Essay by janice_homer October 2003

download word file, 4 pages 3.0

Downloaded 43 times

Describe the Role and Power of Magistrates

There are some 30,374 lay magistrates in England and Wales, 15,858 men and

14,516 women, appointed by the Lord Chancellor or the Chancellor of the

Duchy of Lancaster, in the name of the Crown. Magistrates are ordinary

members of the community who sit in the Magistrates' Courts and who

dispense justice the lowest level of the English court system. They are

unpaid for what they do and therefore are not servants of the Crown. This

supports their position of impartiality between the Crown and the public

whom they serve. English lay magistrates are not learned in the law - they

do not hold legal qualifications, nor have they formally studied law to

any level other than that which they may have done at school. There may be

some exceptions - there are legal professionals who are also lay

magistrates - but the vast majorities are just ordinary members of the

public. They do, however, undergo a vast amount of training so that they

can perform their judicial functions correctly and within the law. There

are three Magistrates (also known as justices of peace) who make decisions

in court. Only one magistrate has very limited powers e.g. warrants.

Magistrates take part in summery trials, committal proceedings, and

ancillary matters e.g. issuing warrants, bail applications, and youth

court and family court. Cases heard in the Magistrates' Court are termed

summary cases and are, supposedly, to be dealt with quickly with summary

justice. These tend to be the simple, petty crimes of everyday existence.

The Magistrates' Court used to be known as Petty Sessions. For more

serious crimes the accused is charged on indictment and sent to the Crown

Court to be tried there. In between summary and indictable offences there

are a whole range...