Role of Magistrates & Jury in England & Wales Essay

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Pages: 8

This essay will discuss the role of the magistrate and jury in the English and Welsh legal decision-making process. It will assess both the advantages and disadvantages of both mechanisms and give an opinion on the contribution they make in the process.
The role of a lay magistrate is one that is at the core of the legal system in England & Wales. They help maintain the foundation of the criminal justice system and deal with approximately 98% of all criminal matters. The sheer volume of cases that they deal with has helped earned them the title of the workhorses of the criminal justice system.
A magistrate forms part of the judiciary however they are unique in the sense that they do not get paid. Even though magistrates do not
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The legal decision making system of England & Wales also utilises a jury. A jury is used when a case it out of the magistrates jurisdiction. Juries are an integral part of the legal system, a mechanism that is envied around the world to cite just one opinion, that of Dr Burkhard Schafer, professor at the University of Edinburgh.
The modern jury’s role is to make decision of guilt or innocence of a defendant in court (or liability of a defendant in civil matters). A jury consists of 12 members of the public, chosen at random from the areas surrounding the court. They are expected be impartial and make decisions based on evidence brought before them, although on rare occasions the jury has gone against evidence and made a decision based on what they thought was morally right, as cased in the acquittal of Clive Ponting in 1985.
In the past they have been seen to be treated unfairly as shown in Bushell’s Case (1670) Vaugh 135: Freem KB1 however as society has developed more importance has been placed on the allowance of fair and lengthy deliberation as cased in R v McKenna [1960] 1 QB 411 ‘a jury shall deliberate in complete freedom’.
The judge gives the direction to the jury on the relevant law, which the jury has to apply to the facts of the case in order to reach a verdict. If it is a criminal case and the jury has given a verdict of guilty, then the judge will