The Magistrate's Blog (2005-2012)

This blog has migrated to www.magistratesblog.blogspot.co.uk This blog is anonymous, and Bystander's views are his and his alone. Where his views differ from the letter of the law, he will enforce the letter of the law because that is what he has sworn to do. If you think that you can identify a particular case from one of the posts you are wrong. Enough facts are changed to preserve the truth of the tale but to disguise its exact source.

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Location: Near London, United Kingdom

The blog is written by a retired JP, with over 30 years' experience on the Bench.

Monday, July 30, 2007

More About DJs

District Judges (Magistrates' Courts) to give them their full title, are the successors to the old Stipendiary Magistrates. They are qualified lawyers, many of them former court clerks, and sitting alone they can exercise the power of a bench of three magistrates. There are about 150 full-time DJ(MC)s, as opposed to about 30,000 magistrates. Most of them sit in the big cities, but following recent reforms they are now deployed by the Circuits and can be sent where they are needed. The sort of work for which they are best suited is long trials, where it can be difficult to assemble a lay bench, or those involving complex points of law. Westminster court has special jurisdiction to deal with terrorist and extradition cases, and that is where Tim Workman, the Chief Magistrate is based, having been reluctantly ousted from historic Bow Street, which has been sold off. DJs can, as we have seen in the Richards case, sit with JPs but it is rare, and they are usually discouraged from doing so, but they do still sit with legal advisers. There is some talk of them sitting without a qualified clerk in the future, but they would still need a clerical assistant of some sort.
Big city courts may have up to half a dozen DJs backed up by a bench of JPs, but smaller courts such as mine have a share in one or two. Plenty of courts never see a DJ except on special occasions. The work is supposed to be shared equally between lay and professional benches, but one or two old-school DJs in big courts can prove a bit sniffy about low-level no-bus-ticket type cases. High-throughput courts such as youth, drug, and family sometimes have one or two DJs who specialise in that type of work.
Historically some magistrates have been suspicious about the spread of DJs, and I used to be one of them. But the fact that there are only about 150 DJs against 30,000 JPs seems to give the lie to a stealthy conspiracy to get rid of the lay bench.