Anorak News | Sticky Beaks

Sticky Beaks

by | 11th, November 2005

‘WANTED: person of sound mind and probity. Must like wood panelling, mixing with undesirables and have spare time to burn. Oh, and the work’s unpaid.

Who in their right mind would be a magistrate?

The ideal candidate needs to know the law and adhere to its every dotted ‘i’ and crossed ‘t’. They need be judgemental and wholly confident in the judgements they make. In short, to be a magistrate you need be a member of the Women’s Institute or/and a golf club and an ardent Daily Mail reader.

Amazing as it sounds, magistrates deal with over 95 per cent of criminal cases. When she’s not making cakes and jam, the woman in the twin-set and pearls is meting out justice like a blue-rinsed Judge Dread.

But plans are afoot to change all this. The toadyish Lord Falconer of Thoroton, the Lord Chancellor, has published a paper he hopes will get more of us wanting to be magistrates.

One aim of the Supporting Magistrates’ Courts To Provide Justice paper is to increase the number of magistrates who are young and from ethnic minorities – people unlike the typical magistrate, and more like the accused.

But how does the Government reach out to this new breed? What will make a window cleaner drop his shammy leather and work for nothing? What kind of madness will take hold of a plumber and make him want to become a Beak?

It won’t be easy. But things must be done. The Government wants diversity. As the Magistrates’ Association website says: “The local advisory committees who advise the Lord Chancellor on the appointment of magistrates in England and Wales welcome applications from people in all walks of life who have the qualities and the time to serve as magistrates.”

To boost this recruitment drive, jurors are being sent information on how to become a magistrate after they’ve completed jury service.

The thinking is that after you’ve sat on a hard wooden bench for long enough you’ll have grown to like it. And by way of a clincher, there’s free tea and biscuits, it’s raining outside, the library’s shut and there’s nothing on the telly.

People with any kind of life do not want to be magistrates. The call for fresh blood is right, but to expect people to do the job for nothing is crass.

The only youths this scheme will appeal to are those who think being a magistrate will look good on their CVs. And the finically better off.’

Posted: 11th, November 2005 | In: Reviews Comment | TrackBack | Permalink