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Describe The Work of The Magistrates Court, The Problems and The Proposals for Reform

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Law (MS) 31/01/03 Describe The Work of The Magistrates Court, The Problems and The Proposals for Reform Plan English Legal System ? 2 primary courts ? ? Crown Court Magistrates ? ? Professional judge and a jury 3 lay magistrates and the clerk of the court Functions: * Granting of licences for premises * Issues warrants for premises/detention/bail * A filter in terms of offences-initially all cases (clearing house) * Summary offences - minor offences - trial court * Each way - minor or serious depending on the consequences (e.g. driving without due care and attention could lead to death by dangerous driving) * Indictable offences - serious offences (magistrates look for sufficient evidence and then refer the case to the crown court) Composition: * 3 magistrates (lay people ? none professionals) ? local people who know about local circumstances. * Recruitment ? 27-60 * Retirement ? 70 (or can be retired earlier for misconduct) * Who cannot be a magistrate? * How much training before becoming a magistrate? How much a year? * Clerk of the court who is usually referred to (this is a legal advisor with at least 5yrs standing (usually a solicitor or barrister)) * In complex cases stipendiary magistrates are also present. They are district judges who have a lot more training than lay magistrates. Problems: * Inconsistent - punishments vary from one part of the country to another * Prosecution bias - the police are favoured more than the defendant instead of initially being equal * The magistrates are lay people who have no legal background and only limited legal knowledge ? ...read more.


They attend court and report on the cases. The usher is there to ensure that the proceedings run smoothly and that order is maintained. The clerk of the court is usually either a barrister, or a solicitor who has at least five years standing. They act as a legal advisor, but the final judgements are up to the magistrates. In complex cases a stipendiary magistrate may also be present. They are professional district judges who have a lot more legal knowledge and training than lay magistrates. Stipendiary magistrates can earn up to �74,000 a year. The magistrates are lay people (none professionals) who have legal training. They are also known as 'Justices of the Peace' (JP's). To become a magistrate you must be of good character, have knowledge on local issues and local circumstances, be able to work as part of a team and have the ability to weigh evidence and reach reasoned decisions. Although magistrates receive a small allowance for travelling expenses and so on, they do not receive a salary. However, not everyone can become a magistrate; the police, traffic wardens and anyone else who is a serving member of Her Majesty's Forces are unable to become magistrates. Other people who cannot become magistrates, are people who are bankrupt, the close relatives of a person who is already a magistrate serving on the same bench, anyone who has a disability which stops them from carrying out all the duties of a magistrate, or anyone who has a serious criminal record. ...read more.


The inconsistency of punishments also needs to be looked at, because it is wrong for two people who are charged with the same crime to be punished differently just because they live in different parts of the country. Another suggestion for improvement is to put a judge on the bench with two lay magistrates; this would result in more serious cases being heard and subsequently harsher punishments being able to be granted. Finally, in cases where the defendant is unhappy with the verdict or their punishment they can appeal. If the defendant pled guilty at the trial they can only appeal against sentence, whereas if the defendant pled not guilty then they can appeal against both their sentence and their conviction. To appeal, a 'notice of appeal' must be given within twenty-one days of the conclusion of the case to the court and to the prosecutor. (Legal Aid can be applied for) The appeals are heard in the Crown Court, where a full rehearing of the case goes ahead, but before a judge and two magistrates, instead of a judge and jury. If the appeal is successful then the conviction could be quashed or the sentence reduced. However, if the appeal fails, the defendant could incur the court fees. Also if the court feels that the original sentence was too light it could be increased. The decision of the Crown Court is final (and there is only one rare situation in which you can pursue your case any further). These are risks which the defendant will have to think about before going ahead with an appeal Si�n Lees ...read more.

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