Shadow scheme to widen pool of magistrate talent

A scheme that allows people from ethnic minorities to observe mentor magistrates has been extended by the secretary of state for constitutional affairs, Lord Falconer.

The Magistrates Shadow Scheme, run jointly by the Department for Constitutional Affairs (DCA) and Operation Black Vote, enables people from under-represented groups to experience the work of a magistrate and encourages young people from ethnic minorities “to participate in the delivery of justice”.

From today, 125 people will shadow 250 magistrates for six months in 15 different areas across England and Wales. The scheme has so far produced 18 magistrates and 50 more have applied to join the magistracy since the scheme started in Bristol and Birmingham in 2001 with 47 shadows.

Speaking at the extension of the scheme at the Law Society in London, Falconer said the scheme aimed to dispel myths surrounding the magistracy.

“We cannot overestimate the value that diversity contributes to the magistracy as a whole,” he said.

Simon Wolfensohn, deputy chairman of the Magistrates’ Association, said the scheme had really helped to open doors to sections of the community which previously had little knowledge of magistrates and their work in court.

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