Friday, 10 December 2010
JPs will usually sit in benches of three and will be advised on law and procedure by a legal adviser. District Judges are legally qualified and may sit alone. In 2011, the Justices of the Peace celebrate their 650th Anniversary - see Justices of the Peace Act 1361.
The predecessor to the District Judge was the Stipendiary Magistrate. Appointments as "Stipes" tended to be few in number and they sat mainly at the larger city magistrates' courts. District judges have come into greater prominence since the Courts Act 2003 reformed the Magistrates' Court system. Some are seeing the District Judges as an eventual replacement for JPs.
Interestingly, the two types of judiciary in the magistrates' courts never (or rarely) appear to sit together to decide cases. Whilst each form of magistrates' court has its merits, it makes one wonder whether a "lay" bench could have been as outspoken as the District Judge in this case of a Police Superintendent caught speeding - Daily Mail 10th December. The Superintendent was told by the officer who stopped her that she would not be prosecuted. The CPS decided otherwise. The Judge was very critical of the action of the Police Force in the case. He is reported as saying - "
‘In the year I have been in Nottingham I have been extremely alarmed by the amount of cases where officers took it upon themselves to issue cautions or deal with cases in the way this officer did.’