opinion: lay magistrates keep courts in touch with th e community
Wednesday 20 September 1995
John Welch (Opinion, 6 September) says that we are "not necessary in principle", but in fact our community base and our sitting in benches of three make us not only necessary but highly desirable. We know what matters locally: we respond to community concerns: we bring three different kinds of life experience to difficult decisions on guilt and sentence.
The triple nature of our tribunal is an invaluable safeguard against injustice, and to ask a single person to take such weighty decisions alone is not only potentially burdensome for the individual but also requires him or her to work without the infinitely helpful brake that comes from discussion with colleagues in decision-making.
Last week's Opinion seemed to suggest that our training is unsatisfactory because it does not make lawyers of us. Heaven forbid that it should. Its purpose is to build on our common sense and varied life experience to make us into lay judges.
We need to be able to listen to evidence, evaluate it and take decisions soundly based on it; we need to structure these decisions rationally and ensure that they fall within the appropriate legal framework. We need, in short, to be trained to behave judicially, and we are. We continue to train throughout our magisterial careers and while, of course, a properly working relationship with our clerks is vital to both us and them, that relationship stops them short when we reach the decision-making process. Both we and they fully understand that.
If, as John Welch believes, magistrates join the bench in search of social kudos and magisterial dinners, they are doomed to disappointment, first because society no longer operates in that way, and second because the appointment process now focuses clearly on the establishment of judicial potential.
Magistrates are no longer appointed because of who they are but because of how well they can carry out the required tasks. The quality of new recruits is impressive.
None the less we are actively seeking recruits from the widest possible social base. We particularly need the best applicants from the ethnic minority communities and from working people of all kinds. Our courts will provide application forms to anyone asking for them and our appointment process is now much more professional than it has ever been.
Of course, stipendiary magistrates have their part to play in the work of courts within the largest centres of population, but the lay magistracy - conscientious, community-minded and successful - is an established part of the fabric of our society.
France and Italy envy England and Wales our lay justices and are introducing legislation designed to bring their lower courts closer to the community. Recognise our worth, our contribution and our extreme willingness to extend our social base even further. We are much too valuable to be thrown away.
The writer is chairman of the Magistrates' Association.
Independent Partners: See how much you could save by switching credit cards. Compare now
Geoffrey Macnab does not like the comedian's big screen debut
Look beyond the usual shows for the best festive telly
elephant appealThe first 23 lots in our charity auction have now gone. But there are 22 more still up for grabs
The battle for control of Stieg Larsson's £30m legacy
Bargain Hunter: Keep taking the tablets to get £30 off a new Kindle Fire
Mark Dampier: Britain's small-cap funds punched well above their weight this year
Donald MacInnes: A €60m EuroMillions win? It could be me... well, in my dreams
How to start your own internet business
Five ways to make money on the internet
- 1 French pub fined €9,000 after customers returned empties to bar - because it's 'undeclared labour'
- 2 Sun will 'flip upside down' within weeks, says Nasa
- 3 #Teamnigella: It’s the only side to be on
- 4 Christmas comes early: Justin Bieber is 'retiring from music'
- 5 Burglar steals video tapes of child abuse, hands them into police
Exclusive: Young people ‘want UK to stay in Europe’: Four in 10 adults aged 18 to 24 are ‘firmly in favour’ of membership, poll shows
Tom Daley ‘is gay because his father died’ says UK evangelist
Iain Duncan Smith leaves Commons food banks debate early
Kiss and yell: Italian protester charged with sexual assault after kissing riot police officer
PM denies two child limit for benefits is part of Tory welfare policy
Anachronistic and iniquitous, grammar schools are a blot on the British education system
- < Previous
- Next >
iJobs Money & Business
£60000 - £90000 per annum + benefits + bonus: Harrington Starr: Business Analy...
£Negotiable: Citifocus: High calibre individual with institutional client serv...
