White Paper unveiled in bid for more magistrates

Employers will learn when they have to give staff time off to serve as magistrates under new plans being unveiled today by the Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer.

The government will unveil a new White Paper today which is designed to encourage a greater range of people to become magistrates.

Presently, 80% of magistrates are over 50 years old, while only 4% are under 40. They deal with 90% of legal cases in England and Wales.

The right to take time out from work for this reason is similar to the right to request flexible working, with employers having to give a ‘reasonable’ amount of time off.

However, Lord Falconer will set out clear statutory provisions that explain what constitutes ‘reasonable’.

“The current legislation covers the provision for employers to give time off to staff who are magistrates, but we want to go even further,” Falconer said.

“We want the Act to be clear and understood by both the employer and the employee in terms of how the request for time off shall be made and determined.”

Under present regulations, magistrates are required to have “intelligence, common sense, integrity and a capacity to act fairly”, and should sit at least 26 half days a year (up to 35).

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