Criminal courts and lay people

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Criminal Courts

Magistrates: Initial Trial- Summary Offences or Either way offence. Deal with arrest and search warrants, bail, sending for trial hearings.Youth Court. 

Crown Court: Initial Trial- Either way offence or Indictable offence. 

Court of Appeal: Criminal Division- Court of Appeal will allow appeal and possibly new trial if it considers the conviction unsafe. 

Supreme Court: Made on if law is public importance. 

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How Magistrates Qualify

  • No legal Qualifications
  • 18-65 yrs 
  • Live in the Local Area
  • lived in the uk from age 13 from at least 5 years 
  • any nationality 
  • declare convictions- any minor convictions such as speeding ticket fine
  • 6 characteristics: Social awareness, Good Communication, Honesty, Have Mature and Sound Temperament, sound judgement Commitment and reliabiliy.
  • Can't be a magistrate if you are in a job such as the armed forces or the police might be a conflict of interest. Also if family member is in such position.
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Appointment of Magistrates

  • Advertisement of position in Local area (both at court+online)
  • Local awareness days
  • Application 
  • Local advisory committee select for interviews 
  • 1st interview is checking for the personal qualities 
  • 2nd interview senario based and background checks 
  • Local advisory committee make reccomendations to the Lord chancellor who appoints on behalf of the Queen. 
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Training of Magistrates

  • Preliminary training: visits to prisons, reading, youth offenders, probation service and court observations.
  • Core training: Area of law
  • Shadow experienced magistrate 
  • mentor for 12-18 months 
  • regular progress checks 
  • refresher training- any changes in the law or sentences 
  • specialist training after 2 years- in youth or family branch.
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How Jurors qualify

  • 18-69 years old 
  • lived in the uk after 13 yrs old for at least five years. 
  • any nationality 
  • Can't do it if been convicted of any sentence in the past 5 years
  • Can't do it if they have been convicted of a sentence over 10 years 
  • Can't do it if for mental health issues or are on bail. 

Deferal: Delay jury service but have to do it in 12 months

  • may have had a pre booked holiday, medical appointment or exam. 

Excusal: Do not have to do Jury service

  • may be in a particular job such as surgeon or doctor where you cannot be replaced

Discretionary refusal: Can refuse to do it

  • over 65 yrs 
  • In the armed forces 
  • Done jury service in the past 2 years. 
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Role of Jurors

  • Arrive at court
  • Show ID (prove they are whom they say they are)
  • shown video on what will happen 
  • wait to be called 
  • generally 15 jurors will be called to each case- only 12 chosen for the case, gives leway to deselect any people.
  • 12 chosen are sworn in (by oath or affirmation)
  • Hear evidence 
  • Ask questions and make notes 
  • Judge will summarise the case
  • Jurors go to a private room to discuss evidence and make a verdict 
  • Unanimous decision 
  • Go back into court- The chair person of the group will announce the verdict 
  • Judge will dismiss the jury and announce sentencing. 
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Advantages of using lay people

  • Magistrates give the public a role- balance between the state 
  • Local knowledge- DPP 
  • Private room make decision- No outside influence 
  • Jurors do not give ratio decidendi- may be difficult decision but they do not need to explain it 
  • They are given legal advise on points of law
  • Representative of society 
  • 12 jurors- range of opinion 
  • Magistrates have training/expertise 
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Disadvantages of using Lay people

  • Private room- Re Steven Young- Do not know what happens inside the room 
  • Lack of legal knowledge
  • Jurors may not want to be there 
  • Might be bias within the group- dominance 
  • Magistrates- arguably not representative: they are volunteers, so people who can afford to not be paid to work and can afford the time 
  • Risk of influence from a legal adviser 
  • Jurors may find cases distressing 
  • Magistrates might become case hardened- may make assumptions.
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