Let’s increase diversity here in the South West
Magistrates Bench Diversity – Recruitment
Criminal justice has among the lowest proportion of senior staff from black and minority ethnic backgrounds. Current research reveals that in the Avon and Somerset Magistracy we currently have a severe under representation of BAME Magistrates and Magistrates from working class backgrounds, in direct relationship to the populations that we are serving.
Analysis following a government-commissioned report by the Labour MP David Lammy found that people from minority backgrounds are more likely to be jailed for certain crimes than those who are white and that they are over-represented at almost all stages of the criminal justice system.
What this means is that defendants from minority communities appear more frequently than the population average while those who pass judgment on them are older and whiter than their peers. Also that Ethnic minorities ‘get tougher sentences attributed to distrust in courts. This disparity in the courtroom highlights the need for improvement in securing a more diverse bench reflective of the ethnic diversity of the population.
Recent cuts to the Ministry of Justice and budget and social changes appear to have had the impact of narrowing the class and professional range from which the magistracy is drawn. Cllr Johnson who is also Magistrates Deputy Bench Chairman for Avon and Somerset, was recently involved in a very successful first joint BAME Magistrates recruitment initiative which took place earlier this year between the Bristol Magistrates Bench and Bristol City Council supported by Mayor Marvin Rees and Deputy Mayor Asher Craig. Cllr Johnson will also be looking to further improve this situation here in the South West and is currently proposing to help devise and co ordinate a continued recruitment drive in search of new justices of the peace, from all ethnicities cultures and economic backgrounds to produce a better informed and reflective criminal justice decision making body for us all.
Cllr Dr Carole Johnson JP “we need magistrates to be truly representative of the communities they serve, if trust in the criminal justice system is to be maintained. We don’t have enough BAME magistrates, in addition to this, currently the Bench is overwhelmingly middle-class and middle-aged. We need magistrates from all backgrounds. We have healthy robust Afro Caribbean, Chinese, Somali and Eastern communities, here in Bristol, this is not reflected…yet! I want to see this change and quickly.”
We have the opportunity become cutting edge in our response. Now really is the time! If you would like to get involved or have any helpful suggestions, please contact me onCllr.carole.johnson@bristol.