Magistrates and the English court system

Magistrates play an important part in the English court system. There organisation was reformed under the, "police and magistrates courts Act 1994". They are run by the Lord Chancellor. There are about 30,000 lay magistrates trying over one million cases and 20 times the number tried in Crown Courts. Magistrates are appointed by the Lord Chancellor on recommendation from voluntary groups such as, "trade unions local political parties, and other organisation. However individuals also can put their name forward personally. The qualification needed to become a magistrate include:

Magistrates must be under 65 and live within 15 miles of the area for which they act. - In practice magistrates must be able to devote on average of half a day, a week to the task. There also few people who are excluded to become a magistrate these people are: - Police officers, traffic wardens and members of the armed forces.

Those with certain criminal convictions and undercharged from bankrupts. To become a magistrate the candidates must have six important key qualities to see how suitable candidates are, this is: - good character - understanding and communication- social awareness - maturity and sound temperament - sound judgement and commitment - reliability Magistrates have many roles in the courts these are, criminal jurisdiction, civil jurisdiction also they have major roles in youth court. In, "criminal Jurisdiction", magistrates sit in groups of 3 and have 4 main functions, these are:

Hearing applicants for bail and legal aid - Trial of all summary and the majority of, "either way", offences. They are advised on matters of law by justices' clerk, but they alone decide the facts, the law and where they convict, the sentence.

Appeals- in ordinary appeals against conviction from the magistrates courts to the Crown Court, (usually two) magistrates sit with a circuit judge. - Dealing with requests for arrest and search warrant from the police. This was appointed by the Lord Chancellor in 1998. These were aimed to make the appointed of magistrate open and clear, "thus as a job describtion". In, "civil jurisdiction", magistrates courts are responsible for granting licences to pub betting shops, and have jurisdiction over domestic matters such as adoption, access rights core orders.

In, "youth court", is where magistrates have a major role. The procedure in youth court is similer to the formal proceedings of adult courts, in the presence of 3 magistrates and the justices' clerk. At least one must be a woman sitting as a magistate for the overall verdict. The youth who is charged must have a parent or guardian present in this court. If the youth wants they may have a legal representative or social worker present. The hearing of the case and the verdict is held privately and the defendents (youth) name is not disclosed to the public.

If the youth is found guilty, the young person will be bound over, "receive a deferred sentence, community sentence, or is he/she is over 15, a sentence of detention in a young offenders institution". If the young person is aged 12-14 and convicted of a, "sufficiently serious", offence, and the offender is a," persistent offender", a new sentence will be give, "a secure training order". Note to relation to the defense of, infancy. This is under the, " criminal justice and public order Act 1994".

Procedure for indictable offences, "5. 51 of crime and disorder act 1998", states that, adults that commit indictable only offences, and appear in the magistrate's court, "shall be sent forthwith to the Crown Court". Submission of no case to answer will become part of the pre-trial procedure at the Crown Court. This process removes, former, "committal power", of magistrates in which they once had in such cases. There are many good values and bad values to the English legal system of magistrates and these are: Advantages

Cost- As magistrate try the vast majority of criminal cases, (95%), it is much cheaper. This is because in 1989, the system, cost 200 million income of 270 million in fines. This is better then giving the cases to professional judges and Crown Court this much cases it would be enormous caseload and very expensive. 100 million per year in salaries alone and even more expensive to trial these cases at the Crown Court. - Lay involvement- the fact that magistrates are lay and not qualified there verdicts are fair because it is not biased in anyway.

This fair verdict is made by people who's background is known unlike jury and also have the six qualities. Also as they live near the courts they have a better informed picture of normal life. - Weight of numbers- the fact that magistrates must usually sit in threes may make a balance view more likely. In a real sense they sit as a "mini- Jury", this would mean as sexes are fairly evenly balanced among lay magistrates 54% men, 46% women and as there has been success in appointing ethinic magistrate e.

g. : Hounslow, any prejudice or bias will be cancelled out and thereforte verdict will be fair and judged one. Disadvantages - Inconsistency- there is considerable inconsistency in the decisions, making of different benches, particularly noticeable in the awards of legal aid and the type of sentences ordered, for e. g. magistrates are untrained and the person that gives advise to magistrate is the clerk this can mean the verdict is biased therefore would mean the trial would not be a fair one.

There is lack of consistency because courts are independent this would mean there would be different verdicts in different courts of the same offence. - Bias towards the police- As police officers are frequently used in magistrates courts the, magistrate can be biased towards the police evidence because they are more professional, e. g. "R v Bingham JJ", where the evidence was that only of a motorists and policeman, this therefore meant the chairman of the bench said, ".. to belive the evidence of the police officer".

The conviction was "quashed", because of this remark. - Cheap armature' justice argument- because the chances of acquittal are substantially higher in, Crown Court, it is said that it is more fair in which to decide cases in, Crown Court then magistrate courts. - Increasing complexity of the law- As there are more crimes being, down- graded", (forced to go down) to summary offences with new offences being created, sentencing has also become much more complex in recent years, eg. Curfew orders, ASBOs etc.

- Power of lay judges- in no other European jurisdiction do lay judges have so much power. This is a disadvantage because lay judges don't have the training as fully qualified judges therefore means there veridict in some cases will not be fair and will not be professional. Conclusion I overall conclude that as clearly seen and read, the bad points outweigh the good this means I would say magistrates are not valued because there is too much flaw in some verdicts therefore most trial by magistrates should be changed.