English court structure.

Essay by janice_homerUniversity, Bachelor's October 2003

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Part 1: Roles and Relationships in the Magistrates' Court

The office of District Judge (magistrates' courts) is created by section

78 of the Access to Justice Act 1999 which provides for the unification

and renaming of the stipendiary bench. Prior to the implementation of this

Act professional judges in magistrates' courts were called stipendiary

magistrates, and for historical reasons the bench was divided between

metropolitan stipendiary magistrates who had jurisdiction in the inner

London courts, and provincial stipendiary magistrates who were appointed

for individual areas or counties outside inner London. In recent years the

distinction between the two bodies was seen to be artificial, not least

because stipendiaries who sat in outer London were provincial whereas

those in geographically adjoining courts were metropolitan. In addition

such geographical distinctions seemed out of place when professional

judges in other jurisdictions (District Judges, for example) were not

restricted to particular areas for their work.

The government has

recognised, in the Access to Justice Act 1999, the identity of interest of

all professional magistrates by unifying them into one body and has

acknowledged the distinction between professional judges and lay

magistrates by providing the title District Judge (magistrates' courts).

The provisions of the 1999 Act are the latest of a large number of changes

to the ancient office of 'Justice' which has its origins in a medieval

system of courts and legal administration. A brief history of the bench

may be summarised as follows.

Until the middle of the eighteenth century summary justice was entirely in

the hands of local unpaid citizens who were Justices of the Peace deriving

their authority from ancient powers dating back to the Justices of the

Peace Act 1361. This system generally worked well in country areas but

after the great expansion of the cities in the early...