14:09, January 28 264 0 theguardian.com

2020-01-28 14:09:04
The police aren’t the only ones in need of diversity

Your report on black police officer numbers (Police admit failures on diversity 21 years after McPherson report, 27 January) caused me a wry smile. When secretary of the Churches’ Commission for Racial Justice in the early 1990s, we had several meetings with quite senior Met officers and the Black Police Association (BPA), in which we suggested a programme of positive action (not discrimination). This would include active advertising in the black press, recruitment sessions in black communities, consulting actively with the BPA, providing advice sessions in relation to promotion, high-profile disciplinary action for racism, and learning from exit interviews with black officers.

To the best of my knowledge few if any of these were adopted, and the current situation is therefore no surprise. We had similar conversations with the churches, who suffered the same problem, and still do. Nothing much was done there either. Plus ça change.

Rev David Haslam

Evesham, Worcestershire

The police service is not the only justice institution currently facing a once-in-a-generation opportunity to improve diversity. There is currently a significant shortage of magistrates, with the number having halved in the last decade. Moreover, more than half of current magistrates are aged over 60, meaning they will have to retire in the next decade unless new legislation is introduced to increase the mandatory age of retirement. As a result, thousands more will need to be recruited in the next few years to ensure the magistracy can continue to play its key role in the justice system.

As with the police, it is essential that magistrates genuinely reflect the communities they serve, and we must take this opportunity to increase diversity, ensuring we recruit more magistrates from ethnic minorities, more young magistrates, and more magistrates from diverse social backgrounds.

John Bache JP

National chair, Magistrates Association

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