Role of magistratesWatch
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"Magistrates are volunteers who hear cases in courts in their community. They can hear cases in the criminal court, the family court, or both.
Each case is usually heard by 3 magistrates, including a magistrate who is trained to act as a chairperson.
A legal adviser in the court gives advice on the law and makes sure the magistrates follow the right procedures.
All criminal cases begin in a magistrates’ court.
Magistrates pass the most serious crimes (for example murder, rape and robbery) to the Crown Court. Magistrates decide if the defendant should be:
- kept in custody - for example in a police or court cell
- let out on strict conditions - for example to keep away from named places or people
Magistrates deal with crimes like:
- minor assaults
- motoring offences
- handling stolen goods
- TV licence evasion
Magistrates can give punishments such as:
- unpaid work in the community
- prison for up to 6 months (or up to 12 months for more than 1 crime)
Magistrates can also hear cases at a family court.
These magistrates deal with cases about children. They can:
- arrange for a child to be taken into care or put up for adoption
- help separated parents make arrangements for their children
- enforce child maintenance orders
- make court orders to prevent domestic abuse
These magistrates can get advice from the child’s guardian or a family court adviser during the case."