Who’d be a magistrate?

Justice

In my younger days, I got into trouble with the Court.

Not because I’d committed a crime. But because, as a youth justice social worker, I was accompanying a young person to Court, but I wasn’t wearing a jacket!

It seems my trendy (I thought!) silk black bomber jacket wasn’t the Court’s idea of “smart enough.” I sneaked out feeling duly told off!

Now having worked in and around the Court system for many years, I’ve come to greatly respect our system of magistrates’ Courts. But for most, I guess they remain a mystery. So I thought I’d share some facts with you…

Did you know?… 

  • There are 23,500 magistrates in England and Wales. They “sit” in the adult, youth and family Courts.
  • You can become a magistrate at the age of 18. Though this very rarely happens!
  • Over half of the current serving magistrates are over the age of 60. This shows the wealth of life experience they bring. It also means that due to being retired or working less, they are more able to spare the time required to attend Court.
  • The magistracy came about in 1361. A new law called The Justices of the Peace Act allowed members of the defendant’s own community to administer justice.
  • In 2012, magistrates dealt with 1.48 million defendants.  That’s about 19 our of every 20 defendants. The Crown Court dealt with 88,000.
  • On average, it costs about £1400 per day for the magistrates Court to sit. The Crown Court costs around £2150.

The government is now exploring ways to reform the role of magistrates. They want to have more criminal cases heard in the magistrates Courts. Many are currently sent to the Crown Court, but then receive sentences that could have been given by magistrates.

For more detail on the government’s plans, see the speech by Damian Green, Minister of State for Policing and Criminal Justice.

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© Jonny Matthew 2013

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