U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

J P (Justice of the Peace) - Magistrate, Court and Community

NCJ Number
E Burney
Date Published
253 pages
Based on an investigation of seven diverse areas of England, this book examines the magistrates' court and discusses ways to improve the lay system of justice.
A description of the court scene, including alternative courtroom layouts and seating arrangements, precedes an account of the functions of lay magistrates and their history. It is noted that in 1977, 95 percent of criminal cases were handled by magistrates' courts; that most of the people plead guilty; and that a large proportion of the cases fell into the category of minor traffic offenses such as speeding and parking violations. In recent years, the main factor influencing change in the magistrates' court has been the increased availability of legal aid, due mainly to the Criminal Justice Act of 1967. The magistrates' functions in both juvenile and matrimonial court are examined, as well as magistrates' responsibilities in the control of drinking, betting, and gaming licenses. Methods of magistrate selection are explored, together with any social or political biases influencing the selection process. The book provides a detailed comparison of the different benches from various angles, including workloads, composition, policies, and sentencing procedures. The important role of the justices' clerk is examined, along with that of police officers, lawyers, social workers, and probation officers. Careful training of justices is advocated, and suggestions on how benches should acquire a more broadly based character are offered. Tables, notes, an index, and approximately 30 references are provided. A research study and a comparative study are appended. (Author abstract modified)


No download available