Sandra Gordon, a Bristol radio presenter, is one of the eight people from black, Asian, minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds that will be sworn in as magistrates next year for Avon and Somerset.
Believing that the current criminal justice system would become fairer with the presence of more black magistrates, she decided to join the bench. One of the only eight people from a minority background, the number pales in comparison with over 600 magistrates in the region, but it is a massive increase for the little percentage of representation from the BAME community.
Co-presenting the Rise Woman show on Radio Ujima, Ms. Gordon hopes to make a difference to people from BAME communities appearing before the courts, giving them greater confidence that they will get a fair hearing with her representation, and also encouraging others to also join. She says, “I want our community to feel that they’re going to get justice, they’re going to get justice because they’re going to have representation.”
There are a total of 54 new magistrates, with 8 BAME candidates and 46 people who did not self-identify as BAME. Labour councillor, Ashley Ward Carole Johnson, made it clear that all the applicants met the tough standards required to become a magistrate. She comments, “The judiciary will not take people on just to fill numbers, the remit is quality over quantity because of the nature of the role.”
Understanding the face of the magistracy to be “old, male, stale, and pale,” Dr. Johnson says she is keen to see a change to ensure that every part of the community is properly represented. In the UK, around 54 percent of magistrates are women, 86 percent of them are over the age of 50, and 11 percent of magistrates are from black and minority ethnic backgrounds.
The new magistrates start in March 2019 and will serve courtrooms in Bristol, Bath, Weston-super-Mare, Taunton, and Yeovil.