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Describe the Role and Power of Magistrates

            There are some 30,374 lay magistrates in England and Wales, 15,858 men and 14,516 women, appointed by the Lord Chancellor or the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, in the name of the Crown. Magistrates are ordinary members of the community who sit in the Magistrates' Courts and who dispense justice at the lowest level of the English court system. They are unpaid for what they do and therefore are not servants of the Crown. This supports their position of impartiality between the Crown and the public whom they serve. English lay magistrates are not learned in the law - they do not hold legal qualifications, nor have they formally studied law to any level other than that which they may have done at school. There may be some exceptions - there are legal professionals who are also lay magistrates - but the vast majorities are just ordinary members of the public. They do, however, undergo a vast amount of training so that they can perform their judicial functions correctly and within the law. There are three Magistrates (also known as justices of peace) who make decisions in court. Only one magistrate has very limited powers e.g. warrants. Magistrates take part in summery trials, committal proceedings, and ancillary matters e.g. issuing warrants, bail applications, and youth court and family court. Cases heard in the Magistrates' Court are termed summary cases and are, supposedly, to be dealt with quickly with summary justice. These tend to be the simple, petty crimes of everyday existence. The Magistrates' Court used to be known as Petty Sessions. For more serious crimes the accused is charged on indictment and sent to the Crown Court to be tried there. In between summary and indictable offences there are a whole range of offences that are termed either-way offences. These are offences that vary in their seriousness. The best example of an either-way offence is theft. These offences can either be tried summarily by the magistrates or sent up to the Crown Court.

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