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Magistrates: Age

Volume 508: debated on Thursday 8 April 2010

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice for what reasons upper age limits for magistrates are in place. (325672)

Magistrates retire on reaching the age of 70, as this is the statutory retirement age for judicial office holders.

It is vital the magistrates reflect the diverse communities they serve. Over 80 per cent. of magistrates are over 50 and the average age is 57. The contribution of magistrates of all ages is invaluable. However, increasing the retirement age for magistrates would take them out of line with other judicial offices and hinder work to redress the age imbalance by reducing the number of available vacancies.

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice whether he has made a recent assessment of the merits of (a) appointing magistrates over the age of 65 and (b) employing magistrates over the age of 70 years. (325673)

No recent assessment has been made on the merits of appointing magistrates over the age of 65 or employing magistrates over the age of 70 and there are no plans to undertake one for the reasons set out below. Magistrates retire on reaching the age of 70 as this is the statutory retirement age for judicial office holders.

Magistrates sit in a part-time capacity and generally have little previous experience of the court system, so will require training, mentoring and the opportunity to gain experience. The Lord Chancellor expects that part-time magistrates will be able to sit for at least five years before retirement. He will, therefore, not normally appoint anyone over the age of 65.

It is vital the magistrates reflect the diverse communities they serve. Over 80 per cent. of magistrates are over 50 and the average age is 57. The contribution of magistrates of all ages is invaluable. However, increasing the retirement age of magistrates, as set out in statute under Section 13 of the Courts Act 2003, would take them out of line with other judicial offices and hinder work to redress the age imbalance by reducing the number of available vacancies.