The system costs around two hundred million to a year to run but it brings in around two hundred and seventy million from fines, fees and fixed penalties. Paying professional judges rather than justices of the peace to deal with such a vast amount of cases would undoubtly be far more expensive, as the estimated salaries alone would be at least one hundred million not counting the cost of training. As well as this it would take a very long time to actually obtain the required number of suitable candidates.
Crown court trials would also be more expensive as the estimated cost of a contested trial would cost around thirteen and a half thousand with guilty pleas at a high two thousand and a half pounds in reflection to lay magistrates where it would be one thousand and a half and five hundred respectively. Another advantage is the balance factor of having magistrates sit in groups of three which in turn makes a balanced view more likely.
Magistrates usually also live within a close proximity of the court in which they are involved with, looking at this it can be presumed that they have a more detailed picture of local life whereas professional judges most likely will not. There is however a disadvantage in that there is an element of inconsistency of different benches. Most notable are cases that involve legal aid and various types of sentencing, an element of fairness should b carried out as in the crown courts where there are professional judges whose conduct is closely scrutinized by the court of appeal.
Professional judges could perhaps sit with lay magistrates but due to the expenses involved it may never come to more than a thought. Before going on to talk about the comparisons between Scotland, England and Queensland (Australia) the last system has to be talked about. As Australia had became an English colony the use of justices of the peace had been established. Throughout the nineteenth century the role developed and although it was people who had large landholdings were still the main candidates for appointments as justices of the peace.
The office of the justice of the peace has its origins in England in the fourteenth century. Over time, there have been many changes in the nature of the role undertaken by justices of the peace. Now, Australian justices of the peace have very little in common with their English and Scottish counterparts as they will never have the occasion to constitute a magistrates court. The justice of the peace must consider that they may adequately punish the defendant by imposing a penalty that is not more than 100 penalty units or six months imprisonment.
Today justices of the peace have a well defined role in society and come from a broad cross section of our multicultural society. They are no longer exclusively male landowners but rather they are both men and women who want to serve their communities and fellow citizens in a way that carries on the best traditions of the legal heritage. In Australia there are now four categories of justice of the peace rather than the traditional justices of the peace. There are those who are qualified and have passed an exam on the administration of the law and their roles in it.
There are also justice of the peace who are employed in the magistrates court who are appointed to act as justices because of the job they do. These justices of the peace are also appointed in remote areas of Queensland where the magistrates either visit very rarely or not at all. In these areas justices of the court are to preside over a magistrates court. There are commissioners for declarations (justices of the peace) who were justices before November 1991 and have not done an exam to become qualified due to the fact that prior to 1991 there wasn't a pre requisite that this had to be done..
These commissioners for declarations are people who have a main function that encompasses the witnessing of signatures on legal documents etc. Anyone can become a qualified justice of the peace presuming they can pass the examination to a satisfactory level and they are on the Queensland electoral role and are of good character, but to become a commissioner for declarations no examination has to be sat. They have the power to issue warrants and summonses. In Australia the system incorporates legislative, executive and judicial as arms of the government. The high court is the final court of appeal in respect of all matters.
With regards to going back to the justices, originally they were appointed for life but the over seventy rule is applied now. Justices of the peace have the power to take affidavits and statutory declaration and witness the execution of various should be exercised. After looking at Scotland, England and Queensland Australia the first very clear indication is that the base of the powers of the lay magistrates, justices of the peace can be rooted back to the English model. Throughout the writings on the three some differences and similarities are obvious.
In Australia's case at one point was almost identical to that of England's but throughout time t has moved on to establish its own persona. It entails one where the justices of the peace have less power than in England and Scotland respectively, as well as needing to be more qualified thus meaning that they do not have as much assistance of that of the other countries. Scotland is more like in England mainly due to the fact that they are the same island and the laws relate to north and south of the border with respect to both the systems, it is this overlapping which causes more similarities and a higher emphasis on justices.
Due to the volume of information that is accessible in the English situation and to a lesser degree Scotland and Australia it is evident that there is not as many comparisons as there could be as not everything is easily accessible, but there are comparisons which can be drawn from all of the sections on the three justices. Such as the English courts unlike the Scottish district court must be heard by a minimum of two justices and a maximum of three who then decide whether the trial should be summary.
The clerks are a main similarity between Scotland and England and where in Australia until the reform on qualifications as introduced. The over seventy rule is another comparison between the three but it is obvious the main comparisons are the roots that Scotland and Australia share with England. From building up a picture of the Scottish system along with the English System and the system employed by Queensland in Australia as stated in the writing it is very evident of the roots of the English system in the Scottish system and the Australian system.
There is more information given with regard to England not because of any underlying fact but because of the roots that are implored throughout the areas in Scotland and Queensland, not to sound to repetitive in the nature of this writing and lack of coherent information in the research that was done with regards to the question set out is also a reason. The role that the lay justices in all three concerned areas is a very important one in each case.
As stated in the writing the financial benefits are a major build up point along with the fairness that can come along hand in hand with common people sitting in court. Along with benefits there are also doubts and concerns which are raised and the most common ones encountered in the research were the unqualified nature of the lay justices and the incoherence and lack of consistency were also a worry. As with all things in the world there are benefits and advantages and the benefits outweigh the disadvantages due to the financial relief and the fact that ordinary people can have an impact.
Although the bad points cannot just be dismissed they can be worked on and in many cases are being worked on. Things such as professional people aiding justices of the peace an fully qualified magistrates who could be used along with lay magistrates is just one obviously good idea that can be taken from the current situations. Although not easy reforms of the systems cab be achieved and can make things better for the long term future mainly in regards to consistency and professionalism.