District judge (magistrates’ courts)

Introduction

District judges (magistrates’ courts) hear criminal cases, youth cases and also some civil proceedings in magistrates’ courts. They can be authorised to hear cases in the Family Proceedings Courts. Some are authorised to deal with extradition proceedings and terrorist cases. They are also authorised to sit as Prison Adjudicators.

District judges (magistrates’ courts) usually hear cases alone. By virtue of their office they are Justices of the Peace.


Appointment

District judges (magistrates’ courts) are appointed by the Queen, on the recommendation of the Lord Chancellor, following a fair and open competition administered by the Judicial Appointment Commission.

The statutory qualification is a seven-year right of audience – the right of a lawyer to appear and speak as an advocate for a party in a case in the court – in relation to all proceedings in any part of the Supreme Court, or all proceedings in county courts or magistrates’ courts. Additionally they will have usually served as deputy district judges (magistrates’ courts) for a minimum of two years or 30 days’ sittings.


Court Dress

District judges (magistrates’ courts) do not normally wear robes in court.


Deputy District Judge (Magistrates’ Courts)

Deputy district judges (magistrates’ courts) sit on a fee-paid basis in the magistrates’ courts, and for a minimum of 15 days a year. During this period, reports on their performance are collected from pupil-master judges – experienced district judges (magistrates’ courts) who provide support and guidance to their fee-paid colleagues. In general, the jurisdiction of a deputy district judge (magistrates’ courts) is the same as that of a district judge (magistrates’ courts).

Deputy district judges (magistrates’ courts) are appointed by the Lord Chancellor after a fair and open competition administered by the Judicial Appointments Commission, and, prior to appointment, are usually practising barristers and solicitors with a good knowledge of criminal law and procedure. Sometimes, the Lord Chancellor may appoint other lawyers not in practice but who fulfil the statutory eligibility requirements and who have relevant experience, such as justices’ clerks.