Welsh court closures ‘hitting magistrate numbers’, judges say
Wales is struggling to recruit new magistrates due to a loss of local courts, judges have claimed.
BBC research has found 20 magistrates’ courts have closed across Wales since 2010.
Judges have said this means people volunteering as magistrates have to travel further.
The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said it was investing £1bn in the justice system and magistrate numbers were reviewed regularly.
There are currently about 1,000 magistrates working in Wales’ 14 remaining lower courts.
Wales circuit judge Mererid Edwards said court closures were going to “have an impact” on magistrate numbers, adding: “There’s no way to avoid that.”
Judge Edwards said she hoped people would consider making the effort to travel to volunteer in the justice system.
“Some people don’t think twice about travelling from the north to the south,” she told BBC Wales’ Newyddion 9. “I would hope people would be ready to travel.”
Hywel James, a judge in Cardiff, claimed court closures had hit Welsh-speaking parts of the country, which could make accessing justice in Welsh more difficult.
“It is important that we continue to encourage people from those areas to make applications to become magistrates,” he said.
A recent recruitment campaign has been held to encourage more volunteers to come forward to sit as magistrates, which is an unpaid role.
An MoJ spokesman said magistrate numbers were reviewed on a regular basis, workloads were becoming lighter as digital services expanded and over £1bn was being invested in the justice system.