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Evaluating The Use Of Lay People 1

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Topics: Judge, Jury, Law, Court, Appeal
Evaluating the use of lay people, judges, and lawyers within the legal system

There are different roles in the legal system. The difference between judges, juries and magistrates is that magistrates are people from the public that are unpaid, an unqualified volunteer and has had no legal training. However, judges are professionals that are qualified and have been legal experts of many years standing. A jury is a panel of citizens who are not experts on law/legal system.
A magistrate is a volunteer who sit in their local magistrates' court dealing with a wide range of less serious criminal cases and civil matters. Magistrates usually sit on a bench of three and frequently there’s a legal trained advisor (clerk of the court) when they are hearing cases to give guidance on sentencing and on the law. They deal with all summary matters - The role of a magistrate is to listen to cases and to come to a conclusion to if the defendant pleads guilty or not. Magistrates’ courts try 97% of all criminal cases from start to finish and they deal with the other 3% of criminal cases of preliminary hearings. They also deal with some civil cases such as enforcing debts owed by utilities, non payment of council tax or TV licence and appeals for local authority refusing liquor licence. Even thought magistrates are not legally trained they have to be specially trained to attend Youth and Family court and hear criminal charges against young offenders aged 10-17. Magistrates don’t have much power so they refer the most serious matters to the Crown Court.
A jury is only used in a small percentage of criminal cases. Juries sit in the crown court and their roles in criminal cases are to listen to the evidence from both prosecution and the defendant, after they do this the point of law and to decide the facts of the case. At the end of the trial they retire to the jury room and discuss the case in secret and, if possible, come to an agreed decision. They do not have to give any reasons for their decisions and the judge must accept the verdict of the jury.
Juries are rarely used in civil cases but can be used in both the County and the High Court. In the High Court, they jury will be made up of 12 members and in the County Court there will be eight members. The jury is only available in four types of case in the High Court or County Court if the case if about one of the following: Defamation, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution and fraud. A jury can refuse to allow a jury in these cases if they think the evidence is too complicated.

The Judge sits on criminal cases in the Crown Court. If the defendant pleads not guilty, the Jury (ordinary members of the public) act as the "triers of fact" (they decide if he is guilty or not) while the judge deals entirely with the legal matters and sentencing. can instruct and direct a jury so that their decision comply with the law and can even order a not guilty decision.

Judges can also possibly sit on criminal cases in the Magistrates' Court (rarely) instead of a bench of Magistrates. Judges in the Crown Court can hear appeals from the Magistrates' Court, but there is no jury. The judge hears all the evidence again and reaches a verdict and passes a sentence. Judges also sit in the County Court and High Court in the civil court system, and in the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court.
It is important to use lay people in courts because it makes the system fairer and it also avoids people criticising the court for making decisions behind closed doors. However, there are some disadvantages and advantages of having lay people in the legal system. The advantages are that lay people do not cost anything so they are cheaper and saves the legal system a lot of money. Secondly, they are selected to make sure that the local community is involved in the running of the legal system which means that their decisions that they make with cases will to some extent reflect on the community’s values. Thirdly, they have local knowledge which means they will know the area well and they will also know where most crimes happen. Lastly, lay people do a good job in the legal system as there are few appeals which infer that there are few errors of law.
The advantages to lay people in the legal system are to an extent because there are some disadvantages. Disadvantages of lay people are that they rely on the clerk heavily for advice. Secondly, a high percentage of magistrates are usually over 40 and are usually from middle class backgrounds which means that they do not represent their community. They are usually male which is a disadvantage as it isn’t representative of genders. Thirdly, lay people take longer to analyse and understand cases as they are not professionals which mean cases take longer and it takes up time.

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