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NCJ Number: 68889 Find in a Library
Title: MORNINGS IN MAGISTRATES' COURT
Journal: APF REPORTER  Volume:3  Issue:4  Dated:(JUNE 1980)  Pages:9-12
Author(s): R V DENENBERG
Date Published: 1980
Page Count: 5
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: THIS ARTICLE DISCUSSES THE ROLE OF THE JUSTICE OF THE PEACE (JP) IN THE BRITISH CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM.
Abstract: WHILE THE AMERICAN JUSTICE OF THE PEACE IS NO LONGER AN IMPORTANT PUBLIC OFFICE, THE POSITION IN WALES AND ENGLAND IS CONSIDERED VITAL. LAY JUSTICES HANDLE MORE THAN 98 PERCENT OF THE CRIMINAL CASELOAD. THERE ARE 24,000 BRITISH JUSTICES OF THE PEACE WHO PRESIDE OVER A MAGISTRATES' COURT WITHOUT PAY. THEY ARE NOT LAWYERS. THEY SPEND THEIR NONJUDICIAL TIME AS POSTAL WORKERS, NURSES, TEACHERS, AND JANITORS, AMONG OTHERS. THE LORD CHANCELLLOR, A CABINET OFFICIAL HEADING THE BRITISH JUDICIARY, APPOINTS THESE JP'S WHO SERVE UNTIL THEY REACH THE RETIREMENT AGE OF 70. THEY HEAR ABOUT 800,000 CASES A YEAR, INVOLVING NEARLY 2,000,000 DEFENDANTS CHARGED WITH CRIMES SUCH AS FORGERY, HANDLING STOLEN GOODS, WEAPON OFFENSES, BURGLARY, BREACH OF THE PEACE, SEXUAL CRIME, AND DRUG OFFENSES. THEY ALSO FUNCTION AS A FAMILY AND JUVENILE COURT. THE JP'S GENERALLY SIT AS A THREE PERSON PANEL AIDED BY A CLERK WHO GIVES THE BENCH LEGAL ADVICE. USE OF JP'S HAS ADVANTAGES BUT ALSO SOME DRAWBACKS. THE PRESENCE OF LAYPERSONS ON THE BENCH PREVENTS THE METING OUT OF JUSTICE FROM BEING MONOPOLIZED BY A PROFESSIONAL ELITE. HOWEVER, CRITICS OF THE MAGISTRATES' COURT ARGUE THAT THE NONJUDICIAL BODY LOSES TIGHT CONTROL OF THE PROCEEDINGS, FAILS TO HANDLE OBSTREPEROUS LAWYERS, SENDS TOO MANY DEFENDANTS TO JAIL, AND DEPARTS FROM THE STRICT RULES OF EVIDENCE. SUGGESTED REFORMS ARE TO REDUCE THE NUMBER OF ESTABLISHMENT TYPES ON MAGISTRATE COURTS TO APPOINT MORE PERSONS UNDER 40 FROM WORKING-CLASS BACKGROUNDS, AND TO APPOINT MEMBERS OF RACIAL MINORITIES. IN THE MID-1970'S ONE-THIRD OF THE JP'S WERE WOMEN. THE BRITISH EXPERIENCE PROVES THAT THE LAYPERSONS CAN STILL EXERT A USEFUL, HUMANIZING INFLUENCE ON THE ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE. AN ACCOUNT OF A TYPICAL MORNING IN A MAGISTRATES' COURT IS INCLUDED.
Index Term(s): England; Geographic distribution of crime; Justices of the peace; Lay judges
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