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BRISTOL COUNCIL OFFICER APPOINTED AS MAGISTRATE UNDER NEW SCHEME TO ATTRACT ETHNIC MINORITIES

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An IT officer from Bristol City Council has become the first person to be made a magistrate under a scheme designed...
An IT officer from Bristol City Council has become the first person to be made a magistrate under a scheme designed to encourage more ethnic minorities to work for the magistrates' courts.

Georgia Ramsay (pictured), the first person to be recommended from the pilot exercise, said: 'I am thrilled to be recommended.

'It is very important that the racial and ethnic mix within the magistracy reflects local communities.

'Support for the scheme has been extremely widespread and I am pleased to be paving the way for others'.

The scheme, which is jointly run by the Lord Chancellor's Department and Operation Black Vote, will invite 50 people from 12 areas in the country to shadow two mentor magistrates each in a six month period.

Participants will observe court proceedings and see how decisions are made in order to increase their confidence in the criminal justice system.

They will be expected to spend at least 10 days sitting with mentor magistrates on a broad number of cases, in a programme devised by OBV and the Magistrates Association. This follows on the success of the pilot scheme launched in 2001 by the lord chancellor Lord Irvine.

The lord chancellor said: 'This project has brought about greater awareness of the work of the lay magistracy among people from minority ethnic groups.

'This success will inevitably result over time in more magistrates from a wider diversity serving the needs of members from all communities.

'Making the magistracy look like the people it serves and better reflect the communities it adjudicates over will only contribute to making it more relevant to the 21st century'.

The second phase will run in Derby and South Derbyshire, Walsall, Lancashire (Burnley, Pendle and Rossendale), Merseyside, Leicester, Nottingham, London, Oxfordshire, West Hertfordshire (Watford and Hemel Hempstead), Birmingham, Bradford and Cardiff.

In each o f the regions, six to eight people will be selected by OBV and the local lord chancellor's advisory committee. Participants will comprise a broad mix of African, Asian, Caribbean, Chinese and other ethnic minority communities. Those selected will attend a two day workshop where they will put into perspective what they have experienced.

NOTES

The first magistrates' shadowing scheme was launched by the Lord Chancellor in 2001 and involved 46 participants from seven regions in England and Wales and followed a similar programme to the current one.

Operation Black Vote is convinced that a shadowing and mentoring scheme with magistrates will be as successful as its scheme has been for the UK's African, Asian, Caribbean and other ethnic minorities.

The scheme will give first hand experience of how a magistrates' court operates and what a magistrate actually does. We wish those involved to become community ambassadors, explaining and promoting the role of magistrates and the courts in which they work.

It is also aimed at giving magistrates the opportunity to gain a greater understanding of minority ethnic communities.

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 to eliminate institutional barriers both formal and informal to employment and selection.

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