Law | Unit 1 | Section B - Lay Persons (AQA)

magistrates and jury

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Lay persons
This refers to members of the public who have a role in the legal system but are not specifically
qualified in the law
Lay people work in the crown court as members of a jury, or in the Magistrates' Court as Magistrates.
The jury
Qualification and selection ­
Rules are governed by the Jury's Act 1974
Around half a million server per year
The public are expected to serve as part of their civic duty
No legal knowledge is required and no payment is made (other than expenses to cover food,
accommodation etc.).
Eligibility ­
Jurors are selected randomly from the electoral roll by the Jury Central Summoning Bureax
The minimum age is 18 and the maximum age is 70
Must have lived in the UK for at least 5 years (from the age of 13)
Disqualification ­
If you're on bail
If you've served more than 5 years in prison
If you've served life in prison
If you've been imprisoned for public protection (e.g. rape)
If you've had a conviction in the last 10 years that involved a custodial sentence, a suspended
sentence or a community order (e.g. community service)
If you have a mental disorder and receive regular GP treatment or if you are not capable of
administering your own affairs or if you're a resident at a mental hospital/institution
The judge can discharge a juror if he/she thinks that they cannot perform their duties
properly (e.g. deafness, blindness, language etc)
Deferral and excusal ­
A juror can have deferral once for up to 12 months e.g. exams, medical treatment, holidays...
A person can be excused from jury service if he/she has served in the previous 2 years, or
after a particularly distressing case. Usually the excusal will be from selection from 12 months
You can be excused if you're; over 25, something goes against your religious beliefs, if you
serve in the armed forces or work in the medical profession or are an MP or MEP. There are
also guidelines for judges and lawyers because of the potential for bias.
Jury vetting ­
Juries are not generally vetted, we rely on random selection (vetting = background checks)

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The prosecution can challenge a juror `for cause' e.g. if they suspect that they are ineligible,
disqualified or biased. There has to be a specific reason
Some argue that vetting may be beneficial where there are concerns about national security
or corruption
Others think that there is a risk of political influence by the government
Role of the jury ­
The jury have to reach a verdict on the guilt or innocence of a defendant. This is determined
by the facts of the case.…read more

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Public participation ­ The jury system represents the right of a defendant to be tried by his/her
peers, so it is seen as a vital part of our democracy. This, therefore, reinforces the idea that the legal
system is serving society as a whole and should help to maintain confidence in the system.
A survey in 2004 showed that over half of jurors were enthusiastic about serving.
Less than one third were reluctant about serving and this was mostly due to inconvenience.…read more

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Lay magistrates
Selection and appointment
There are around 20,000 magistrates in the UK.
They are only paid expenses.
They normally sit on a bench of 3.
They hear around 95% of criminal cases (around 1,000,000 per year)
They work part time and are expected to work a minimum of 26 half days per year
Minimum age is 18 and the maximum age is 70. They need 5 years of service so they are unlikely to
be appointed after 65.…read more

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Training of magistrates
Training is governed by the Judicial Studies Board, is provided through regional courts and is
delivered by the Justices Clerk.
Training includes:
Reading necessary material
3 court observations
A visit to the prison and probation service
They have further training after one year of service.
Each magistrate will be mentored by a more experienced magistrate
They also undergo appraisals
Special training is available for youths and family courts.…read more

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Advantages of Magistrates ­
Cost ­ Only expenses are paid ­ not wages so this produces a saving. E.g. a judges salary is likely to
be over £90,000 per year. The overall saving is estimated to be around £100 million per year.
Local knowledge ­ Magistrates will work in their local Magistrates' Court so may have more local
knowledge than a judge in the Crown Court, e.g.…read more

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Disadvantages of Magistrates ­
Unrepresentative of society ­ Despite efforts to appeal to a wider range of social groups,
Magistrates are still disproportionately white, middle aged and middle class.
For example, only 5% of Magistrates are under 40
2/3rds are from the managerial or professional classes, compared to 1/3rds of the general
population.…read more


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