I recently blogged (Gays, still marginalised) about a Stonewall survey showing that lesbian and gay’s perceived magistrates to be only marginally more inclusive and fairer than Judges or the Police. Now that is worrying. Not just for magistrates, for they are a truly an inclusive bunch (their representation figures are the stars of the judiciary demographics) but as Government looks at a wider role of magistrates in the community, the need for a transparent and truly inclusive magistracy is an important fundamental precept of our constitutions. One that underpins the concept of British Justice: to be tried by our peers.
I have since relayed this report to members of the the Magistrates Association (MA) and on the linked-in magistrates open network.
Of course magistrates do get involved in the community. There are teams of magistrates willing to attend schools, colleges, universities, community groups and employers etc to give a presentation and discuss:
- How magistrates are appointed
- What kind of cases they deal with
- How guilt or innocence is decided
- How magistrates decide to sentence
The MA are keen to stress that, as far as possible presentations are tailored to suit requests, whether it be an informal ten minute talk or for schools, a more participative sentencing exercise such as acting out a mock trial.
Last year alone over 4000 of these presentations took place, the majority to schools and some 700 to other groups. The annual report (available here) shows the presentation were made to a very wide range of society (including minority groups) and so I would urge all groups who would like to know more about the work of magistrates and our courts to approach the Magistrates Association or their local court (contact details below).
28 Fitzroy Square, London W1T 6DD
Tel: 020 7387 2353 and Fax (for those who use it): 020 7383 4020
To find your local court, use this link: HMCT your court finder