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who are they

  • Lay magistrates- members of the public
  • Hear over 1m cases per year
  • 30,000 of them
  • 95% of all criminal cases 
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Normally sit on a bench of 3- advice on legal matters being given by the clerk

Required to sit for at least 26 days a year

Should be peppered to sit for full days if necessary

Should be reduced to 24 half days in order to improve recruitment

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criminal cases

Magistrate’s courts try 97% of criminal  cases

Hear all summary offenses’

Some tribal ether way offences

Carry out transfer for trail proceedings

Hear bail applications/ grant warrants

Youth cases   

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other work

  • Some civil jurisdiction
  • Granting of licenses for selling alcohol
  • Awarding anti social behavior orders   
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Lay magistrates do not have any qualifications in law

There are however requirements as to character and integrity

Required to have 6 key qualities contained within the Lord Chancellor’s directions 1998

  • Good character
  • Understanding and commutation
  • Social awareness
  • Maturity and sound temperament
  • Commitment and reliability   
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general qualifications

Must have certain judicial qualities- important that they are able  to assimilate factual information and make a reasoned decision upon it

Expected to live or work with in or near the local justice area

Aged between 18-65 rare to have appointments under 27

Need to be British nationals – must swear allegiance to the queen

Must be in satisfactory health- no disability that would interfere with duties

Will not be a police officer, traffic warden, in forces, bankrupt, MP nor have a serious criminal conviction 

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About 1500 new lay magistrates appointed each year by the Lord Chancellor

Makes the appointments based on the recommendations of the local advisory committees 

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interview process

2 stages-1st interview designed to examine personality and attitudes towards the criminal justice system and issues such as drink driving

2nd stage tests judicial aptitude by discussing at least 2 case

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Overall training supervised by the magistrates committee of the judicial studies board

1998 the lay magistrates training initiative   started- further updated in 2004

Newly appointed magistrates had to achieve 4 basic competencies

Managing yourself, working as a member of a team, making judicial decisions,  managing   judicial decisions

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training of new magistrates divided in to 3 parts

Initial introducrary training

  • Covers matters such as understanding the organization of the bench and the administration of the court and the roles and responsibilities of those involved in the magistrates court

Core training

  • develop key skills knowledge and understanding


  • Will involve observations of court sittings and visits to establishments e.g. prisons    
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reinterview and dismissal

Must retire at the age of 70

Can be removed from the list at any time without being given a reason- rarely happens

Under the courts act 03- Lord Chancellor can remove any lay magistrate from office

On the grounds of incapacity or misbehavior

On the ground of persistent failure to meet prescribed standers of competence or

If the LC is satisfied that the lay justice is declining to take a proper part in the exercise of his or her functions as a magistrate  

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