ay can take into account local problems

ay people are involved in the criminal justice process as magistrates and jurors. Lay people are non legally qualified people who decide the guilt or innocence of those on trial in the criminal courts. Magistrates are trained and work regularly in the lowest criminal court deciding the guilt or innocence of accused persons and punishments for those found guilty. Jurors are members of the public who sit in the Crown Court hearing cases against accused persons who have pleaded not guilty. They decide guilt or innocence. There are many advantages of using lay people in the criminal justice system. Firstly Lay Magistrates are unpaid apart from expenses this means large majority of criminal cases are tried without the need for a Judge, Recorder or District Judge where salaries would be over £90,000. Furthermore annual saving is in the region of £100m this takes into account the cost of the legal advisers in the court which would not be necessary for a full time salaried judge.  Magistrates local knowledge is invaluable when it comes to understanding where an offence took place. In the Crown Court much time can be taken explaining the location of a crime and where a witness was standing. Sentencing can take into account local problems that can be helped by sensitive sentencing  for example the Drugs Act 2005 a pilot scheme looking for ‘trigger’ offences. In Paul v DPP (1989) kerb-crawling was likely to be a nuisance to the neighbourhood a Magistrate knew that it had become a problem.If all Magistrates were replaced by judges, approximately 1,000 judges would have to be appointed. This would require a new approach to appointment of judges as the pool of candidates at present would be nowhere near big enough.Over 90% of defendants plead guilty and most trials deal with issues of conflicting evidence rather than questions of law. Magistrates are perfectly able to decide who is telling the truth and can decide what behaviour is reasonable in the circumstances for example when self-defence is pleaded. In many ways they are better able to do this as they represent a cross-section of society than the judiciary seen by comparing the respective statistics on race and gender. Public have great confidence in the Magistrates system, even though there is perhaps less confidence in Magistrates than in the judiciary. Studies in 2000 and 2001 suggest that the public would neither understand nor support any moves to lessen the role of Magistrates, who are seen as an example of active citizenship within the criminal justice system.


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