The Lay Magistracy came into being in April 2005. The Belfast Agreement of 1998 provided for a review of the criminal justice system in Northern Ireland. Many of the recommendations of the resulting Criminal Justice Review of 2000 were incorporated into the Justice (Northern Ireland) Act 2002. The post combines many of the duties of the previous offices of Justice of the Peace and Lay Panellists. This was to meet the need for a criminal justice system which is responsive to community concerns, encourages community involvement and promotes public confidence.
For more detail on the creation of the Lay Magistrate post please see the Lay Magistrates’ Handbook.
Links to the reports referenced can be found below.
Main Functions of a Lay Magistrate
A brief overview of the responsibilities carried out daily by Lay Magistrates.
The Youth Court is a criminal court chaired by a District Judge (Magistrates' Court) sitting with two Lay Magistrates. The Court sits to hear nearly all criminal charges brought against a child (up to and including 17 years olds). All three members of the court have an equal say in the decision making process.
The Family Proceedings Court is chaired by a District Judge (Magistrates' Court) sitting with two Lay Magistrates. The Court sits to hear Children Order matters in relation to children's contact and residence as well as considering applications from public authorities in relation to care related proceedings.
Lay Magistrates are empowered to sign, among other things, summonses and warrants.