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Describe the selection, training, and role of lay magistrates.

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Introduction

Describe the selection, training, and role of lay magistrates. Potential magistrates must go through what one would call 'checks' to see if they would be suitable to sit in the position of a magistrate, and fulfil their duties. It is vital that magistrates are appointed carefully since they will hold a great deal of responsibility not only for the courts but for the community as a whole, as they are expected to be respectable and trustworthy citizens. Therefore a selection process is needed in which the names of potential magistrates can be put forward by people who are interested for themselves or by anyone else who wants to nominate a person. For instance groups like; local political parties, trade unions, and chambers of commerce would hand in names of potential magistrates. The Lord Chancellor set out six key qualities which candidates are expected to have these were; good character, understanding and communication, social awareness, maturity and sound temperament, sound judgement, and commitment and reliability. ...read more.

Middle

Following the training there are specific roles and areas which a magistrate can get into to carry out their duties. They are mainly connected to criminal cases, although they deal with some civil matters (especially family cases). They try 97% of all criminal cases and deal with preliminary hearings in the remaining 3% of criminal cases. This would involve Early Administrative Hearings, remand hearings, bail applications, and committal proceedings. They also deal with civil matters which include the enforcing of debts owed to the utilities (gas, electric, and water), non-payment of the council tax and non payment of television licenses. In addition they have powers to grant licences for the sale of alcohol and for the betting and gaming establishments. Specially nominates and trained justices form the Youth Court Panel to hear criminal charges against young offenders aged 10 to 17 years old. These magistrates must be under 65 years old. There is also a special panel for the family court to hear family cases including orders for protection against violence, affiliation cases, adoption orders and proceedings under the Children Act 1989. ...read more.

Conclusion

However, as most magistrates come from professional and managerial classes it is unlikely that they live, or have any real knowledge of the problems in poorer areas. Another aspect which would certainly be important to discuss is the fact that some say that lay magistrates tend to be prosecution-biased (believe the police too readily). In contrast to this view however the actual evidence shows that there are very few defendants who appeal against the magistrates' decision and many of the appeals are against sentence and not against the finding of guilty. This would lead one to the conclusion that despite the amateur status of lay magistrates, they do justice to the role given to them. Finally the use of unpaid lay magistrates is cheap; this is a huge advantage, because the cost of replacing them with paid magistrates has been estimated to cost �100 million a year. The cost of a trial in the Magistrates Court is also much cheaper than in the Crown Court. Overall the advantages and disadvantages are both important features to look at, once looked at in depth it can be concluded that the number of advantages and disadvantages are equally balanced. Misbah Hanif ...read more.

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