What are lay magistrates?:Lay Magistrates deal with the vast majority of criminal cases in the English Legal System. All criminal cases start in the Magistrates' Court and around one million cases a year are heard by Magistrates.They uphold the important principle in our legal system of trial by one's peers. One of the great strengths of the English legal system is the participation of ordinary people in the administration of justice. The other area where this is seen in the criminal justice system is in the Crown Court where juries are used.