Wednesday, May 14, 2014
Today we had the pleasure of visiting the Magistrate Court. There are so many differences in the London court system to ours I don't even know where to begin. In our court system we have judges at all levels of our courts (Circuit, District and Supreme), these judges are qualified judges and are law trained. In London at their magistrate level (Circuit Court in America) they have three volunteers that sit in the bench and hear the cases with a legal advisor directing them at the Lay Magistrate. They have no legal training. They also use a district judge in plain cloths (suits) at this level to hear the little cases. However at the Crown Court (District Court) they have a legal trained district judge that hears the serious cases. Another difference from our system is that the defendant will have his initial appearance before the court before they are granted a free lawyer. In America the indigent will fill out the paperwork before they appear in court to qualify for a free attorney, here the attorney has to represent them in hopes that they get paid. Our guide Joann said that this is one reason why she does not practice anymore because she rarely got paid. In the Royal Court the defendant sits behind a glass partition, they are not next to their attorney like in America. The Crown Prosecuter is acting in behalf of the crown. I found that this information has been very helpful, it was very interesting to witness the cases that we sat in on today!