HC Deb 05 February 2001 vol 362 cc409-10W
Mr. Sawford

To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what plans he has to encourage future recruitment and retention of lay magistrates. [147692]

Jane Kennedy

Through his advisory committees, my noble and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor already undertakes a range of initiatives to attract people from all sections of the community, including advertising in the local press, talks on local radio, and contacting local organisations.

Court open days also stimulate the public's interest in applying to be a magistrate. The Lord Chancellor and I encourage magistrates courts committees to consider holding these on a regular basis. My officials are also currently developing a national recruitment strategy with the Magistrates Association and others to optimise the effectiveness of future initiatives. Through these initiatives most advisory committees attract sufficient new magistrates to replace those who retire or resign.

Following an equality audit of the policies and procedures surrounding the appointment of magistrates the Lord Chancellor has instructed officials to introduce exit questionnaires which will allow us to find out in more detail the reasons why people resign, so that we can identify common concerns and take action. The aim is to have these in place by April 2001.

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