£120000 - £150000 per annum: Cornwallis Elt : Programme Manager, Strategy Lead...
£55000 - £120000 per annum: Pro-Recruitment Group: The Financial Services Tran...
Day In a Page
A three-bedrrom flat with 2,733sq feet of living space, a beautiful private garden and 15 acres of communal grounds
A four-bedroom chalet bungalow with three bathrooms and a spacious garden, £525,000
A two-bedroom flat with an open plan kitchen and two balconies, close to Arsenal station
A six-bedroom farm house with separate, detached cottages and 371 acres of land
A two-bedroom cottage with parquet floors, chunky beams and an open fireplace
A Grade II-listed home with six bedrooms, secluded landscaped gardens and views across Hadley Green
A Grade II-listed mansion with two apartments and a cottage, near Gretna Green
A three-bedroom Grade II-listed mews house with vaulted ceilings and roof garden
A spacious Grade II-listed family home with annexe and equestrian facilities among four acres of land in Itchingfield
A four-bedroom home with exposed brick walls and open fires in the picturesque village of Northill
A Grade II-listed property with five bedrooms and unique tower, overlooking Hastings Old Town
A charming five-bedroom detached family home, set within half an acre in Kew
A two-bedroom maisonette set on the top two floors of a period building, close to Kentish Town Tube.
Take advantage of the extra space provided by former stables and outbuildings at this five-bedroom farmhouse.
This three-bedroom Victorian terrace is near to Queen’s Road Peckham station, Nunhead station.
A five-bedroom modern house with terrace, swimming pool, Zen treehouse and large carp pond
An unexpected gem with four bedrooms, remarkable vaulted reception and a galleried study area
A five-bedroom house in one of Lymington's most sought after tree lined avenues, moments from the marinas and sailing clubs
A grand early 19th century B&B close to the historic harbour, with four en suite bedrooms
A four-bedroom, 17th century home with walled gardens, a landscaped terrace, cellar and open fires
A six-bedroom house with five bathrooms and four reception rooms spread over 4,000sq ft of luxury living space
A stunning three double-bedroom apartment with two decked terraces in the exclusive gated community, Bromyard House
A 10-bedroom period, family home amid beautiful surroundings in the centre of the Wentworth Estate in Longcross village
A stylish three-bedroom apartment with two bathrooms and private landscaped garden, moments from Fitzroy Square
A Grade II-listed Elizabethan barn with landscaped gardens, exposed elm beams and four bedrooms, all with lovely views
A six-bedroom family home, dating back to 1280 with four reception rooms, barn, swimming pool and tennis courts in Harwell
A spacious two-bedroom flat, refurbished to a very high standard with private landscaped garden, close to Kentish Town station
An exceptional two-bedroom apartment with balcony and underground parking in the centre of Richmond
A one-bedroom, luxury, duplex apartment in the grand landmark building, Imperial Hall
Run a fabulous boutique shop, live above it in a one-bedroom flat and let a second one-bedroom flat that comes part and parcel
A Grade-II listed, thatched cottage in Hundleby village, with five bedrooms, a coach house and three and a half acres
A spacious two-bedroom flat in the heart of Hoxton Square with wooden floors and roof terrace
A five-bedroom family home with stunning pool and gym complex set among two acres of land
A six-bedroom period house with heated swimming pool and a separate two-bedroom annexe cottage in Townlake, £795,000
A spacious and contemporary two-bedroom flat arranged over three floors, with garden patio close to St George Square, £600,000
A one-bedroom flat in a beautiful Regency building opposite the beach in Kemp Town, £190,000
A two-bedroom flat with London skyline views close to Surrey Quays. £395,000.
A seven-storey tower with three bedrooms and a stunning roof terrace. Guide price: £850,000.
A 16-bedroom country pile with nine reception rooms, four self-contained flats and a 13th century Peel Tower. £850,000.
A classic six-bedroom Victorian Manse house 10 miles from Edinburgh. £495,000.