Role of the Magistrates (Criminal Cases)
- Number of criminal cases heard - 97% of all criminal cases.
- Decide guilt - Hear trials for summary and triable either way offences. Role is to decide whether they are guilty or not guilty and then pass a verdict.
- Sentencing - They have the role of passing sentence. If they do not believe they have enough sentencing powers, will send offender to the Crown Court for a higher sentence.
- Preliminary hearings - Early Administrative hearing, Bail hearings, Plea before venue, Mode of trial.
- Youth offenders - Some are specially trained to deal with young offenders (aged 10-17) and will sit in a youth court.
- Appeals - Sit in Crown Court to hear appeals from Magistrates Court. Form a panel with a judge.
- Administritive duties - Hear warrant applications from police, sign warrants to search private premises. Will hear applications to extend suspects' detention period. Can grant or refuse.
Role of the Magistrates (Civil Cases)
- Issue licenses (appeals) - If premises have been refused alcohol license, magistrates will hear any cases that have tried to appeal this. Can grant or refuse.
- Civil debts - Deal with people who fail to pay utility bills, TV licenses and council tax. Will fine.
- Family matters - Some Magistrates Courts have a seperate family Court within them. Some are specially trained to deal with family matters under the Children Act 1989. e.g. adoption.
Qualifications and Qualities of Magistrates
Qualifications & Qualities
- No legal qualifications needed.
- Aged 18-65
- Must live in the local area.
- Must be prepared to commit to at least 26 half days a year up to a max 70 half days. (26-70)
- You are ineligible if:
- Criminal convictions. Members of armed forces (conflict of interests) Police officers (conflict of interests) Have a condition that makes them unable to sit.
- Good character (Good morals) Understanding and good with communications (With court personnel) Social awareness. Maturity and sound temperament (Control of emotions) Sound judgement (Reasonable decisions) Commitment and reliability
(Logistical, e.g. on time)
Selection and Appointment of Magistrates
Background & Selection and Appointment
- About 1'500 new lay magistrates are appointed every year.
- Appointments are made by the Lord Chancellor but he relies on the recommendations of the local advisory committees. (which consist of current or ex magistrates)
- All Magistrates must first apply for the job. They are advertised in local newspapers, or the person could also be nominated to be magistrate.
- The LAC (see above) select a cross-section of people from group.
- There is a two-stage interview process. First interview is where the panel tries to find out more about the candidate, and it is merely just a Q&A session. It assesses attitudes and personality. The second interview puts the candidate in a situation or a scenario (a practical sentencing exercise)
- The LAC will submit names to Lord Chancellor.
- The Lord Chancellor will appoint new Magistrates from this list.
- The Magistrate is officially sworn in at a local Crown Court.
Qualifications, Qualities, Selection and Appointme
The candidate must be 18-65, live in local area and committed to at least 26 half days.
The candidate must not be ineligible. (e.g. criminal convictions, armed forces, police)
Job is advertised.
Candidates apply or nominated.
Interview process. Stage one and two.
Candidates are then appointed by Lord Chancellor.
Training of Magistrates
Training - The training of lay magistrates is supervised by the Magistrates Committee of the Judicial Studies Board.
- 1. Complete prior reading and exercises.
- 2. Initial training - Introductory training on the basics of the role. Must complete three court observations.
- 3. Core training - Further training, visits to prisons and observations. Will work with court personnel.
- 4. Mentoring - Each new magistrate has a specially trained mentor. 6 formal mentored sittings in the first 12-18 months.
- 5. Consolidation training - After two years must complete 12 hours of consolidation training. Brings together everything they have learnt.
- 6. First appraisal - About 1 year after appointment, the new justice is appraised. Will be observed and reviewed. If successful, magistrate deemed fully competent.
Ongoing Training - They continue training throughout their career with appraisals every three years, regular updates on training to keep up with changing legislation, and specialised training to work in Family and Youth Courts.
Training of Magistrates Summary
Initial core training and activites.
Consolidation sitting. Two years.
Appraisal. 1 year.
Three year cycle continuation followed by appraisal.
Retirement and Removal
- The retirement age is 70.
- Do not officially retire, names are place on the supplemental list which means they cannot sit.
- Can do other duties such as administrative duties (e.g. warrants and licenses.)
- Lord Chancellor can remove a magistrate for the following reasons:
- Incapacity of misbehaviour. (e.g. criminal conviction)
- Persistent failure to meet competent standards.
- If someone is incapable of duties or has neglected the proper functions.
What is the difference between Magistrates and a D
Magistrates is in BOLD and District Judges is in PINK
- Magistrates are UNPAID. District Judges are PAID.
- Magistrates are NOT LEGALLY QUALIFIED. District Judges are LEGALLY QUALIFIED with 7 years of exp.
- Magistrates RELY HEAVILY on the clerk. District Judges DON'T RELY on the clerk.
- Magistrates are PART TIME. District Judges are FULL TIME.
- Magistrates sit on a bench of THREE. District Judges sit ON THEIR OWN.
- There are around 30'000 magistrates. There are about 100 District Judges.
- Magistrates have to LIVE LOCALLY. District Judges work in LARGE CITIES.