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New report on difference in cost between lay magistrates and DJs

Penelope Gibbs
12 Dec 2014

The way work is shared between lay magistrates and district judges can be a bone of contention, as can the recruitment of a district judge in an area where lay magistrates would like more sittings.  Transform Justice’s report on the diversity of the magistracy showed that magistrate numbers have gone down at a greater rate than district judges.  Since 2008, district judge numbers have increased by 4%while magistrate numbers have decreased by 20%.  This discrepancy is slightly mysterious given the clear difference in cost in the two types of judge.  This was pretty clear in the revised version of a government commissioned study.  And seems even clearer still from a new report from the Magistrates’ Association  which finds that 98.3% of sessions presided over by magistrates cost less than equivalent sessions presided over by District Judges.  The difference in this report as against the earlier is more about speed than cost.  The government commissioned study found that magistrates transacted business more slowly than District Judges, but their much lower costs still made them cheaper.  In the MA study “no statistically significant difference was found between the number of cases transacted per session by magistrates and the number of cases transacted per session by district judges”.  I’m not sure whether this is about different ways of counting, or a genuine difference in findings.  Either way it does suggest that if the government wants to save money, it may make sense to recruit more new magistrates, rather than district judges.