Crime: Just 1% of magistrates under 30 in Wales

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image captionJust 10 magistrates in Wales are under the age of 30

Just 1% of nearly 1,000 magistrates sitting in Wales' courts are under 30, it has been revealed.

It comes as the charity for magistrates calls for more young people to take up the justice roles.

The Magistrates Association wants to address the age imbalance which means only 10 of the 997 magistrates are under 30.

Chairwoman Bev Higgs said young people had "a unique perspective on what it's like to live in today's world".

Magistrate Thomas Tudor Jones, 29, said he had "never sat on the bench with anyone close to my age".

image captionThomas Tudor Jones is one of the few magistrates in Wales under 30

Mr Jones, of Treorchy, Rhondda Cynon Taf, has been a magistrate for a year and said "the spark for applying" came after seeing an interview with a magistrate on TV saying more young people were needed.

He said he was not surprised at the lack of younger magistrates, saying: "since I've been sitting I've never sat on the bench with anyone the same age as me, or anyone close to my age".

As well as a lack of under-30s, only 41 magistrates are aged 30 to 40 and 138 are aged 40 to 50.

Almost half of the 997 total are aged 60 or over - and magistrates must retire from the bench at 70.

The Magistrates Association chair told BBC Radio Cymru it was "disappointing" there was not a better age balance.

She said research had shown that the more diverse a magistrates' bench was, the better the decisions were made.

Ms Higgs said it was "vital that much more is done to attract young applicants to the magistracy" so people knew about the vacancies and what the job entails.

She added: "Obviously an 18-year-old's perspective or even anybody in their 20s or 30s is going to be quite different than anyone older.

"That age group would have an unique perspective on what it's like to live in today's world. I remember when I joined the magistracy, I had to explain to a much older magistrate what lightsaber was.

"It's that kind of cultural reference that sometimes pops up in court that young people or even people with young children or young adults in the household will pick up on, that perhaps an older age group might not."

image captionA younger magistrate can change perspectives - for other magistrates and the public, believes Bev Higgs

According to Llanelli solicitor Gareth Jones, some defendants do notice a difference if the magistrate is of a similar age to them

"The chair of the bench is meant to talk with the defendant and ask why they've done something - why they've stolen something, why they've punched someone - and they're trying to understand the reason why the person has come to court," said Mr Jones.

"When I talk with defendants before and after they've been in court, some say that the chair was nice, was lovely, but others say that 'the person up there, in his 60s, is talking to me like I'm a child and they don't understand what I've been through'".

The Ministry of Justice said: "We are investing around £1m to encourage people from all backgrounds into the magistracy, including those from more diverse and younger groups."

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