Magistrate slams Govt for age discrimination

A UK magistrate has launched a campaign against the Government’s policy that forces magistrates to retire at 70 years old.

Central and southwest Staffordshire bench magistrate Richard Ellison has asked the European Commission (EC) to investigate whether the Government is in contravention of age discrimination regulations by requiring that lay magistrates stand down at 70.

Ellison said: “It’s now illegal to age discriminate against a person if they get paid, but perfectly acceptable if they’re a volunteer. The Government has stated that volunteers are the backbone of the country, but then excludes them from the Age Discrimination Act”.

The Commission recently deferred to give guidance pending the outcome of a case from a Spanish court asking whether a compulsory retirement age is compatible with the European directive.

An EC spokesperson said: “As the legal situation has yet to be clarified by the court, the Commission cannot yet say whether the compulsory retirement age for magistrates in the UK is contrary to [European] Community law”. Philip Bradbourn MEP, who tabled the question on behalf of Ellison, noted that the reply “was typical of the Commission and does not take us any further”.

The Department for Constitutional Affairs has said there are “no plans to change the retirement age for magistrates” as it wants to increase diversity among magistrates, whose average age is over 50.