In
the Magistrates Court, the use of lay people comes in the form of magistrates
they are general members of the public with no legal background or
qualification, at the first instance they are nominated or have an application.
To decide appointments, the Senior Presiding Judge selects them based on
recommendations made by the Local Advisory Committee. (Hodder, 2017). Members
of the Local Advisory Committees usually are current or ex-Justices of Peace,
half the members retire in rotation every three years, the committee ought to
have 12 member’s maximum containing a combination of magistrates and
non-magistrates.

The
committees will interview candidates in the initial interview the panel try to
find out the candidate’s personal characteristics seeing if they inhabit the
six essential qualities that are obligatory, which include social awareness,
good character, commitment, sound judgement, maturity, understanding, and
communication. The subsequent interview is aiming at testing potential legal
ability by discussing at least two legal case studies of those that frequently
occur in the Magistrates’ Courts. They then submit their names of those whom
they trust are appropriate to the Lord Chancellor, he has the final decision,
not necessarily all names put forward will be appointed. The intention is for
membership to echo an equilibrium of occupations representing a broad section
of society. Once magistrates are appointed, they are sworn in at a ceremony;
they take the same oath as judges. However, to be a magistrate, candidates are
required to be between the ages of 18 to 70, and be able to commit to 26 ½ days
per year in Court, also have to live within the geographical area of their
bench. People excluded from jury duty are police officers, MP’s and those with criminal
convictions. They have the sentencing powers that include fines, community
payback orders, probation orders or a period of not more than six months in
custody up to a total of 12 months for multiple offences. (Judiciary.gov.uk,
2017).

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In
the Crown Court in contrast to the Magistrates, the Jury consists of 12 lay
people, an official present in each Crown Court that is responsible for
summoning enough jurors to try the cases heard in each two-week period selects
them. The official arranges for the names to be chosen at random from the
electoral register, for the jurisdiction the court covers. Most courts have
more than one courtroom making necessary to summon more than 12 jurors. Those
summonsed must notify the court if there is a reason they cannot attend. Once
the list is complete, the prosecution and defence have a right to see that
list. In some cases it is decided to potential jurors should be vetted these
are with police checks and a more extensive background check. The jurors aim
for a unanimous verdict but if this fails then a majority verdict of 10:2 or
11:1 can be accepted. The function of the Jury is to decide the decision of
guilty or not guilty they are the sole arbiter’s of fact with the judge
directing them on the law. At the end of the prosecution case, the judge has
the power to acquit if the prosecution’s evidence has not made the case against
the defendant where the trial continues the judge sums up the situation at the
end to the jury and direct them on any law involved. The jury then retires to a
private room to decide the guilt or innocence of the accused secretly. The
judge has to accept the jury verdict; this long-established principle goes back
to Bushell’s case (1670).

Overall,
a lay jury is essential in the administration of criminal justice; they are
considered fundamental in a democratic society. The right to be tried by one’s
peers is a bulwark of liberty against the state and is supported by prominent
judges. Since juries are not legal experts, they are not bound by legal precedent
and do not have to explain their verdict. They decide cases on their idea of
‘fairness.’ Justice is done, and members of the public are involved in a vital
role in the form of the jury. The law is clear as points are explained to the
jury. Due to impartiality, this further makes a jury extremely important, as no
one individual is responsible for the decision.

Magistrates
play an essential part in the administration of justice on many platforms.
Firstly, since 95% of criminal cases start in the Magistrates’ Court (gov.uk,
2017), as the Court of the first instance, they handle the majority of cases at
the preliminary stages, in some cases see the cases through to their
conclusion. The fact that cases are passed to the Crown Court shows the
importance of magistrates, as they can assess the level of criminality and
likely sentence and forward the case to be heard by the most appropriate
tribunal, which in itself is an essential role in the interests of justice. Lay
people are important, as they are just regular members of the public
representative of a cross-section of society – the same for a jury in Crown
Court.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Task 2

