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Directed Study - Lay Magistrates.

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James Bellis Directed Study - Lay Magistrates Lay Magistrates - or Justices of the Peace - Have been an important part of our legal system for hundred of years. They deal with approximately 98% of all criminal cases. a) Describe the selection, Training and role of lay magistrates. b) Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of using lay magistrates in the English legal system. a) Every Year approximately 1500 lay magistrates are appointed, These people are appointed by the lord chancellor apart from in Lancashire where they are appointed by the Chancellor for the Duchy of Lancaster, on behalf of the queen. The Lord Chancellor depends on recommendations by the local advisory committee a method that is criticized often. Because the membership of the committees used to be secret but have been published since 1993, the committees are usually made up of ex-justices of the Peace, the county's lord lieutenant is usually the chairman. Half the members of such committees have to retire every three years; the maximum number on a committee is 12 and must be a mixture of magistrates and non-magistrates. ...read more.


within magistrates operate, an ability to follow basic law and procedure, an ability to think and act judicially, an ability to work as an effective member of a team. New Magistrates keep a log of progress and has a mentor who is an experienced magistrate. In the first 2 years of a magistrates sitting, between 8 and 11 of their sessions will be mentored during this time they are required to go to 7 training sessions during which there will be an appraisal of the magistrate to ensure they have gained the required competencies. Magistrates that do not show the competencies will be given extra training; if this is not sufficient then they will be referred to the advisory committee, which may recommend the Lord Chancellor removes them. This scheme uses "on the job" training and is seen as a step forward from the old system whereby the there was no check on the magistrate's receptiveness of the training. The role of a lay magistrate is particularly wide and mainly concerns criminal cases, lay magistrates try 97% of criminal cases plus preliminary hearings in the remaining 3% of criminal cases including remand hearings, bail applications etc. ...read more.


Another advantage is the training that lay magistrates receive being that they are not complete amateurs and that most of their decisions require common sense rather than professional training, however there is the criticism that the training varies in quality and is sometimes unsatisfactory given the high workload. There have been a number of studies involving the huge inconsistencies in sentences Youth courts have also seen a huge inconsistencies in the sentencing given being that courts in the north of England were tougher than the southern courts but there were also variations between courts. The lack of legal knowledge may be offset by the presence of a legally qualified clerk; this will not prevent inconsistencies in sentences, as they are not allowed to interfere with the magistrate decisions on sentencing. It has sometimes been said that the police are too prosecution biased believing the police too much. Which is believed to result in the low acquittal rates of the magistrate's court. Although there is comparatively fewer appeals in the magistrates courts and many are against sentence not against guilt. From this it can be argued that lay magistrates do a very good job despite being amateurs. ...read more.

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