Adults in England and Wales are being encouraged to apply online via “a revised, streamlined recruitment process” to become a lay magistrate, in an effort to tackle a backlog of criminal cases caused by the pandemic. A week after announcing plans to double the maximum sentence that magistrates can pass to a year, Dominic Raab, the justice secretary, said the judiciary would recruit another 4,000. It will be the largest recruitment effort in the 650-year history of the magistracy, the Ministry of Justice said.
Courts in England and Wales have been struggling to clear a backlog of cases. As of November, 372,000 cases were outstanding in the magistrates courts and a further 58,728 in the crown court system. The number of magistrates has plummeted in the past decade, from 25,170 in 2012 to 12,651, according to the most recent figures last year.