Reformed drug addicts as specialist magistrates? Why not?

An increased number of specialist courts would deal with low-level, non-violent offenders

Share

There have long been complaints that magistrates are drawn from only a narrow – and highly unrepresentative – sliver of society. While those that come up before them may be from any and every walk of life, the bench is overwhelmingly populated by those who are white, middle class and heading towards retirement age. Indeed, according to the latest statistics, a mere 3 per cent are under 40.

Now, though, an influential think-tank is proposing a radical overhaul of the magistrates’ court system that would, at a stroke, both bring in new blood and address the concern that those sitting in judgment are out of touch with the world in which those that they are judging live. The solution? A major expansion in the number of specialist courts dealing with low-level, non-violent offenders whose problems are linked with drug addiction, alcoholism or mental illness. And the recruitment of reformed addicts and offenders to act as the presiding magistrates.

The change could hardly be more profound. Historically, it has been all but impossible for ex-offenders to join the bench. So tight are the rules, in fact, that a partner with a conviction can be enough for a candidate to be rejected.

According to Policy Exchange, this is all back to front – at least as regards a new type of drug and sobriety court. These are designed less to process legal cases than to play an active role in, for example, monitoring drug treatment and often require offenders to return on a weekly basis to report their progress. Former offenders – providing that they can prove that they have been on the straight and narrow for five years – would make ideal magistrates for such courts, the think-tank says.

The proposal will, in all likelihood, provoke uproar from some quarters. But it has much to recommend it. Not only because it might help to create a more representative class of magistrates. More importantly, because it might help the criminal justice system become more effective at dealing with certain types of problem and certain types of crime. It is certainly worth a try.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Account Executive/Sales Consultant – Permanent – Hertfordshire - £16-£20k

£16500 - £20000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

KS2 PPA Teacher needed (Mat Cover)- Worthing!

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: KS2 PPA Teacher currently nee...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal  

What is 4Chan? And why does it threaten women like Emma Watson?

Memphis Barker
Chuka Umunna was elected MP for Streatham in 2010  

Could flirty Chuka Umunna be worth a punt for Labour’s top job?

Matthew Norman
Syria air strikes: ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings

Robert Fisk on Syria air strikes

‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings
Will Lindsay Lohan's West End debut be a turnaround moment for her career?

Lindsay Lohan's West End debut

Will this be a turnaround moment for her career?
'The Crocodile Under the Bed': Judith Kerr's follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

The follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

Judith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed' - which has taken 46 years to get into print
BBC Television Centre: A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past

BBC Television Centre

A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past
Lonesome George: Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains

My George!

Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains
10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Pack up your troubles: 10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Off on an intrepid trip? Experts from student trip specialists Real Gap and Quest Overseas recommend luggage for travellers on the move
Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world