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The duties of Magestrates and Juries.

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Introduction

Part A) Magistrates have a large range of duties, but they are mainly connected to criminal cases, totaling more than two million cases a year. However, Lay Magistrates deal with some civil cases; these tend to be family cases. Out of all criminal cases, 97% of them are dealt with by Lay Magistrates and in the other 3%, Lay Magistrates will hear the preliminary hearings, such as Early Administrative Hearings, and some Committal proceedings. To hear family cases including protection orders such as the protection against violence there is a special panel of Magistrates. Lay Magistrates will also decide bail after a suspected offender has been arrested and charged. The defendant may be released on bail by the police, but it is otherwise the magistrates' duty to decide whether he should be bailed or remanded in custody pending trial. In a summary trial the magistrates are the sole judges of fact and law (though they may seek the Clerk's advice on matters of law), and must determine an appropriate sentence in the event of a conviction. ...read more.

Middle

The jury's role in a criminal trial is to act as judge of fact. Sometimes there is a direct conflict of evidence and the jury must then use their experience of human nature in deciding who to believe is right. In other cases, there are more complex issues of reasonableness to be resolved, and the jury's task would be more difficult. A juror should have experience of life rather than on any specialized legal knowledge making it appropriate that it should be left to them, such as in R v Litchfield in 1998, when a ship foundered off the Cornish coast and three crewmembers were drowned. Having allegedly followed an unsafe course and relied too heavily on his engines even though he knew the fuel was contaminated the ship's master was tried for manslaughter. Affirming his conviction and sentence of 18 months' imprisonment, the Court of Appeal said it is up to the jury to decide whether negligence is gross negligence. They rejected an argument that since negligently endangering a ship is a statutory offence, it is nonsense to let the jury decide whether a defendant's behavior amounts to a crime: the question for the jury is whether it amounts to the crime of manslaughter. ...read more.

Conclusion

They refused to find the defendants guilty as instructed, in spite of being shut up without food or drink, and following their verdict the Recorder of London directed they be imprisoned for contempt. Vaughan CJ granted a writ of Habeas Corpus for their release; once the jury has given their verdict, the judge has no option but to accept it. In section 17 of the Criminal Justice Act 1967, if defendant pleads not guilty and the prosecutor proposes to offer no evidence, the court may order that a verdict Of not guilty be recorded, or the jury to be directed return such a verdict. This was carried out in the R v Ferguson case in 1970 when the defendant was charged with driving after the consumption of excess alcohol. The defendant pled not guilty, but the facts were undisputed. There was an argument as to the validity of the procedure adopted. The Deputy Chairman ruled that the procedure was valid and directed the jury to return a verdict of guilty. The direction was upheld by the Court of Appeal. Law Homework 7: Lay People 5/4/07 Daniel Shuck Page 1 of 3 ...read more.

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