Compare and Contrast the Role of Lay Personell

Compare and contrast the role of and function of judges, lawyers and lay people within the English courts Lay people are individuals with no legal training from a variety of backgrounds which is said to be used to promote an equal society. The role of Magistrates and Jurors are similar in ways of characteristics needed; for example both must be aged 18-70 and those who are in the police or have previous criminal convictions are ruled out.

The selection process is however very different, the Lord Chancellor will appoint lay magistrates on behalf of the queen whereas jurors are selected by an electoral register for the area in which the court is situated and is done by a computer at the Central Summoning Bureau. Lay Magistrates are unpaid, part time volunteers whereas jurors are also unpaid but may be unwilling however failure to attend can result in prosecution or a fine.

Magistrates can claim a small allowance and compensation for lost earnings. Both parties make their decision based on facts, such as guilt or innocence in trials whereby the difference is that Magistrates can sentence the defendant whereas jurors cannot. Both are used in the right for a ”trial by our peers”, ordinary people with experience of real life situations. Jurors will serve for a period of usually two weeks as apposed to Magistrates who will serve part time for different periods of time.

Although lay magistrates and district judges do a very similar job there are many differences between how they work, their qualifications and employment. Lay magistrates, otherwise known as Justice of the Peace sit in magistrate’s courts, generally in groups of three, whereas judges usually sit alone. 1999 there were 90, of whom about 20% were women, whereas there are an almost equal number of men and women magistrates, showing that judges are not a mirror image of trial by ones peers such as lay people.

Judges are members of the professional judiciary who are legally qualified and salaried, working full time whereas the lay magistrate and jury are not paid and work part time/ a period of two weeks. Judges have practised for at least 7 years as a barrister or a solicitor. One way to become a solicitor is have ‘A’ levels and go onto a Law degree then do 1 year on a legal practice course, then do a 2 year training period. One way to be a barrister is to do a Law degree then become a member of an Inn court and dine at the Inn or attend weekend courses, then do a 1 year ocational training course before being called to the bar. No formal qualifications are required for a lay magistrate or jury, but they do need intelligence, common sense, integrity and the capacity to act fairly. Lay magistrates are appointed by the Lord Chancellor (on behalf of the Queen) on the recommendation of the 100 local advisory committee, judges are also appointed by the Lord Chancellor and are appointed from those who have held advocacy qualifications for seven years.

Soliciters play a totally different role all together, they tend to work alongside a Legal executive with the Legal executive being the Solicitors assistants, they will deal with the more straight forward cases themselves such as preparing wills or leases and also have limited rights of audience in court, mainly making applications in the County court where cases are not defended. Barristers are the specialists of the court room. However once a barrister receives his/her certificate to practice they undertake a completely different life style.

This life requires them to dress in dark black gowns and white woolen wigs whilst they advocate in courts such as the crown court. They also wear this “uniform” whilst they are in their chamber and when they are giving out legal advice on their specialist subject of higher law unlike lay people who do not require a uniform and soliciters must wear a smart suit. Soliciters will instruct a Barrister for their client, and unlike barristers will establish a compelling defence for the barrister to then stand up in court and argue it for the client.

However both parties must have a comprehesive understanding of law and soliciters can also give Barristers law advice on cases of law. E. g. negligence, wills, conveyancing etc. Unlike lay people and soliciters practicing Barristers are usually self-employed but usually work from sets of chambers with approximately 20 members in order to share administration costs and a clerk. More recent access to Justice act gives solicitors the right to do advocacy so they can also appear in court as advocates but need to gain an advocacy certificate before they can do so, unlike barristers.

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