There remain around 200 operational UK Magistrates’ Courts (called Justice of the Peace (JP) Courts in Scotland) after many closures in recent years, perhaps indicating that Brits are more law-abiding these days. Alas no, since this seems to have caused a backlog of cases waiting to be heard!
Nearly all criminal as well as civil, ‘summary’ offences ~ such as motoring violations, minor assault or damage, burglary and drug-related offences ~ are dealt with at the Magistrates’ Court, even if this is only to determine that a serious, ‘indictable’ offence should go up to the Crown Court for trial and/or greater punishment than the maximum 6 months in prison, per offence, (60 days in Scotland) available to be meted out at Magistrate/JP level. The lower Court is also limited in the amount of fines that can be demanded.
Cases in a Magistrates’ Court are judged either by a panel of three (or sometimes two) Magistrates/JPs, who are unpaid trained volunteers, or by one district judge, who is a paid legal professional. There is also a legal advisor, an usher, a prosecutor and usually a defence solicitor. Witnesses can be brought in and the public and press can sit and watch, but there is no jury.
(Image: Betty Longbottom at geograph.org.uk / CC BY-SA 2.0)