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Role of Mag in Criminal Courts

The Lord Chancellor's state that 'each bench should broadly reflect the community.' This enables magistrates to act in the appropiate manner to ensure the community they can deal with local issues.

The legal advisor explains the relevant points of law and legal procedures to the magistrates and gives advice on possible sentencing. However the actual descisions are made by the magistrates alone.The decide on sentence but must act within their powers. Chairman announces descision in court.

The advisor carries out many admininstrative jobs such as preparing for court sessions and making sure all relevant papers and exhibits are ready. This means the magistrates can concenrate on the evidence and the appropiate sentence.

Hear less serious criminal cases and commit more serious cases to the higher courts. Magistrates can only impose a sentence of a maximum of 6 months and fines upto £5,000. Can only sit in the Crown Court with a judge to hear appeals from the magistrates court against conviction or sentence.

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Appointment Process

Anyone can apply - ADs used to get a varied amount of people. 11 catorgories - no more than 15% are from any one category.

INTERVIEW 1: Panel tries to find out more about personal traits. (6 key traits). Explore attitudes on criminal justice issues.

INTERVIEW 2: aimed at testing potential judicial aptitude. discuss at least 2 case studies typically heard in the MC. Looking for: reasoning skills; structuring of descisions; teamwork ability) Selection on balance of need/requirement

Advisory Committe then submit suitable names to LORD CHIEF JUSTICE who then appoint magistrates from the list. Once appointed on behalf of and in the name of the queen, may continue til the age of 70. 

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Judicial college is responsible for overseeing and guiding training nationally. Justice Clerk is responsible for local training. 

INTRODUCTORY: Prelim reading ; understanding of organisation of the bench; administration of court; roles and responsibilites of those in MC

CORE TRAINING: acquire and develop key skills, knowledge & understanding needed for a magistrate.

ACTIVITIES: x3 court observations; visit a prison/ young offenders / probatinory service facility

All new mag have a mentor. will be mentored for 1st 2 years between 8-11 court cases.

also have 6-7 training sessions with their mentor to discuss and reflect how skills and knowledge have been applied.

have to complete work books (ADULT/FAMILY/YOUTH BENCH BOOKS)

once completed the new mag can sit in court as one of three on the bench.

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S.11 of Courts Act. Gives the Lord Chancellor (with agreement of Lord Cheif Justice) power to remove a lay person for:

  • incapacity or misbehavior
  • failure to meet standard of competence
  • if the LC is satisfied they are declining/neglecting to take part in their function

Removal for misbehaviour is usually when a mag is convicted of a criminal offence

all mag retire at 70

can removed for not sitting enough sessions

any complaints made are dealt with under judicial discipline regulatons by the office of Judicial complaints

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Training Part 2

4 Key Areas: 

1) Managing yourself: focusing on self management - preparing for court

2) Working as a team member - team aspect of descision making

3) Making judicial descions - impartial and structured descion making.

4) Managing Judicial descisions - for chairman's role. 

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