Advantages & Disadvantages of Magistrates

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  • Created on: 03-02-14 19:36
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1. Advantages/Disadvantages of Magistrates
Public should have a role in the administration of justice. Ordinary
citizens should be involved justice shouldn't be imposed on by
individuals. Magistrates are ordinary people who can represent the public better than
judges who come from `posher' backgrounds. Much more diverse than the judiciary. Large
number of women (49%) and growing number of ethnic minority
magistrates. 3 magistrates so less risk of bias than with one judge.
Cheap ­ if unpaid volunteers were to be replaced by judges there would be an extra bill
of approx £100million. The average court case only costs £1500 compared
to Crown Court trial of £10,000 a day.
Magistrates deal quickly with a huge number of cases. They deal with
97% of criminal cases in full. Magistrates filter out cases, saving time and
money by making sure only major cases go to Crown Court.
Very few appeals from Magistrates decisions.
"Local Justice for Local people" is the key reason for having magistrates.
Magistrates have to live locally and should be more able to understand
the issues of their area and the difficulties of local people.
Improved training means magistrates are not complete amateurs. Training has
improved over the years and the selection process is more vigorous so
you get better magistrates.
Much of what they do need just common sense so it is fine they are not lawyers.
Magistrates do have a Legal advisor for when they need one.
Not truly representative of the public, mostly middle class and retired.
(40% of magistrates are retired) 80% of magistrates are over 50 as need time to
do work and need to be able to do it unpaid so only relatively wealthy can
afford it.
Worry that as amateurs they are swayed by Legal Adviser and inclined to
follow police (prosecution bias).
Because magistrates are not lawyers there are fears about
inconsistency in sentencing e.g. in Teeside 20% of those convicted of burglary got
immediate custody compared to 41% in Birmingham. Also inconsistency in
granting Bail. Can be inconstancy across different courts and also by different
magistrates in the same court.
Become case hardened after years on Bench and tend to disbelieve
No real understanding of local issues because middle class so little in
common with people appearing before the court. Report in 2002 found
magistrates mainly from professional and management ranks.


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