Headlines: March 24th, 1999

Following recruitment drives for nurses, teachers and school governors, a new campaign has been launched to recruit magistrates. There will be a series of advertisements in national newspapers and magazines as well as titles aimed specifically at ethnic minority communities. The visual images in the advertisements challenge the prevailing view of magistrates being out-of-touch fuddy-duddies.

There are just over 30,000 magistrates and they sit for about 35 half days each year. All criminal trials start at the magistrates’ court and 95 per cent of criminal cases are handled totally by magistrates. They are not paid, but receive travel allowances and a flat rate for loss of earnings.

Magistrates come from a wide range of backgrounds and occupations including dinner ladies and scientists, bus drivers and teachers, plumbers and housewives. They have different faiths and come from different ethnic backgrounds, some have disabilities. One of the aims of the campaign is to increase the number of magistrates from ethnic minority backgrounds beyond the current level of 6.5%.