Coaching for laity in minority issues

Lay magistrates and tribunal chairmen are to receive training on ethnic minority issues under a training initiative of the Judicial Studies Board.

Presenting the fourth annual report of the board's Ethnic Minorities Advisory Committee, chair Mr Justice Dyson said training seminars on ethnic issues for judges and stipendiary magistrates had been well received, but now needed to be extended to lay magistrates and those working in tribunals.

The report states that training of lay magistrates has been slow to take off. It adds that the JSB is working with the Magistrates Association and the Justices Clerks' Society to implement a training programme for lay magistrates. “It is hoped that significant advances will be made in this area during the forthcoming year,” it says.

The report also says there has been “limited progress” in training on ethnic minority issues for those sitting on tribunals. Among initiatives to raise awareness is a new training video called A Fair Hearing. The video, which is being distributed to all tribunal chairmen, highlights some of the pitfalls which tribunals face, such as prejudice and anger.

The JSB was granted greater autonomy by the Lord Chancellor in July. Formerly an integral part of the LCD, it now operates as an independent unit with control over its budget.

Its chair, Lord Justice Henry, said the board's greatest challenge would be implementing Lord Woolf's proposed reforms of the civil justice system, for which all judges would need to receive training. “We will have to change the culture not only of judges but also of the adversarial process.”

Derek Hill, secretary of the JSB, said to carry out the extra training the board would need a substantial increase in its £3.2m annual budget.