Throughout the United Kingdom Lay Magistrates are used within our courts and legal system in relation to sentencing criminals. They work within the Magistrates court dealing with summary offences, triable-either way offences and they also deal with starting off indictable offences which will then be sentenced in the Crown Court. Lay Magistrates come from local areas and when appearing at a court they would usually gather three Lay Magistrates. This is in order for the Lay Magistrates to come together in relation to making a final decision, towards making their final decision they are able to receive guidance from the court clerk due to the Lay Magistrates lack of knowledge within legal qualifications. When evaluating the effectiveness of Lay people there are many positives and negative aspects within this.
Firstly when evaluating the effectiveness of Lay Magistrates they can create a positive effect towards the court and legal system. Lay Magistrates are seen to provide a sample of representation of their society.
The system involves members of the community to become Lay Magistrates which allows a wider variety and opinion of society being involved within courts comparing to judges and fully qualified Magistrates.
However in the court system Lay Magistrates tend to involve middle class citizens which may be focused towards negative opinions towards offenders from different backgrounds. In a recent study it revealed a majority of Lay Magistrates are belonging to an older age group, however this may create a negative effect. Due to the majority of offences involving young offenders and the younger generation having older Lay Magistrates may result in them having negative views towards these young youths and this will be a negative effect towards the court. Young offenders who face cases from Lay Magistrates is a negative outcome as all individuals who break the law comparing to younger offenders may receive unfair treatment, this may involve a lighter sentence and younger offenders receiving harder sentences.
For example, Lay Magistrates who are older may have a negative view towards young individuals due to being apart of the community and this may result in acting unprofessionally. If a younger offender commits a petty theft she/he may receive a harder sentence from a Lay Magistrate comparing to an older offender who commits the same offence.
Another aspect when evaluating the effectiveness of Lay Magistrates involves them having local knowledge of the area in which they live in. Due to Lay Magistrates having to live locally they will have the local knowledge within the area and also cases in which they deal with. This creates a positive effect within the criminal courts as the lay magistrates know particular problems which may arise in their local area. Due to this Lay magistrates may give past offenders or offences commonly committed within that area more acceptable sentences. This creates a positive effect as courts giving sentences which are acceptable due to their behaviour can teach offenders to take responsibilities for their actions and to reduce problems arising again within their local area. This will reduce offences and cases which are brought to the court and this will also allow the courts to have an understanding within the cases in which they deal with.
Lay Magistrates also affect the court system positively due to the cost issues within this. When using lay magistrates it will effectively reduce the cost as this cheap process involves the lay magistrates not being paid. If the court system however used qualified magistrates it will estimate an increase to the court system reaching around £100 million a year. With the use of Lay Magistrates court systems can effectively reduce costs towards the courts which they can use towards essential requirements for court systems....