• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Explain the selection, training and role of Magistrates in the English legal system.

Extracts from this document...


Explain 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. ...read more.


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 1.5 million cases were dealt with in 1998, only 16,000 were subject to appeal to the Crown court against a sentence or conviction. They are free and so provide the cheapest labour to the justice system. If they were replaced with full-time magistrates it would cost an extra �100 million a year. There are many advantages of using lay magistrates some of these are the fact that the system involves members of the community and provides a wider cross-section on the bench than would be possible with the use of professional judges. Also because lay magistrates are just average, but professional people such as teachers or doctors. it is an advantage because they can see what goes on in their community and so are more in touch with realistic issues, this also pleases the public opinion of magistrates. There are very few appeals from magistrate's decisions. However with the advantages are also many disadvantages. Lay magistrates tend to be middle-class, middle-aged and middle minded and will have very little in common with the young working class defendants who make up the majority of defendants. Both working-class and ethnic minorities are under-represented. A major criticism of lay magistrates is that they tend to be prosecution biased, believing the police too readily. They only acquit about 25% of cases and some magistrates may rely too heavily on their clerk which is available to give advice. Every bench is assisted by a clerk. The main duty is to guide the magistrates on questions of law, practice and procedure. The clerk should not assist in the decision-making. Clerks have been given increased power to deal with routine matters at early administrative hearings. The lay magistrates are not legally qualified, they can be taxi drivers or teachers. ...read more.


They must have lived within this area for at least 12 months. There are other points to meet, such as the age limit of 21-65. However it is unlikely to be chosen as a lay magistrate until the age of 27. The person must also be able to sit for long periods of time and so must be healthy enough to fulfil their duties. The final criteria is that the person must be able to sit for at least 26 times, usually each time consists of half of a day and so must be able to sit for 13 days. A person may be disqualified from being a lay magistrate if they have a certain job or issue. If they work for, or a close family member, works for the justice system, then they cannot be a lay magistrate. If they are an undischarged bankrupt or member of the forces, then they are also removed. You may also be disqualified if you are an MP or traffic warden. Magistrates nower days recive some sort of training but not much. Improved training means that lay magistrates are not complete 'amateurs'. New magistrates are given about 40 hours of training spread over the first three years. This consists of Observing court proceedings and learning 'on the job', attending lectures and workshops and visiting penal institutions. The training is not meant to make magistrates proficient in the law, but to give them an understanding of their duties. A major part of the training is aimed at sentencing. Magistrates on the Youth panel and the Family panel receive extra training for this. However the training of the magistrates has been criticised to be inadequate for the workload the receive. The variations in the sentences given according to locality have been subject to questions. The magistrates were found to be inconsistent with their sentences. In 1990 it was found that you were twice as likely to go to prison in Greater Manchester than in Merseyside. This just shows that magistrates arnt the most fairest way to tri defendents. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Law section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE Law essays

  1. Marked by a teacher

    Magistrates - Explain the role that magistrates play in the criminal justice system

    5 star(s)

    Also a magistrate can make a decision to go to a crown court if during a trial they think 6 months/�5000 fine is not a big enough sentence. Magistrates conduct committals for those cases that go on to the crown court.

  2. Marked by a teacher

    "Within the present system of precedent in the English legal system, judges have very ...

    4 star(s)

    esteemed law lords, such as in the case of Central London Property Trust Ltd. v. High Trees House Ltd. [1947]. The doctrine of precedent has existed for quite a while, but it was not until 1865 when the Council for Law Reporting was established and modern reports were published, that it became fully functional.

  1. essay discussing the advantages and disadvanteges of lay magistrates

    Although it costs nothing to become a magistrate there is ill feeling to the job by people who wanted to pursue law as a career but as they couldn't afford it didn't. This means that although there are many people who would have like to do law but couldn't afford

  2. Describe the main differences between solicitors and barristers with regard to training and work ...

    If this is the case, then a barrister has a right to refuse the case, which could lead to disaster. A barrister can also become a Queens Counsel. Becoming a QC requires a barrister to have practised as a barrister for 10 years or more, after which they can apply to the Lord Chancellor to become a QC.

  1. The Work of the Magistrates Court and Magistrates

    Few people are automatically disqualified from becoming a magistrate. Anyone who has been convicted of a serious offence or an undischarged bankrupt will not be appointed. Anyone working for court associated organisations or a partner or spouse of someone working for them may also be disqualified.

  2. Explain the need for discipline in at least two public services. Analyse the role ...

    of discipline and structure the people in higher ranks are responsible for lower ranking soldiers and they are to make sure they behave appropriately something which was certainly not done here. Mr. Antonio Taguba stated that US soldiers had carried out "egregious acts and grave breaches of international law" There

  1. 'The European Court of Justice played a decisive role in the transformation of the ...

    One cannot underestimate the importance of the informative role of member states governments in Article 234 proceedings. By providing legal and factual information which would otherwise be difficult for the judges to obtain, they undoubtedly contribute to the informed nature of judicial decision making at E.U level; as can be

  2. Types of Court in the English Legal System.

    They can't for instance, mention the names of the people in the courtroom. The court itself if similar to every other court in the UK, but the magistrate has been given special training in how to handle young people that come before them.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work