The Role and Powers of Lay Magistrates in Criminal Cases

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The Role and Powers of Lay Magistrates in Criminal Cases

1a) Describe the role and powers of lay magistrates in criminal cases.

b) Consider whether lay magistrates are adequately trained for their

work.

1a) Describe the role and powers of lay magistrates in criminal cases.

For centuries the criminal justice system has allowed lay people;

people who are not legally qualified to administer justice to the

civilian population. Lay magistrates are otherwise known as Justices

of the Peace. Lay magistrates work is mainly connected to criminal

cases although they also deal with some civil matters, especially

family cases. Firstly, it is to be noted that lay magistrates only

perform their duties about once a fortnight. Despite being lay members

within the law, they try 97% of all criminal cases and deal with

preliminary hearings in the remaining 3% of criminal cases, these

involve Early Administrative Hearings, remand hearings, bail

applications, sentencing and transfer proceedings.

Lay magistrates also deal with commitals, magistrates can commit a

defendant charged with a triable either way offence for the sentence

to the Crown Court at the end of the case having heard the defendants

past record, they feel that their powers of punishment are

insufficent.

Lay magistrates have a fairly wide discretion as to the sentence they

select in each case although they are subject to certain restrictions.

Magistrates can only impose a maximum sentence of six months

imprisonment for one offence, the Criminal Justice Act 2003 allows

this to be increased to twelve months, and a maximum fine of £5000.

In theory lay magistrates are volunte...

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...rning law.

In view of the above I would say that Lay magistrates are adequately

trained for their work. Firstly they are not just people with no

common sense, they have to have a certain standard of good education.

They are given hands on training in understanding and orgainsation

they are allowed to develop new skills, they are trained how to do

observations of court sittings and they have visits to prisons and

probation offices where they can gain first hand experience. The

system does not jus allow them to practice without first going though

a probationary period. They are also mentioned thoughout this period

so if a person did not make the grade they would be disqualified

before training was completed. So referring back to the question

above, I think yes lay magistrates are adequately trained for their

work.

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