The Selection, Training and Role of Magistrates in the English Legal System

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The Selection, Training and Role of Magistrates in the English Legal System

Lay magistrates are unqualified, part-time and unpaid profesionals who

are chosen to serve in the magistrates court, yet they deal with the

vast majority of cases in the legal system. They do not hear cases on

their own but sit as a bench or panel of two or three other

magistrates. The use of such unqualified people to judge cases is open

to criticism.

Magistrates sit in a magistrates court, usually in a bench of three.

The role of magistrates is to deal with a wide variety of cases. Their

main work is trying minor criminal cases, but they also have some

civil functions. They hear applications for licenses to sell alcohol

and dealing with community debts such a non-payment of the community

charge. They also deal with domestic jurisdiction such as adoption and

divorce. They also have bail hearings, issue warrants and commit

indictable offences, such as GBH to the Crown court.

All criminal offences begin in the magistrates court, 97% of all cases

are tried in this court. This shows that most offences in the country

are petty crimes. The magistrates court has the power to give 12 month

sentence and a fine up to £5000 to defendents and they also have some

civil responsibilities such as enforcement of council tax debts. They

have some work in the family courts panel, relating to breakdown of

marriages. They are responsible for granting licenses on alcohol,

gambling and entertainment. Some courts specialise in the Youth court,

were magistrates tri offenders aged 10-17 and protection orders in the

Family Court.

Lay magistrates provide a broad cross-section of society in the

justice system and promote fairness in the justice system. They are

said to be the backbone of the English Legal System. The majority of

magistrates are middle-aged Tory voters, though 49% of these are

women. They are people with local knowledge and so act in the

interests of justice with this. The lay magistrates are not legally

qualified but do a good job, as 1.

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