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Trial by one's peers?

Magistrates are miles apart from the people they try, so why lament their decline, wonders Felix

28 January 2014

Lay magistrates are on the decline and there are fears that they are being edged out by their full time, professional colleagues, according to a report in The Times last week. This is lamented, that the ancient right of trial by one’s peers is being eroded, and that it is all generally a bad thing from the perspective of the 23,000 odd lay justices.

Trial by one’s peers? That may have been true if you were, well, a peer, and had fellow Lords deciding your fate, as was amusingly portrayed in fiction by Dorothy L Sayers in Clouds of Witness, when the then Duke of Denver is tried for murder before the House of Lords. But really, these days, trial by one’s peers? Of the many – and I have seen a lot – of magistrates’ courts that I have visited, and make-up of the bench (figuratively and literally) compared to the hapless chap or

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