Task 3

The
availability of legal funding for civil and criminal law cases is insufficient,
creating a two-tier legal system.  In
preceding legal aid systems, aid was available for all cases of law except the
specifically excluded few, specific cases such as small claims. As of the
new    system, it is the first rule that
legal aid is not available for civil cases unless it is the category  mentioned explicitly in the Legal Aid,
Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 
or other regulations. The types of cases allowed include children’s
rights and those concerning an individual’s liberty. The result of this change
limits the availability of legal aid as it is no longer granted for those
injured through medical negligence furthermore claims for trespass to the
person, to land or property. The funding for legal aid comes from the
government’s budget. Only a set amount is available each year, and legal aid
spending has fallen from £2.6bn in 2005-06 to £1.5bn last year (Guardian,
2017).      

To
qualify there is now a strict means test. An individual applying for legal aid
must show they do not have enough money to pay for their lawyer. Not enough
legal service providers have contracts for government-funded legal work. In
addition, many solicitors are finding it not economically viable due to the
rates of pay. This medium has formed ‘advice       deserts’; the Constitutional Affairs
Select Committee investigated this problem as long ago as 2004. Even the Legal
Services Commission expressed this ‘it is clear that there are parts of England
and Wales in which the need for publicly funded legal services is not currently
being met’ (Hodder, 2017). This explicitly shows the lack of proper funding
available; furthermore in some areas people have to travel a long way to see a
lawyer. This can be expensive and is extremely difficult for people on low
incomes, restricting their access to justice. Even in areas with enough legal
services, providers all the people on a meagre income can qualify for the help
they deserve. This is alarming as the legal aid system is increasingly being
restricted to those with no means at all. There is a substantial risk that many
people of modest means and will not qualify to amount to a severe denial of
access to justice. Statistics produced by the Ministry of Justice in 2009-10,
that 933,616 cases were awarded legal aid. The first year of the new Legal Aid
Agency there were only 172,846. This highlights the fact that legal funding is
not available; in a civilised society, everybody has a right to justice.          

This
is leading most people to get advice on a legal problem from the Legal Services
Commission; they had developed a telephone helpline for people to seek initial
basic advice. There are other advice agencies the Citizens Advice Bureaux; they
give general advice free to anybody on a variety of issues they also advise on
legal matters. Law Centres offer free non-means tested legal services to people
in the area they aim to provide legal advice and representation free to those
that cannot afford it. Another way to fund a court case is by legal
insurance.    

In
criminal cases, a defendant only gets help with funding for representation if
they qualify with at least one of the five interests of justice factors. Some
of the factors are if the individual would be likely to lose his liberty, if
the case will involve consideration of a point of law, the individual is unable
to understand the proceedings in court and unable to state their case. In
addition to this, defendants in the Magistrates Courts are means tested this is
calculated on annual income for those in the middle bracket the disposable
income is means tested. The levels that are allowed are deficient resulting in
three-quarters of adults not qualifying for legal aid in the Magistrates Court.
There is a duty solicitor scheme that ensures access to a solicitor for advice
and assistance 24 hours a day, free of charge without means or merit tests.
However, in practice, the cover can be described as patchy with advice being
given by telephone only, and often the information is from an inexperienced
solicitor or a legal executive.      
Research by McConville (1993) (Hodder, 2017) proposed that the standards
of legally aided criminal defence work are low. Unqualified staff carries much
of it out; there is little analytical work and solicitors push clients towards
pleading guilty rather than taking time to prepare an adequate defence.            

 

Overall,
the role of legal funding levels the playing field across society to ensure
that people from all social and wealth groups have adequate representation and
access to justice. In recent years, there has been a shift in legal funding
seeing areas of law such as family law and civil law offers withdraw from
offering legal funding known as legal aid. This has increased the number of
litigants in person with the tribunals as they are unable to fund
representation privately so are left to make representations themselves. While
this has protected the public purse, it is not without its difficulties.
Litigants in person are not legally skilled and need a lot of support from
judges during hearings and can often-over step the mark with their questioning
techniques. The most severe consequence of this is the increase in the time it
takes for cases to be heard.         

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