Introduction to the Magistrate Shadowing Scheme
Operation Black Vote article
'A Judiciary for All'
Operation Black Vote continues its partnership with the Department for Constitutional Affairs with the relaunch of the 2004 Magistrates' Shadowing Scheme.
The Lord Chancellor - Derry Irving launched the pilot Magistrate Shadowing Scheme at the Palace of Westminster in 2001
The Magistrate Shadowing Scheme, first launched in 2001, aims to improve Black and other minority ethnic (BME) representation within the magistracy. Continuing the success of the 2001 pilot, the second Magistrate Shadowing Scheme is enabling over 100 shadows from 12 cities around the UK, to be actively involved in examining the work of magistrates and the judiciary.
At present, approximately 5½ % of magistrates come from minority ethnic groups, which make up approximately 7% of the population as a whole. Although these overall figures are encouraging, they mask significant regional differences. Moreover, amongst the 159 judges in England at High Court level, there are no ethnic minority members and only six of the 565 circuit judges are from ethnic minorities.
At a time when Asians are three times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police and African Caribbeans eight times as likely, the need for the magistracy to reflect the communities they serve has never been more pressing.
The 'Justice in Action' report has recommended that in a post-Stephen Lawrence environment, the magistracy should demonstrate an open, inclusive and participative culture which values diversity and eliminates institutional barriers both formal and informal to employment and selection …to promote mentoring and other support mechanisms.'
The pilot scheme was heralded by magistrates'courts around the country as a tremendous success. Many of the participants have since applied to become magistrates, with others due to apply within the next two years. The success of the pilot scheme has also resulted in increased awareness within BME communities about the magistracy and the role of magistrates.
Georgia Ramsey (foreground) -the first participant to be appointed as a magistrate with members from the Bristol Court and OBV