Home African Caribbean The Secret To Becoming A Magistrate In The UK…Dream Big!

The Secret To Becoming A Magistrate In The UK…Dream Big!

by D Fitz-Roberts
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The magistracy in the United Kingdom has for centuries been a symbol of power and status largely associated with hanging and whipping even though magistrates could have been approached by the less fortunate for handouts where they were not provided by officials of the local parish.

After 650 years the role of magistrates has changed to accommodate progressive thinking of what the role meant to communities over time where they were seen to undertake functions in local government with responsibility for the maintenance of transport infrastructure including bridges and highways. Though some magistrates were provided a stipend in some municipalities and hailed from predominantly White neighbourhoods, today all magistrates from diverse communities across Britain are volunteers.

One would be forgiven for thinking, ‘Given the well documented fractious relationship between the Metropolitan Police and Black people in Britain stemming, in large part, from the Brixton riots of 1981 and 1985 and the damning conclusions of the Macpherson Report about the said Metropolitan Police rendered following Stephen Lawrence’s murder, why would any Black person be interested in joining the magistracy?’

Given the Macpherson Report branding the Metropolitan Police as ‘institutionally racist’ which was essentially an indictment on the values of Her Majesty’s government at the time, why would non-Whites be interested to serve such an administration? This question was at the centre of an interview CaribDirect conducted with Magistrate Lisa Baskott recently.

Born in the United Kingdom of Jamaican parents in the late 1960’s, Lisa Baskott grew up in a typical Caribbean home in Clapham south-west London. Her supportive parents instilled in her the values of hard work, self-belief and taking responsibility alongside the notion that she could accomplish anything she had put her mind to. Though this attitude did not make her immune to or exempt from racism or overt acts of prejudice against her, she had developed the inner strength through her self-confidence honed as a child.

Lisa shares that this resilience and sense of purpose has helped her to be more self-aware and empathetic toward others, attributes she believes are critical to becoming a successful magistrate. Additionally, Lisa is of the view that candidates for the magistracy should possess an open mind and interesting perspectives on the way of the world and themselves in it.

Magistrate Baskott is optimistic that British society is progressing as she has seen more and more Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) citizens joining the magistracy due to successive governments paying more than lip service to the idea of increasing diversity within the Ministry of Justice.

According to the government’s figures just over half (56%) of magistrates in England and Wales are females with 13% hailing from the BAME community. These statistics are encouraging as the government is intent on having magistrates on the bench reflect the communities they are from.

Though pleased with the state of the magistracy at present in terms of the number of BAME magistrates serving, Lisa is passionate about evangelising her work to all from the community who will listen as she believes there is no experience quite like serving as a magistrate. She recounts being overcome with pride when she, while sitting on the bench and looking across at a defendant, thought of her journey and the magnitude of her responsibility not only to the Ministry of Justice but also to her community. The significance of a Black person, more particularly, a Black woman being a present and active participate in the judicial process, cannot be overstated and is not lost on BAME defendants and officers of the court.

D Fitz-Roberts

D Fitz-Roberts

D Fitz-Roberts is a multi-talented writer on socio-economic issues having worked in journalism across the Caribbean (Grenada, Guyana and BVI) in the 90s. He has worked in London with Black Britain Online, New Nation Newspaper and Caribbean Times. An academic with a passion for research on distributed ledger technologies in emerging economies he is keen to see the Caribbean embrace bitcoin and blockchain technologies to keep pace with the west. He writes periodically for mainstream publications and is the founder of CaribDirect.com. He is also the author of Caribbean children’s book LifeSucks! available on Amazon.


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