As the above information concludes, lay do have a substantial amount of training so it isn't really fair to class them as ordinary lay people. The name infers that they know nothing about the law, which is untrue. As magistrates are continually reviewed, their judging and ruling is mostly consistent, bringing about a fair trial and sentence to each defendant. Magistrates also deal with the more trivial points of law, taking charge of 97% of all criminal cases and dealing with the preliminary work on the remaining 3%. This leads to lightening the work load for the legally qualified people who have more substantial cases to be getting on with. Magistrates are also extremely cheap.
Because they are voluntary, the government doesn't have to fund their salaries, putting more money back in, to deal with more important tissues. Another advantage is that instead of only having one magistrate (or judge) in a magistrates court three sit on a panel, so different views are brought across. This, again, brings across more consistency in the court room, as if one magistrate seems to be lacking in one particular legal field, the other magistrates can either help them or report them to the MCJSB.
The magistrate will also have good local knowledge because, as stated before, an applying magistrate has to live 15 miles or under from the court where they sit. This is invaluable because it gives them some background to the defendant's case, again, ensuring fairness. The magistrate s will also have a legal clerk on hand to advice them on the finer points of law and because they have had training they are well prepared for each case. The magistrate's court also has a very low appeal percentage. This means that all parties are usually happy with the outcome of the case.
Disadvantages of the lay magistrate I think that the most predominant disadvantage is the stereotype that has been associated with the lay magistrate. Because the post of magistrate is voluntary and has a substantial training period of four years, it leads to the assumption that only middle class, white, retired males take up the post. This destroys the point of magistrates being the 'cross section of society'. It also destroys the argument tat magistrates have a good knowledge of their local area, with wealthier, retired people mainly residing in different areas to the younger slightly poorer people.
They may also have a prejudice view of younger people and the lower classes and be prosecution biased, believing the police over the defendant. There is also the argument and criticisms of how the magistrates are chosen, as I pointed out earlier. Because the Lord Chancellor himself picks out potential candidates, the assumption is that he only picks people whom he is friendly with. This is unfair and is greatly criticised.
As well as this there is an inconsistency in sentencing and decisions of bail. These normally occur because different magistrates may have different principles depending on where they reside. There is a great deal of inconsistencies between regencies. My last criticism is that of the legal training which lay magistrates receive. Yes, they do get four years training, but is that really enough? Four years cannot teach them all they need to know about the law, when you consider that a solicitor trains for six years and even then they don't decide whether or not someone is guilty or innocent. They only try and defend their client or prosecute the defendant on their client's behalf.
In conclusion to the second part of my essay, I would say that magistrates are an important part of our legal system. As I have mentioned before on three occasions, magistrates do deal with a substantial amount of work (97% of all criminal cases and do the preliminary work on the remaining 3%) for free, saving the government millions of pounds which can be used for more important purposes. The opinion that magistrates are under qualified and a stereotype is inconsequential compared to all of the advantages. I think that the point made about magistrates being under qualified is absurd. They train for four years (seven if you count the three year continuation training) and have a legal clerk on hand if they get stuck on the finer points of the law.