These planned restrictions of trial by jury have met with some opposition. The Fawcett Society is concerned about the possibility of a single judge handling rape cases without a jury on the ground that most judges are male and white and not, therefore, representative of society. The JUSTICE organization claims that abolition of trial by jury in serious fraud cases will lead to a two-tier system, and that will have the effect of undermining public confidence. Despite the provisions of CJA 2003 we are unlikely, in reality, to see trials by judge alone in cases where there is a potential for jury tampering.
The Government has agreed not to implement this part of the legislation for the time being, pending consultation on a range of alternative proposals for specialist juries and panels of judges. This measure will not now be implemented without further debate and a vote in both Houses of Parliament. What is Justice of Peace? Magistrates, also known as Justice of the Peace, are appointed on behalf of the Queen by the Lord Chancellor to various "commission areas" which approximately correspond to counties.
The only qualification for appointment laid down by statute is that the person resides in or within 15 miles of the commission area for which he is appointed. Magistrates are not paid but may receive expenses and compensation for loss of earnings. This has led to the obvious criticism that certain types of individuals, who can ill afford time away from their businesses, may be under-represented on the bench. Who can be Lay Magistrate? There is no requirement for lay magistrates to have any legal qualifications.
Despite the non-legal background of lay Magistrates, various kinds of trainings are provided in order to supplement this shortcoming. On being accepted onto the bench, however, magistrates undertake a training process, under the auspices of the JSB. Magistrates are required to attend training courses, with a special emphasis being placed on Equal Treatment Training. The way in which the training programme seeks to overcome conceptions as to the politically narrow nature of the magistracy is evident in the content of the extensive training materials produced for the magistrates.
Historically, the training of magistrates was organized locally by Magistrates' Courts Committees and justices' clerks, and the quality and extent of training was variable. Since 1998, newly appointed magistrates have been required to undergo more formal training, which was developed by the Judicial Studies Board and requires competence in understanding and applying basic law and procedure, thinking and acting judicially, and working effectively as a team member.
Each magistrate is assigned a mentor and his performance is assessed by a trained appraiser. Training includes sentencing role-play and participation in visits to prisons and young offender institutions. Further training is required every 3 years, and those magistrates who wish to take part in Youth Court or Family Court proceedings must undergo specialist training. Attendance on special training courses relating to major new legislation such as the Human Rights Act 1998 and the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 is also required.
Research jointly commissioned by the Lord Chancellor's Department and the Home Office into the work of lay magistrates and District Judges were published in early 2001 and has produced some interesting findings. The lay magistracy is gender balanced and ethnically representative of the population at a national level, although magistrates are drawn overwhelmingly from professional and managerial classes, and a high proportion (twofifths) have retired from full-time employment. Are the Magistrates doing a good job?
Overall the research concludes that both lay magistrates and District Judges fulfil a useful role within the criminal justice system and should be retained. At the same time, there is no reason why the balance of contributions of each type of magistrate could not be altered without prejudicing the integrity of a system which is based upon strong tradition. The Auld Review of Criminal Courts 2001 proposed that magistrates should decide where the defendant is to be tried. As a compromise the Criminal Justice Bill 2002 increased magistrates' sentencing power so that fewer cases need go to the Crown Court.
Magistrates' Proposed Future In January 2001, a report entitled Community Justice by Professor Andrew Sanders for the Institute for Public Policy Research called for the replacement of panels of lay justices by panels composed of District Judges, the former stipendiary magistrates, assisted by 2 lay magistrates. According to Professor Sanders: "These proposals would increase public confidence, and they would enhance the contribution ordinary members of the public make to our justice system.
"The value of Justice of Peace's Lay Decision The Magistrates' Association took a rather different view and saw the proposals as an attack on what was already an extremely representative system of justice. According to the chairman, Harry Mawdsley, the proposed scheme would cost around 30 million annually in salaries alone, but apart from costs: Lay magistrates provide community justice: they are ordinary people who live and work in the local community and who have an intimate knowledge of that community.