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Magistrates (Sentencing Policy)

Volume 130: debated on Tuesday 29 March 1988

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To ask the Attorney-General whether, in the light of the most recent Home Office statistics in relation to sentencing and the ethnic minorities, the Lord Chancellor intends to provide (a) guidelines and (b) training to magistrates; and if he will make a statement.

The magisterial committee of the Judicial Studies Board (which advises the Lord Chancellor on the training of magistrates) has in the last 12 months taken two initiatives to improve arrangements for the training of magistrates in sentencing and the ethnic minorities. In April last year the committee sent to all magistrates' courts committees, which are responsible for delivering training to magistrates locally, the first two in a series of cards to be issued, setting out a structured, step-by-step approach to decision making. One of these cards covered sentencing, and is designed to ensure that all relevant considerations relating to the offence, the offender and other matters are taken into account by magistrates in arriving at a sentence.In June last year the committee organised a seminar on training in ethnic minority cultures, attended by representatives of selected magistrates' courts committees. This subject is listed as an approved subject in the training syllabus, so it may be included by magistrates' courts committees in a training programme without prior application to the Lord Chancellor for approval. The seminar has been a stimulus to action and such training is increasingly being provided to magistrates.