Disadvantages of lay magistrates.
Disadvantages of lay magistrates
- Inconsistency - Sentences vary greatly between Magistrate's courts. And even between LM's in the same court. There are also inconsistencies in the granting of bail.
- Over reliance on the clerk, laymagistrate's have very little legal knowledge and rely to heavily on the clerk of the court.
- Prosecution bias - Conviction rates in the Magistrate's court are much higher than the Crown court.
- They are middle classed, middle aged, middle minded. The report the Judiciary in the Magistrates courts show this was true, 40% of LM's are retired and from profession/managerial backgrounds.
Advantages of lay magistrates
Advantages of lay magistrates
- Gender balance - LM's come from a wider cross section than professional judges. In particular there is a greater gender balance, 49% of LM's are woman.
- Local knowledge - They live or work in the local area, and therefore have local knowledge which will help them make fairer decisions in the court.
- Lack of bias - By having a bench of 3 LM's, it avoids bias and it gives a balanced view, as it's a true cross-section of society.
- Saves money - Expenses only have to be paid for, i.e travel, food etc.
- Saves time - LM's act as a filter, only the most serious cases go to the Crown Court.
- In 1998 the Magistrates New Training Initiative (MNTI 1) was set up. This was recently amended by the Magistrates National Training Initiative (MNTI 2) in 2004. So improved training through MNTI2.
- It is supervised my the Magistrate's Committee of the Judicial Studies Board, which decided the key area that Magistrates need training on.
- Because of the large numbers of magistrates training is carried out in local areas --> Sometimes by the clerk of the court, sometimes through weekend courses organised by universities with magistrates.
- In 1998 the Magistrates New Training Initiative (MNTI 1) was set up. This was recently amended by the Magistrates National Training Initiative (MNTI 2) in 2004.
- The framework of training is divided into 4 area of competence, first three are relevant to all magistrates, the fourth one is for the chairman of the bench.
Training - 4 areas of competence.
4 areas of competence
- Managing yourself - This focuses on some of the basic aspects of self-management in relation to preparing for court, conduct in the court and on going learning.
- Making judicial decisions - This focuses on impartial and structured decision making.
- Working as member of a team - This focuses on the team aspect of decision making in the Magistrates courts.
- Managing judicial decision making - This is only for the chair of the bench and focuses on working with the clerk, managing the court and ensuring effective and impartial decision making.
Appointment of LM's
- 1,500 LM's appointed each year
- The Lord Chancellor heavily relies on recommendations made by advisory committees. The names of potential magistrates can be put forward by anyone, an interested person can even put their own name forward, normally names are put forward by, political parties, chambers of commerce and trade unions.
- To try to encourage a wide range of potential candidates, committees have advertised for LM's in papers, local newspapers and even on local buses aimed at particular ethnic groups.
- There is a two stage interview process and the Lord Chancellor will appoint from the names put forward.
2 Stage interview process
1st Stage - Panel tries to see if the candidate has the 6 key qualities that are required.
2nd stage - Aimed at testing the candidates 'potential judicial aptitude,' this is done by a discussion of at least two case studies.
Names are submitted - The Advisory Committee will then submit names of those they think are suitable to the Lord Chancellor.
Lord Chancellor - Will then appoint Magistrate's from the list given to him by the Advisory Committee.
- Approximately 29,000 LM's in England and Wales.
- They are unpaid volunteers, part time, sit 26 half days a year.
- Don't need any formal qualifications.
- 6 key qualities set out by LC in 1998 --> Maturity and sound temperament, commitment and reliability, social awareness and a sound judgement.
- Formal requirements:
- 18-65 years of age, under 27's are rare.
- Prepared to sit 26 half days a year.
- Live or work within or near the local justice area.
- No serious criminal record .
- Not to be a member of the armed forces.