Magistrates hear criminal and some civil and family cases in Magistrate’s Courts. The official name for a Magistrate is a Justice of the Peace. In Scotland, Sheriffs, Magistrate’s, and Justices of the Peace can hear summary criminal cases. In Northern Ireland, some Justices of the Peace aren’t Magistrates and don’t have the power to hear legal cases.
The majority of Magistrate’s aren’t qualified lawyers; they’re laypeople who have been appointed by the Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs and the Lord Chancellor. Local Advisory Committees are made up of Magistrate’s and local people who advise on the appointments. Most Magistrate’s are between the ages of 27 and 65, and they must retire at 70.
You won’t be appointed if you aren’t of good character and personal standing or if you’re bankrupt, a member of the armed forces or police, a traffic warden, or closely related to someone who is already a Magistrate. Lay Magistrate’s are unpaid. Because they aren’t legally qualified, Lay Magistrate’s sit in panels of three and have a qualified court clerk in attendance to advise them on various aspects of the law and procedure.