Standard Practices of the Magistrate Court Student Number April 25, 2011-May 13, 2011 Magistrate Court Stratford, London Contents Abstract Chapter 1: Aims & Purpose of the Research Conducted Chapter 2: Literature Review Chapter 3: Methodology Chapter 4: Results Chapter 5: Analysis & Discussion Chapter 6: Summary & Conclusions Bibliography Appendix Abstract The purpose of the research conducted was to evaluate the proceedings of the Magistrate Court in Stratford, London over a 3-week time period and observe any and all trends in age and gender with regards to frequency and category of crime committed…
At the end of the 3-week placement, the data was analyzed and evaluated for patterns of consistency. Aims & Purpose of the Research Conducted At the end of the 3-week placement period, the data gathered was to be analyzed for patterns of consistency in what age and gender groups are most frequently brought before the Magistrate Court, and on what charges they are brought forth. There has been some negative media attention brought upon the Magistrate Court, indicating that the courts play the role of a “conveyor belt” due to the high percentage of convictions via guilty pleas. As stated by Doreen McBarnet in the opening line of her article, “Magistrates’ courts have frequently attracted comment for their role as a conveyor belt for the guilty pleas which constitute 95% of their caseload” (181). There have even been those who have accused Magistrate Courts of sinking to despicable depths to achieve such high percentages of convictions. Such accusations have been summarized in this way: “Plea negotiations are frequently criticized on the basis that they may arise from deception, coercion, and unethical practices” (Mulcahy, 411). With such accusations being made against the Magistrate Court, it is believed that research in to the standard procedures and practices within the courtrooms is necessary. The main aim of this research was to determine if there is a specific combination of factors that leads to a ruling of guilty, or to a guilty plea. If there is such a combination, research should show what the factors are that make it up. Should there not be an identifiable pattern to guilty pleas, the data provided by this research should be able to point future researchers in the right direction. Literature Review Before beginning any observation or gathering of data, it was vital to gain a firm understanding of who the “players” of the courtroom are, and what the general expectations are of observers. As outlined by Morgan and Russel, there are two kinds of Magistrates: lay and stipended. Lay Magistrates are unpaid for their services, only sit part-time on the bench, and are largely untrained in the legal sense. Stipended Magistrates are full-time service-providers who a legally trained and are more likely to be called to handle lengthy or complicated cases (8). Since the research conducted in this placement was done in the lower courts, it is generally assumed that the Magistrates in the cases observed would be lay magistrates. As such, they would most likely rely on the uses of a court clerk to provide legal advice prior to making a ruling. The court clerks would be fully trained in legal matters, and would only offer advice in open court, in the presence of all observers. This is in agreement with Practice Direction 2000, which states that clerks are to advise Magistrates in legal matters, and are to only do so in open court. As a general rule, observers in the Magistrate Court are not expected to dress professionally. Most individuals who are present in court do dress semi-formally out of respect for the Magistrates and the proceedings of the cases, however. Researchers in this placement ...
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