Compare and contrast the role and function of judges, lawyers and lay people in the English legal system.
When judges decide points of law in cases, they sometimes have to decide a new point. This also allows them to ‘make law’. Decisions by judges over the years have created the tort of negligence. This is the law that allows you to claim compensation when you have been injured by another person’s negligence. In the criminal law, judges have sometimes created new offenses. An important example was when they created the offense for marital rape in R v R 1990. However, judges can only create or reform law in a very small amount of cases. This is because their job is to apply the law.
The work that a judge does depends of the level of court in which they work. Superior judges are those in the House of Lords, the court of appeal and the high court. The inferior judges are the circuit judges (who sit in the crown court and the county court), recorders (who are part-time judges who usually sit in the crown court) and district judges (who hear small claims and other matters in the county court). The amount of training that is received also depends on the level of court that the judge may sit e.g. recorders will have the lower end of training on the judicial scale.
Lay magistrates do not have any qualifications in law unlike judges and lawyers. However, they must have certain ‘judicial qualities’ e.g. they must be able to assimilate factual information and make a reasoned decision upon it. They must also be able to take in to account the reasoning for others and be able to work as a team. Some formal requirements consist of the lay magistrate’s age being between 18 and 65 etc.
About 1,500 new lay magistrates are appointed each year. Fewer judges are appointed as they are more qualified and less judicial jobs are required. Lay magistrates provide a wider cross-section on the Bench than would be possible with the use of...
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