Friday, February 08, 2013

Numbers

A recent Parliamentary answer elicited the fact that the current strength of the magistracy is 24,003. That is way down on the number of 30,000 that used to be bandied about.

The drop is not surprising, because recruitment has more or less ceased since the latest wave of bench mergers, with the drop-off of business continuing between five and ten per cent. Retirements meanwhile continue, and the age profile of the magistracy means that most benches will lose almost half of their members within ten years.

Some recruitment will have to continue, to prevent the bench profile becoming grossly skewed towards old codgers like me. Unfortunately there is anecdotal evidence that employers are increasingly reluctant to allow time off for magistrates.

17 comments:

  1. The moratorium on recruitment for most benches means that the average age is rapidly climbing, while any chance of increading the ethnic mix is rapidly declining. Our county bench has not appointed any new magistrates since 2010, which was 18 months before the wave of mergers, and will not start interviewing potential candidates until 2014.

    As a result, chairman training has also been suspended, as the chairmen/winger ratio is now top heavy, and our 2014 intake may have to wait five years before it can even be considered for the middle seat. All of this, of course, also has a knock-on effect on the competency of magistrates - especially those already qualified to take the chair - as sittings become fewer and fewer.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I was appointed in the 1980s, and I had to wait for about ten years to become a chairman. During the last decade or so, expectations became more like five years, leading to widespread frustration

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was appointed in 2005, and last year had my first opportunity - following several years of freeze on chairmanship training - to apply to be trained. There was a large backlog, so a lottery was organised. My name wasn't drawn out of the hat. It looks unlikely that we'll need any more chairmen until 2015 at the earliest. Fair enough. It bothers Listing more than me, as I can't help when they're short of a chairman.

      Delete
    2. I don't like the 'lottery' (names from a hat) idea at all but what other systems are benches using these days to select magistrates for chairmanship training? As I understand it, any selection process has to be OBJECTIVE.

      I see little wrong in requiring magistrates to gain considerable experience prior to chairmanship training - 7 or 8 years experience. IF a magistrate does minimum sitings that would amount to around 100 court days before being eligible for selection for training.

      Delete
    3. Lottery is used widely on my bench. What should be the decider is regular attendance at training events and bench meetings. Some seem to be regular absentees.

      Delete
  3. I have been in the unenviable position of having to find a new job (due to redundancy) whilst a magistrate. My experience is that as soon as you mention the part time unpaid role, the shutters drop down, and employers are not interested. I’ve even contacted the MA for brochures which I hand out that show how worthwhile it is to employ a magistrate.

    The next time I’m made redundant (likely after April) then I’ll have to resign the Magistry as no-one will employ me. I’m more likely to be employed with a criminal record than admitting that I’ve sent criminals to prison.

    ReplyDelete
  4. A catch 22 situation. Employers are legally obliged to give staff time off to perform magisterial duties, but that means that it is dificult to persuade a prospective employer to take on someone who is already appointed.

    I changed firms 5 years ago and was lucky to find a firm that was happy to allow my duties. I am now getting "well we support you in being a magistrate, we expect much more from you from the time you are here". My response - "you are not supporting me, you are supprting the community".

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've pointed out the HUGE inconvenience it would be for me to take 2 or 3 weeks off on Jury Duty, and that a planned 1-2 days a month is much better for everyone and that I am excluded from Jury Duty as a result. I also use some of it as Annual Leave (which I would probably not use otherwise) and some of it unpaid - so the employer saves money (even though I typically still take some calls / emails before and after court).

      Delete
    2. JPs are no longer excluded from jury duty. Nor are barristers judges and the rest. The old definition of a juror was anyone too stupid to get out of jury duty, but that was all stopped some years ago.

      Delete
    3. interesting... we are still excluded from juries in Scotland.

      Delete
  5. Maybe I'm lucky. I used to work for a major household name firm (well, my household anyway) and the CEO there said I could take the time off for JP duties, but wasn't to tell anyone. Bit like freemasons! As I worked from home several days each month this wasn't too difficult. Now about to move to a public sector employer who is keen for me to continue, providing they can advertise their corporate social responsibility!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Public sector is always much more amenable to staff being absent for bench duties. I unfortunately work for the private sector, albeit a large "mutual" employer. I did have a splash in the firm magazine recently as part of the firm's CSR work - so that was good. And, by the way, the Freemasons will happily tell you a) that they are a member and b) what it is all about if you ask now - much more open than it used to be.

      Delete
  6. Why should employers pay a Mag to do something that is of no likely benefit to them? They pay enough tax.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. they don't need to. they are required to give time off - but not to pay them

      Delete
  7. Anon @10.53 - how do you know that the skills that are required to be a JP are not transferable to the workplace. I would think that being able to weigh up arguments, using structures to make decisions and having carefully honed listening skills are excellent benefits to any employer.

    As for whether being a JP can have a detrimental effect on careers, sadly I am sure that is the case. It is wrong but ignorance amongst employers is just as great as ignorance amongst some who commentate on here.

    ReplyDelete
  8. The Man Who Was 'West Country JP'14 February 2013 12:47

    I resigned (and was put onto the supplemental list) after 16 years as an active (and relatively young) magistrate on a big city bench. There were a number of reasons I called it a day, luckily these did not include difficulties from my public sector employers.

    I recognised I was beginning to suffer what I called 'court fatigue' - feeling cynical about everything I heard, trying to find short cuts to decisions, no longer relishing the challenge of a day chairing and - understandably, but still reprehensibly - losing my temper with a particularly unpleasant defendant.

    But one of my main reasons for leaving was the noticeable inevitability of any 'big' cases - the ones that get press attention - going to DJs.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Good - the less of you the better.

    ReplyDelete

Posts are pre-moderated. Please bear with us if this takes a little time, but the number of bores and obsessives was getting out of hand, as were the fake comments advertising rubbish.