A 19-YEAR-OLD law student has become one of Britain's youngest magistrates, the Yorkshire Post can reveal.
But the appointment of Lucy Tate to the Pontefract bench has caused resentment among some of her fellow justices, who believe a 19-year-old cannot possibly have enough life experience to carry out the role properly.
Miss Tate is studying for a law degree in Leeds, and has had only one sitting as a magistrate so far.
She was recruited after a 4m Government advertising campaign two years ago to recruit more young people and ethnic minority candidates to the bench.
Magistrates without legal qualifications deal mainly with minor criminal offences and some family cases. The minimum age was reduced from 27 to 18 in 2004.
Miss Tate is even younger than the 20-year-old man from north Sussex who became the country's youngest magistrate last year.
One magistrate told the Yorkshire Post: "It is an absolute folly to have somebody so young making such important decisions.
"Some of the magistrates in Pontefract feel very disillusioned about what has happened and they just can't see where the Government is coming from by wanting to take people on so very young.
"It was all hushed up when she was sworn in because it was felt there might be bad publicity. There probably will be – what life experience does she have at 19?"
The chairman of the local advisory committee responsible for recruiting magistrates, Sue Vogan, said: "Lucy was an exceptional candidate, and came through a rigorous recruitment process. The committee were very impressed with her personal maturity and judgment.
"Of course, the magistracy should reflect the community it serves and we can only emphasise that Lucy's appointment was based solely on merit having met all the selection criteria. The Lord Chancellor requires that advisory committees recruit people from a wide range of experiences and backgrounds."
Miss Tate did not want to speak to the Yorkshire Post but issued a statement which said: "I was very pleased to be appointed, and look forward to serving as a magistrate. I have had my first sitting, which was fascinating, and am grateful for the training and support which I have received, as all new magistrates do.
"I don't see myself as a role model, but rather as someone who wants to serve the local community in a useful and positive way."
Mrs D M Davis, Leeds: "I wish Miss Tate all the best in her chosen community service. We hear so many negative comments made about young people that it is refreshing to learn of someone who is prepared to serve our community in an area that provokes many controversial decisions. She is prepared to put into practice the education she is receiving and presumably be critcised for it - even before she has made any judgements. In my dealings with young people, they often have a very defined sense of right and wrong that is not sullied by 'grey areas' gleaned by 'experience'. With her greater knowledge than the average person of the intricacies of the law, I am sure she will be an asset to the Bench."
Victor Craven, Leeds: "Lets hope the young magistrate can make a decision in one sitting and pass sentance there and then."
Malcolm Anderson, Harrogate: "Another example of this Governments strange thinking!"