Explain the work of lay magistrates (10 marks)
The work of lay magistrates includes hearing applications for bail (bail act 1976) and for legal aid. Magistrates also sit in benches of three and hear all summary offences and the majority of either-way offences as a court of first instance, that’s over 96% of all criminal cases. The majority of either-way offenders opt for a magistrates hearing as they hope for a shorter sentence because the magistrates sentencing powers are limited to 6 months imprisonment or 12months for 2 offences, and a maximum fine of £5000. They hear preliminary hearings for all criminal cases, but they then transfer indictable offences, some either way offences that are outside their sentencing powers, or are particularly complex, and applications for bail to the crown court. Magistrates also accompany circuit judges in hearing appeals against conviction/sentencing from the magistrates in the crown court. having the magistrates in the appeals helps them to gain further knowledge on how laws should be interpreted and which sentences are appropriate for which crimes so the same mistakes are not repeated. When hearing cases magistrates are advised on points of law by legally qualified clerks, but they must decide on the facts by themselves. They alone must interpret the law and agree on conviction and sentencing, and any suitable costs or compensation. legal advisors must not influence the decision making of the magistrates as the whole idea of magistrates is trial by your peers, as you do not need any qualifications to become a magistrate so they are more representative of society than judges are. A mixed gender bench of 3 specially qualified magistrates and the justice’s clerk sit in the youth court. Proceedings in the youth court are very similar to the adult courts but more relaxed, and less formal. In the youth courts a parent or guardian must be present and the youth may have a social worker or legal representative. If the...
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