Magistrates, also known as ‘Justice of the Peace’, normally sit as a bench of three with the advice of a qualified court clerk. Over 95% of all criminal cases are dealt with by magistrates, with work involving decisions on bail, finding whether a defendant is guilty or innocent after trial, passing sentences and passing court orders.
Powers of sentencing for a single offence committed by an adult range from fines up to £5,000, community service orders, probation orders or up to six months in custody. Other duties include applications for warrants by police forces or utility companies.The work is extremely varied seeing many different types of cases from many different backgrounds. Cases range from common assault, motoring offences, non-payment of fines to theft and domestic violence.
At times very frustrating and challenging, it can also be highly rewarding. When you know as a bench you have made a real difference to someone’s life, either by protecting someone, bringing justice to another, protecting the public or by saying a few words of encouragement, the satisfaction outweighs the frustrating cases.