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Last Updated: Sunday, 25 September 2005, 11:51 GMT 12:51 UK
'Youngest JP' appointed aged 20
A 20-year-old man from West Sussex is believed to be Britain's youngest magistrate after a drive to recruit JPs more representative of the community.

The man is qualified to serve at courts in his home town of Crawley as well as Haywards Heath and Horsham and has already taken part in one sitting.

Other recent recruits include a single mother, aged 21, and a man of 24, both from Telford in the West Midlands.

A government spokesman said it wanted to increase diversity in the courts.

If they are able to answer things with maturity and to do reasoning exercises and so on, they fit the bill
Alan Tait

He said he believed the 20-year-old Crawley man was the country's youngest magistrate.

A Sunday newspaper reported the man was a disc jockey of Asian origin, but Alan Tait, chair of North Sussex magistrates, denied this.

He said: "I thought he might have done something along those lines as a hobby - but he confirms that he has never performed anywhere as a DJ nor does he have any particular interest in being one."

The magistrate had been "quite bemused" to learn he was said to be one, Mr Tait added.

The man was only 19 when he was interviewed and may still have been when he was sworn in at Chichester Crown Court in May with 15 other new magistrates.

Recruitment campaign

Mr Tait admitted eyebrows had been raised when the decision was taken to reduce the minimum age for magistrates from 27 to 18.

But he said: "The selection process is such that they have to meet very certain criteria.

"It is a very carefully conducted process. If they are able to answer things with maturity and to do reasoning exercises and so on, they fit the bill."

The spokesman for the Department of Constitutional Affairs said: "There is an ongoing campaign to increase diversity in the judicial system and magistrates so that it is not all middle-aged or retired people."

A 4m campaign to recruit younger people to become magistrates as well as more black and Asian people was launched in October 2003.

Fewer than 4% of JPs, who are unpaid, were under 40 and eight out of 10 were over 50.

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