Written 18th November 2013 by Olliers Solicitors

The Chairman of the Magistrates Association, Richard Monkhouse, has called for ex-offenders to be eligible to sit as Magistrates.

He commented:

“They’d bring a bit of reality into the courtroom.”

Ex-Offenders as Magistrates

Richard Monkhouse, who stressed that the views were his own rather than a reflection of the Magistrates Association, said he would like to see ex-offenders as Magistrates, providing “their offending career wasn’t too great”.

He added that whether someone would be eligible would depend on the nature of their offending and how much time had passed since any convictions.

At present, the Lord Chief Justice will not appoint to the Magistracy, anyone who has been:

  • found guilty of a serious crime
  • found guilty of a number of minor offences
  • banned from driving in the past 5 to 10 years
  • declared bankrupt

A serious offence is regarded as anything other than a motoring conviction for which the offender received penalty points or a fine.

Open to Discussion

However, Monkhouse suggested that the seriousness of past offending that should preclude someone from becoming a Magistrate is ‘open to discussion’. He proposed that although those convicted of serious and violent offences, domestic violence or drink driving, should be barred, persons who have been convicted of crimes such as common assault or public order act offences ought to be suitable candidates, especially if it was many years ago.

“If somebody was an offender 20 years ago and hasn’t offended for 20 years, why not, provided the line hasn’t been crossed?”

Mr Monkhouse commented he was unsure as to how his proposal would sit with the public, or indeed with current Magistrates, but stated “it’s a discussion we’ve got to have”.

His idea was met with strong criticism from many calling the suggestion ludicrous, although others found the proposals met with some merit, especially for applicants with very old convictions who have reformed their lives since criminal proceedings.

Ruth Peters

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