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Magistrates Some 30 000 Justices of the Peace sit in a thousand or so Magistrates' Courts all over the country, and nearly 300 in Bristol alone. They are appointed by the Lord Chancellor on the recommendation of local committees consisting largely of existing magistrates. This process gives rise to the criticism - perhaps justified - that the selection procedures tend to favour the appointment of new magistrates whose views are compatible with existing members'. Magistrates must be aged between 27 and 65 at the time of appointment (though very few in fact are under 40); they must be British, Irish or Commonwealth citizens; they must be in good health (sufficient to enable them to do the job);…show more content…
There are several reasons for trying to ensure that the bench includes a wide representation of different groups: certainly the appearance of fairness is important, and it is understandable that many young working-class black men feel they will not get justice from a middle-aged middle-class white bench. But because magistrates are unpaid part-timers, appointment is necessarily limited to those whose other commitments allow them to give up at least one working day a month to perform their judicial duties, and the bench can never be truly typical: according to research conducted in 2000, magistrates are overwhelmingly from the professional and managerial classes, and nearly half are retired. An individual candidate who is otherwise suitable will never be refused appointment because of his/her gender, ethnic origin, social class or (moderate) political views, but the Lord Chancellor and the advisory committees try to ensure a reasonable balance across the bench as a whole. So far as gender is concerned they are quite successful - 48½ per cent of magistrates were female at the beginning of 1999, and women outnumbered men in the new appointments for 1999-2000 - but in other respects success is coming only slowly. Certainly magistrates are unrepresentative in terms of age: the minimum age for appointment is 27, but only 21½ per cent of those appointed
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