The role of the magistracy Contents


In this Report we consider the role of the magistracy within the criminal justice system in England and Wales. Our report looks at the method and rate of recruitment for magistrates, their training and development, and the effect of court closures on their work. In addition, we consider whether the role of magistrates should be expanded. Our recommendations are mainly directed at the Ministry of Justice and/or the senior judiciary, recognising that effective implementation will also require agreement with other bodies such as the Magistrates Association and the National Bench Chairmen’s Forum.

We conclude that the magistracy faces a range of unresolved issues relating to its role and its workload, together with serious problems with recruitment and training; these must now be addressed as a matter of urgency. We consider it unfortunate that the Government’s evident goodwill towards the magistracy has not yet been translated into any meaningful strategy for supporting and developing it within a changing criminal justice system.

We therefore recommend that, as a matter of priority, the Ministry of Justice, together with the senior judiciary, develop an over-arching strategy for the magistracy—to include workforce planning, magistrates’ training and the wider promotion of their role, especially to employers. The strategy should also take into account the impact of court closures and consider whether the role of magistrates could be expanded, in particular within any proposals for problem solving courts.

Our other principal conclusions and recommendations—many of which would relate to a wider strategy—can be summarised as follows:

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17 October 2016