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The roles of lay people and professionals in UK court cases

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Emily Davis

on 6 January 2014

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Transcript of The roles of lay people and professionals in UK court cases

What are Lay people?
Google Definition - a person without professional or specialized knowledge in a particular subject.

Advantages of using Lay people within the court
Ordinary People - Lay people are ordinary members of the public so they are able to give their view

Representative View - 12 peoples opinions not just one

Use more common sense - As lay people live normal lives and work normal jobs it is more likely they will use common sense
and have rational opinions


Professional people in the UK court system
Solicitors
There are over 115,000 solicitors in England and Wales. They have important roles such as;
1. Writing letters on behalf of clients
2.Drafting contracts, leases or other legal documents
3.Drawing up wills
4. Dealing with conveyancing (the legal side of buying and selling flats,houses, office buildings and land

However the roles of a solicitor depends on the kind of firm they work for.

Professional people in the UK court system
Barrister
There are about 12,000 barristers in independent practice in England and Wales. Their main roles are;
1. Case preparation
2. Legal research
3. Written Skills
4. Opinion writing
5.Drafting documents such as claim forms
6. Conference skills
7. Negotiation
8. Advocacy

Professional people in the UK court system
Professional people in the UK court system
Judges
There are many different types of judges that belong to different divisions High court Judges, Circuit Judges and District Judges. The usual roles of a judge is interpreting the law, assessing the evidence presented, and controlling how hearings and trials unfold in their courtrooms. Most important of all, judges are impartial decision-makers in the pursuit of justice.
The roles of lay people and professionals in UK court cases
High court judge
In order to gain the role of High court judge, the person in question must be qualified as either a Barrister or solicitor and have gained legal experience for at least 7 years. Only those who have been a Barrister for 10 years are eligible

Circuit Judges
The person in question must be a qualified Barrister or Solicitor and have gained experience in law for at least 7 years (like the above). The usual route to becoming Circuit Judge is a promotion from being a recorder

District Judges
At this level an those applying for the job must be qualified as a Barrister or Solicitor and have gained experience in law for at least 5 years or has to have been Deputy District Judge



Disadvantages
Lack of training - Lay magistrates receive minimal training and jurors have non.

Complexity of issues – For cases such as fraud, the lay people may find the ins and outs of the case too complicated. For example the Vicky Pryce case.

Limited representative nature – Mostly middle class and middle age

Influence of the media - Media coverage has been known to affect lay peoples decisions

Bias - Shown that lay magistrates and jurors have allowed race, sexual or cultural features influence their decision





Normal members of the public are often used within the courts and are usually chosen to undergo Jury service. They are given the name Lay people and often do not have any Legal knowledge but are included in cases with the hope that they are able to give a fair and appropriate conclusion to a trial. Lay people can often refer to Lay magistrates also. Over 95% of criminal cases are dealt with by magistrates. Magistrates are unqualified and not paid. They normally sit as a bench of 2 or 3 magistrates to hear a case. They can be referred to as justices of the peace.


Short YouTube clip from a lecturer at Oxfords point of view on the use of Lay people
The roles of Lay people in Civil Cases
Lay Magistrates
Lay Magistrates are mainly connected with Criminal cases, however they do deal with some Civil matters (especially cases to do with the family). Other Civil cases Lay Magistrates cover include;
1.The enforcing of Debts
2.Non payment of the council tax
3.Non payment of television licenses


The use of Lay people in Civil Cases
Juries
The use of jury in civil cases is now almost obsolete. The Supreme Court Act 1981 gives a qualified right to jury trial in the following four cases only: libel and slander; malicious prosecution; false imprisonment; and fraud. In these cases jury trial is to be granted, unless the court is of the opinion that the trial requires any prolonged examination of documents or accounts, or any scientific or local investigation which can not be made by the jury.



The use of Professional People in Civil Cases
Most civil cases are heard at the County Court. Civil cases are often heard by a Circuit judge, however for lower value cases a District Judge will be used.

District judges
also hear Fast track cases which take place in an open court.

For
Multi - track
cases the Circuit judge is used. The judge can ask parties to try alternative dispute resolutions to stop the case from going to trial
The use of Professional People in Civil Cases
Queens bench Division
The Lord Chief Justice is the President of this division. There are also 70 Judges that sit in the Queens bench. This division deals with contract and tort cases where the amount claimed is over £50,000.

Chancery Division
The chancellor of the High Court is the head of this division. There are also around 17 High court judges assisting in this division. Their job is to resolve disputes related to insolvency, enforcement of mortgages, trust property etc.



The use of professional people in Civil Cases

Family Division
The head of this division is the President. Like the Chancery division, there are also 17 High Court Judges also included in this division. This division hears cases related to children. For example who gets custody of their child after a marriage has broken down.


The use of lay people in Criminal Cases
Jury
Juries are used within criminal court cases to assess and determine weather the accused is guilty or not. As mentioned in the first slide, they are included with the hope they will give a down to earth view on the case.

Lay magistrates
Lay magistrates deal with less serious cases such as minor theft or criminal damage.


The use of Professional people in criminal cases
The judge
intervenes occasionally to state certain laws and establish certain facts. The role of the Judge is to decide how long the defendant will go to prison for if found guilty.

There are always two
barristers
in a criminal case. The defense, and the prosecution. The role of the defense is to try and help the defendant and state the facts that go in his/her favor. However, the prosecutor states the facts that suggest the person in question did the crime. At the end of a trial both Barristers will give what is called a summary of all the facts they have told the jury. It is then the juries job to retreat and come back with a final decision - guilty or not guilty
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