A major part of the judiciary system relies on the work of magistrates. They’re in lower appointed positions, sitting in panels of 3, dealing with minor crimes, which frees up the Crown courts, to deal with the more serious crimes.
All over the streets of Britain, there’s crimes that are considered minor in the eyes of the law, yet if they were to be passed to Crown courts, they’d be awaiting an extremely lengthy time for the case to be heard before a judge.
When you consider the small crimes dealt with, in a magistrate’s court, you can get an understanding as to why the positions are filled with volunteers. They serve an important part to the community and oftentimes, make life-changing decisions on some upstanding citizens in the community.
Other times, they can be the difference between some troublesome people walking away from court with a fine, or being referred to Crown court for more serious punishment to be served. The key differences are in the dealings of cases set before them. As an example, someone could be presented before you, for a speeding ticket, perhaps 5 miles above the speed limit.
No matter which way you look at the case, you’ve a duty to uphold the law. This type of crime is considered minor, and as magistrate serving on the panel, you can express your opinion to your colleagues on the panel, including presenting the facts before the chair of the committee. You can be the difference between serving someone with a fine, community service, or referring the case to Crown court in the cases where you feel, and the panel members, that the person standing before you, requires a tougher sentence to be served.
Local residents in areas with a high crime rate, rely on the magistrate’s court to see that justice is done, for the better good of the community. Take for example vandalism. Someone sprays graffiti, vandalising a car and causing damage to people’s property, perhaps through drunken behaviour or whatever other reasons may be presented before you… These are still considered minor crimes, but there is still a victim involved who wants to see justice done, in a bid to deter others from carrying on with similar anti-social behaviour.
In that example of vandalism, then as a magistrate, you have the power to issue community service orders, for people involved to pay their dues back to the community in the form of manual labour, within the community the crime was committed.
When you become a magistrate, you’ll be working in the magistrates’ courtroom, closest to where you live. That can be a problem for those who are concerned about people coming before them, whom they know.
Regardless whether you know the person before you, or not, you have a sworn duty to serve as “Justice of the Peace.” It’s why after your training, you’re entitled to use the JP suffix, after your name. You’re a recognised professional and a civil servant, sworn to oath to act in the interests of the judiciary system and uphold the law.
Personal acquaintances cannot affect the way you serve as a magistrate, and for some people this can become a difficult part of the job.
If at any time you feel there’s a case you’re not suitable to make the right decision, you can swap the case over to another magistrate, who will see that the right justice be done. At all times when you’re serving, you’ve always got the assistance of a legal advisor who can and will help you make the right decision and point out the legalities of what you need to consider when passing the appropriate sentence.
The services of a magistrate is needed in every town, and for justice to be served, while keeping the Crown court and High court services operating as efficiently as possible, magistrates are relied on to deal with the minor crimes presented before them.