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School of Law

Magistrates "poorly trained" - should they go?

The results of a survey co-led by Queen Mary's Dr Kate Leader on the effectiveness of magistrates was featured in The Times.

Victoria Law Courts in Birmingham. It is a red brick terracotta court building with spires and turrets, and reliefs carved on the walls.

Tony Hisgett from Birmingham, UK, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Magistrates are often poorly trained and should be better trained or even scrapped, suggests research co-authored by a Queen Mary University of London academic. 

Dr Kate Leader, Senior Lecturer in Criminal Law and Co-Director of the Criminal Justice Centre at Queen Mary University of London, and Lucy Welsh, a Reader in Criminal Justice at the University of Sussex, interviewed 15 lawyers about their experience at magistrates’ courts.

They found the lawyers wanted to see substantial reform, in particular in relation to the training, communication style, and legal and procedural knowledge of the 13,340 magistrates. Others thought reform was not enough and preferred to see the lay magistracy scrapped. Professional judges were perceived as being faster, more efficient and able to understand complex legal issues. 

There is currently a backlog of more than 378,000 criminal cases and this research was conducted against the backdrop of the controversial introduction of the Single Justice Procedure scheme to allow single magistrates to conduct cases alone.

Read the full article in The Times (subscription required).



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