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Case Studies

Magistrates Shadowing Scheme hailed as success

Operation Black Vote article

The 2003-2004 Magistrates Shadowing Scheme was formally drawn to a close with a Graduation Gala Dinner on Friday 3rd December 2004 at the Hilton London Metropole. Shadows and mentor magistrates from all fifteen participating courts were joined by prominent members of the Judiciary including Britain's first Black High Court Judge, Hon. Mrs Justice Dobbs and leading black QC Courtenay Griffiths, who hailed the Magistrates Shadowing Scheme as a role model for a more inclusive and representative judiciary.

Mrs Justice Dobbs and Courtenay Griffiths

Hon. Mrs Justice Dobbs, Royal Courts of Justice said, "What is wrong and what has to change is that the Judiciary does not reflect the diversity in our 21st century society. It is not appropriate in this day and age, when the mix of society has and is changing rapidly. The courts have not kept up with this change, and there will continue to be a lack of confidence in the system, if it does not catch up and keep up with this change. "

The nationwide programme has allowed nearly 100 people from Black and other minority ethnic communities around the country to shadow over two hundred magistrates for a period of 6 months. Participants have gained first hand knowledge of the roles and responsibilities of magistrates and the court system. The positive experience, culminating in a meeting with the Lord Chancellor, has encouraged many of the shadows to apply to become magistrates themselves.

Harminder Basra JP, the first person from the 2004 Magistrates Shadowing Scheme to be appointed said, "I applied for the programme because I want Black and Minority Ethnic communities to have a voice and confidence in the Criminal Justice System. I feel privileged and empowered to have been a part of the Magistrates Shadowing Scheme and fully encourage anyone who has a contribution to make, however small, to step forward, seize the opportunity, believe in yourself, and take a chance to succeed."

Harminder Basra JP (Leicester Magistrates Court), first person
from the 2003/4 Shadowing Scheme to be appointed

The scheme also required participants to act as community ambassadors, explaining and promoting the role of magistrates and encouraging others to also consider applying to the magistracy. Eight awards were presented during the Gala Dinner to shadows who had enthusiastically carried out this role.

Community Ambassador Champion, Niaz Faiz, a Magistrate Shadow at Haringey Magistrates Court said, "I applied for the Magistrates Shadowing Scheme as I wanted to make a positive difference. As a Muslim post 9/11, I wanted wider society to have a better understanding and project a positive image of my faith and my community. Participating on this scheme and helping the magistracy to become more representative of the local communities it serves, will ensure that we all live in a just and equal society. "

The Hon Mrs Justice Dobbs pictured with
Community Ambassador Champion Niaz Faiz
Community Ambassador Champions

Shadows who are role model community ambassadors, arranging a number of community meetings, and enthusiastically promoted the scheme.

  • Vinodrai Mehta Birmingham Magistrates Court
  • Ismail Lorgat Bradford Magistrates Court
  • Howard Cover Merseyside Magistrates Court
  • Yusssuf Assenjee Haringey Magistrates Court
  • Niaz Faiz Haringey Magistrates Court
  • Vernon Buckle South Western (Battersea) Magistrates Court
  • Beverley Levy-Price Walsall Magistrates Court
  • Debra Smith-Gorick Watford Magistrates Court

The contributions and achievements of participating courts in improving diversity within the magistracy, was also recognised with six Leadership in Diversity Awards, for courts which had made an outstanding contribution in this role.