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THE MYOPIA OF THE MAGISTRATES ASSOCIATION
written by The Justice of the Peace on the 24th August 2018 at 12:42




Letters: Magistrates don't need to be ex-criminals to understand people on trial



SIR – According to the 2011 census, 87 per cent of the population were white or white British. That means that 13 per cent were not.
Why, then, is John Bache, Chairman of the Magistrates Association, worried that only 12% of JPs are black and ethnic minority? This seems reasonable to me, bearing in mind that those appointed in the last century would have been proportionately more white.
Until I retired as a magistrate last year, most criminals were male, yet half of the bench were women. It is fair in general terms to argue that magistrates should reflect the society which they serve, but that does not mean that an individual defendant should expect a bench reflecting his or her characteristics, particularly if they are of a criminal tendency.
Michael Staples JP
Seaford, East Sussex


SIR – Mr Bache is trying too hard to be politically correct by seeking to recruit more former offenders as magistrates to “make those accused of crimes feel less alienated by the justice system”. 
It is far more important that the justice system retains the confidence of the victims of crime and the law-abiding majority, as well as criminals, by having magistrates of obvious integrity.
Ronnie Bradford
Vienna, Austria


SIR – Your report includes the phrase “hiring more magistrates”. Magistrates are not hired but appointed, as unpaid volunteers. That needs to be borne in mind in any discussion of the matter.
As to the need for diversity, the principal requirement is awareness of the circumstances of those who appear in court. You need not have financial problems to judge poor people, or be black to judge black people.
Experience like that gained in Citizens’ Advice, seeing people of every kind of background, can provide the necessary qualification.
Katie Watson
Petworth, West Sussex


SIR – Sitting as a deputy stipendiary magistrate, I did not have to be a former thief to know the difference between a mother stealing food for her hungry child and a man stealing watches for profit.
Peter Thompson
Sutton, Surrey


SIR – Mr Bache suggests that recruiting magistrates with criminal records would make those accused of crimes feel less alienated by the justice system. I thought that one aspect of the justice system was just that – to make criminals feel alienated from the norms of civilised society.
David Salter
Kew, Surrey


SIR – It is suggested that former criminals should be magistrates, and only gay actors should play gay characters. What next – MPs that have lived and worked in the real world before representing us mere mortals?
David Dorey

 Originally posted at https://thejusticeofthepeaceblog.blogspot.com/2018/08/the-myopia-...

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