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Harrow Magistrate’s Appeal For More Diversity On The Bench

A magistrate has said that there is more diversity among those who hear court cases, but that she doesn’t think this has “changed enough”.

Sonal Dave, who lives in Harrow, has worked as a magistrate for the past 19 years, typically hearing cases at Willesden Magistrates’ Court.

She said: “When I first joined the magistracy, I felt like there weren’t many people who looked like me.

“But now I go to court and I do – I see people of different ethnicities, magistrates who have disabilities. It’s changing but it’s slow.

“This is my personal opinion – I don’t think it’s changed enough.”

READ MORE – Station Road in Edgware closed after person injured in fight The Ministry of Justice says data from 2022 on the diversity of the current magistracy in London showed an increase in the number of people under 50 and people from an ethnic minority background volunteering to be magistrates compared to the previous year.

Sonal believes there is still a lack of education and awareness about who can become a magistrate, and that more that this happens, the more people will be encouraged to join the bench.

Now 54, she said when she was younger she never thought she would be able to be a magistrate because she had always assumed they had to be white, male and elderly – “that’s what you saw on TV”.

She felt she didn’t fit the mould for working in the magistracy, as someone who had fled Uganda as a child after the expulsion of Asian people from the country by Idi Amin in 1972.

But after she was persuaded to apply at an event for prospective school governors, Sonal was appointed in 2004.

Sonal is now encouraging others, especially those from diverse backgrounds, to apply for the role.

READ MORE – Harrow victim named as man charged on suspicion of murder She said: “Every time I sit as a magistrate, I learn something new.

“You can almost be prejudiced because of your upbringing about who you expect to be a criminal. But, as a magistrate it really opens your eyes that anyone can be in the courtroom either side of the bench.”

The Ministry of Justice has launched an appeal to recruit 4,000 new magistrates across England and Wales to ensure the bench reflects the community it serves.

Anyone aged between 18 and 70 who can commit to at least 13 days a year for at least five years can apply.

Visit https://magistrates.judiciary.uk/how-to-volunteer/ to apply.