down, due to a reduction in crime (and increased use of out of court disposals?) and the magistracy is inundated with applications for the vacancies available.  So diversifying involves facing up to a bigger problem…what to do about the shrinking magistracy?