Who Advises Magistrates on Points of Law
If an accused is not represented, he or she may address the court at relevant times, such as to explain his or her personal circumstances or how he or she came to commit a crime (similar to a mitigating plea, but without a lawyer speaking) or to question witnesses in a trial. In this way, a “fair hearing” should take place. The Legal Advisers of the Magistrates` Court are responsible for providing legal advice to the Magistrates` Courts in England and Wales. They assist judges in making decisions and set out the legal basis for decisions. In addition, they advise all parties before the courts on legal, practical and procedural matters. There are over 12,000 people in England and Wales who have given their time as judges. They can be appointed from the age of 18 and retire at the age of 75. The presiding judge does not normally appoint anyone over the age of 70, as it is generally expected that judges will be able to serve at least five years before retirement. Over the following centuries, judges took over many administrative tasks, such as administering laws on the poor, roads and bridges, and weights and measures.
For example, before 1714, magistrates could be approached at any time and in any place by people legally recognized as poor, who asked them for help if the parish authorities had refused to provide one. It was relatively common for these judges to issue an on-site assistance order.  In the 19th century, elected local authorities took over many of these tasks. There is a vestige of these obligations, the appellate jurisdiction over the licensing of pubs and clubs. In Paul v. DPP (1989), the court had to decide whether a curb caterpillar “is likely to harass others in the neighbourhood.” The accused was convicted on the grounds that the judges knew that crawling in this residential area was a problem.  On appeal, Lord Justice Woolf stated that this was a case in which the judges` local knowledge had been helpful. Judges listen carefully to all evidence presented to the court and follow structured decision-making processes (e.g., criminal sentencing guidelines) and case law to render fair decisions. They are advised on legal matters by legal counsel who sits with them in court.
The JSB Magistrates` Committee has published a programme that is delivered locally. Due to the large number of judges, training is provided in local areas, sometimes by the registrar, sometimes through weekend courses organized by universities with judges from the region. The training aims to develop all the knowledge and skills necessary to become an effective and confident judge. It is based on a competency framework and includes: Legal advisors can progress within the trial court system by focusing on the legal, educational or administrative aspects of work. The law and the procedures of the courts of first instance change from time to time, so that “refresher training” is offered to magistrates. In the event of major changes to the law, judges receive written material or formal training to help them learn and apply the new law.  The Registrar and his legal counsel play an important role in the education of judges by assisting in the delivery of training and providing support in the courtroom. The titles “magistrate” and “justice of the peace” are interchangeable terms for essentially the same thing, although the former is now common in popular media and the latter in more formal contexts. All judges are justices of the peace. The term magistrate is used when that person sits on the court. However, if that person works outside the courtroom, for example, by cancelling arrest warrants, taking an oath to the police, signing documents, etc., he or she is acting exclusively as a justice of the peace and not as a judge. The term “layman” referred to the voluntary, unpaid nature of the appointment and was used to distinguish it from professional judges, called fellows.
However, since the fellows became district judges, the term has fallen into oblivion. Ethnic minorities are fairly well represented. According to the National Strategy for the Recruitment of Lay Judges (2003), 6 per cent of judges belong to an ethnic minority, or nearly 7.9 per cent of the total population. Again, this is favourable compared to professional justice, which has only 1% of ethnic minorities.  This relatively high proportion of ethnic minorities in the judiciary is largely the result of campaigns to attract a wider range of candidates, such as those launched by the Lord Chancellor`s Office in March 1999. In announcing the campaign, Lord Irvine said: “The Magistrates` Association is the members` organisation for magistrates. Since 1969, it has contributed to the drafting of various penal directives. It also organizes conferences and publishes The Magistrate magazine ten times a year.
Members also participate in Local activities, with each Chapter appointing representatives to the Organizing Council. Judges are specially trained for juvenile courts, where proceedings are slightly less formal than in adult criminal courts – for example, judges deliberately address young defendants directly and not always through their legal representative. The number of judges in England and Wales has continued to decline in recent years, falling by 48%, from 25,170 on 1 April 2012 to 13,177 on 1 April 2020.  Magistrates were perceived as middle class, middle-aged and middle-minded, and that does have some basis.  The Magistrates` Court report (2000) concluded that judges were primarily professionals and managers, and that 40 per cent of them had left their full-time employment.  The majority of judges are between the ages of 45 and 65, and the appointment of judges under the age of 30 is still rare, although there are some notable exceptions. For example, in 2006, a 19-year-old law student, Lucy Tate, was appointed Britain`s youngest female judge.  Judges usually sit in groups of 2 or 3 people called benches.