Magistrates and Juries in the English legal system

This is a description of Magistrates and Juries in the English legal system. It is written to accompany LAW01 in AQA AS Law.

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Unit 1 LAW01 Law Making and the Legal System
1. How lay magistrates are selected and appointed.
There are about 30.000 lay magistrates sitting as part-time judges in the
Magistrates' Courts. Magistrates, who are also known as Justices of the Peace, sit
as a bench of two or three magistrates to hear cases.
Lay magistrates must be aged between 18 and 65 on appointment. The age for
appointment was reduced to 18 in 2003, which suggests that younger magistrates
will be appointed if they are deemed suitable.
Until 2003 magistrates had to live within 15 miles of the commission area for the
court they served in. However, the Courts Act 2003 abolished commission areas
and replaced them with local justice areas. Magistrates are expected to live or
work within or near the local justice area to which they are allocated by the Lord
Magistrates have to give a commitment that they will sit in court a minimum of
26 half days per year and that they will do the necessary training. This
commitment may be reduced to 24 half days in the future.
Some people are not eligible to be appointed. These include police officers,
members of the armed forces, undischarged bankrupts and those who have a
serious criminal record. In addition, relatives of people working in the local
criminal justice system will not be appointed because it would not appear fair and
just if, for example, the father of a local police officer was sitting on the bench to
hear local cases.
After application or nomination, references are checked, as is the person's
criminal record. In 1998, the Lord Chancellor set out six key qualities a candidate
should have. These are assessed during two interviews: the first measures the
candidate's general character the second assesses the candidate's powers of
reasoning and judgement. The candidate must also demonstrate the ability to
work as a member of a team and to have the required `judicial' qualities.

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The Lord Chancellor had made it clear that he requires broadly equal numbers of
men and women, occupation, ethnic origin and, to a lesser extent, political
affiliation and age.
The committee will finally recommend names to the Lord Chancellor, who
usually accepts their recommendations and who will then formally appoint the
magistrates. At the conclusion of the selection and appointment procedure,
successful candidates will be sworn in as magistrates at a ceremony conducted by
a senior circuit judge.…read more

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The jurisdiction (responsibilities) of magistrates.
Magistrates play by far the largest role in the Criminal Justice System as they try
about 97% of all criminal cases. This includes all summary offences and most
`either-way' offences. They also deal with preliminary hearings in the remaining
3% of criminal cases. Other functions include bail applications (under the Bail
Act 1976), applications for legal aid, and the issue of search and arrest warrants.
Magistrates also deal with a number of civil matters.…read more

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The advantages and disadvantages of magistrates
within the English legal system.
Magistrates have historically been an important part of the criminal justice system
for more than 1000 years. They enable members of the community to become
involved in the administration of criminal justice.
They provide a wider cross-section of society than professional judges do. Almost
50% of magistrates are women, compared with 10% of professional judges, and
ethnic minorities are reasonably well-represented in the magistracy, which is
certainly not true of the judiciary.…read more

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The magistracy is often criticised as `middle-aged and middle-class', and therefore
magistrates are not a genuine cross-section of society. The report The Judiciary in
the Magistrates' Courts (2000) has generally confirmed this situation. Around
40% of lay magistrates are retired people, and they are mainly from professional
or managerial backgrounds. Such magistrates are unlikely to live in deprived areas
and are probably not familiar with the problems of living in these areas. Clearly
there is a long way to go until the `magistracy....…read more

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1. The Selection and Appointment of Lay Magistrates
1. How many magistrates sit as parttime judges in the Magistrates' Court?
2. What do the initials JP stand for?
3. How many magistrates sit as a bench to hear a case?
4. What are the age limits for the appointment of magistrates?
5. Why was the age for appointment reduced to 18 in the Courts Act 2003?
6. What did the Courts Act 2003 abolish?
7.…read more

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What do you understand by preliminary hearings?
4. Name three other functions carried out by magistrates.
5. Name three civil matters that are also dealt with by magistrates.
6. What kinds of appeal do magistrates hear?
7. Where are most offences committed by young people (1017) heard?
8. What is the only youth criminal offence that is not heard in the Youth Court?
9. Describe two qualifications required by the Youth Court.…read more

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Complete the following where required
The magistracy is often ..... as `middleaged and middleclass', and therefore magistrates are not a
genuine .....section of society. The report The Judiciary in the Magistrates' Courts (2000) has
generally ..... this situation. Around 40% of lay magistrates are ..... people, and they are mainly from
professional or managerial ....grounds. Such magistrates are unlikely to live in ..... areas and are
probably not familiar with the problems of living in these areas.…read more

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1. The qualifications required for jury service.
The qualifications for jury service are laid down in the Juries Act 1974, which
requires jurors to be aged 18-70. Jurors must be on the electoral register and they
must have been resident in the United Kingdom for at least 5 years from the age
of 13. A juror must not be a mentally disordered person, or disqualified from jury
service.…read more

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How jurors are selected for jury service.
The names of prospective jurors are randomly selected from the local electoral
roll. They must be registered as a parliamentary or local government elector.
There is a further selection at court.
At court the jurors are divided into groups of 15 and allocated to a court. The
court clerk will select 12 out of these 15 at random to serve on a particular trial.
These 12 people form the jury panel.…read more


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