Jury and Magistrate Exam Questions

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Brogan Townshend TG13


[8.a] Explain the work of lay magistrates in criminal courts.                (10 marks)

        Magistrates are also known as ‘Justices of the Peace’ and are responsible for ensuring the law is upheld. The term ‘Justices of the Peace’ was first used in 1361 and the role has development since then. Lay magistrates are unpaid, except for expenses, and unqualified. They sit as a bench of three in magistrate’s court, hearing 96% of all criminal trials. Magistrates are suppose to reflect society meaning that there should be a race, gender, and age balance in the local area in which they sit.

        Once a magistrate has been appointed they are required to sit for at least 26 half-days each year. They normally work as part of a bench of three magistrates. There is a chairman and two wingmen, which are often less experienced than the chairman. There are five specific roles which are carried out. The judicial decisions that are made by magistrates are only whether the defendant is guilty or innocent. This decision is made due to a trial about either a summary offence or an either way offence. The magistrates also decide on the sentence which for one offence is a maximum of six months or a maximum fine of £5,000. As magistrates are not legally trained, there is always available advice from the Justices clerk who can explain the relevant points of law and give advice on possible sentencing. Another role is for magistrates to train other and new magistrates that are recruited each year. When appeals are made magistrates’ role is to sit in the crown court with a judge, to hear appeals against conviction or sentence. Magistrates' make a lot of administrative decisions concerning whether or not a person makes bail or custody and any warrants that are issued have to be signed by magistrates. The advisor carries out many administrative roles too including preparing court sessions, dealing with paperwork, completing bail forms etc- which gives magistrates more time to concentrate on the evidence in a case. Magistrates can undergo extra training in order to sit in the youth court, which is private, more formal and requires a person to be under the age of 18, or a family court, dealing with matters excluding divorce but such as custody and adoption.

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        Magistrates hear approximately 1 million cases each year and many of these cases will have involved more than one hearing. Magistrates play a big role in society as they hear more cases each year than any other court and there are just fewer than 29,000 lay magistrates in England and Wales.

[8.b] Explain the work of juries in criminal courts.        (10 marks)

        The jury offers to the defendant the opportunity of being tried by his peers. The role of a jury can be seen as simply to return a verdict of guilty or not guilty be determining ...

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