Lay Magistrates

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There are 29,000 lay magistrates sitting as part-time judges in the 400 Magistrates' courts. Alongside working alone are also district judges neé stipendary judges who work specifically in cities or big towns. There are qualified and work on a proper wage. Lay Magistrates can grant bail, seach warrants and warrants for arrest, prelinary hearings, operate a youth court alongside, grant appeals, can grant licensing for smoking,gambling and alcohol, deal with family concerns and operate a youth court alongside. Lay magistrates deal with 97% of cases, there is a bench of 3 magistrates where a legal advisor assists to help the lay magistrates with sentancing. When appealing to the Crown Court, 2 magistrates' have to sit with the circuit judge and now with the enactment of Human Rights Act,1998 the magistrates' have to give a reason why they convicted the defendent on a 'not guilty plea'. THe bench can send a case which is on a point of law to the Queen's Bench Divisional Court eg. DDP v Smith. The magistrate is also expected to sit at least 26 1/2 day per year.

The history of the magistracy varies. Magistrates date back to 1195 where Richard I appointed 'keepers of peace'. Mid thirteen century the magistrates role had developed more judcial but during the Tudor era they still acted as the local police force.

There is no proper qualifications needed but you need to be between 18-75 years old but only 4% of the magistracy was under 40. Before you needed to be 15m within your local court but under the Courts Act this was abolished because more and more courts are being closed. However, there is one big area of justice within your own country where you can apply to be a magistrate. Also, you must have no serious previous convictions, have a good sense of english and must not have any profession which is uncompatible eg. Policeman. In addition, in 1998 the Lord Chancellor laid out 6 key qualities which hopful magistrates should attain:

  • Good character
  • Understanding and communication
  • Social awareness
  • Maturity and sound temprament
  • Sound judgment
  • Commitment and Reliability

You must also have good judicial qualities.

The appointment system up until 15/16 years ago was very secretive and usually was through people


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