Anna Soubry Speaks on the Magistracy

Anna Soubry (Broxtowe) (Con): I am exceptionally grateful to you for calling me, Madam Deputy Speaker, because I have perhaps rather better news—it is at least different news—than what we heard in the previous speech. I would like to talk briefly about the outstanding work of magistrates and the invaluable role that they play in the criminal justice system.

Magistrates were created some 650 years ago—we are talking about a very long-standing office—and they are to be congratulated, as I am sure we would all agree. There are now 29,000 magistrates in England and Wales. Their minimum requirement is to sit for 26 half-days a year. Some 98% of all legal proceedings are conducted in magistrates courts, which perhaps puts into perspective the outstanding contribution that they regularly make to the justice system. Magistrates bring to bear their considerable experience, knowledge and wisdom to both criminal and family matters. It is perhaps a testament to their ability to dispense justice fairly and properly that they are so rarely challenged in any higher place. In the last 650 years, magistrates have faced many changes and challenges. Their outstanding chairman, Mr John Thornhill, whom I spoke to today, has told me that, notwithstanding all the changes, magistrates always bounce back.

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