College papers help


Roles and relationships in the magistrates court

Who are the magistrates? Personal and social characteristics Australian magistrates are predominantly male, aged in their early 50s. They mostly grew up in capital cities and are nearly evenly divided between those who attended state schools and those who attended Catholic or other independent private schools. Nearly all their fathers participated in paid work, most frequently in white collar positions as professionals or managers. Nearly all magistrates are married and most of their spouses are in paid work, slightly more full-time than part-time.

Nearly all magistrates have at least one child and nearly half have three or more children.

Who are the magistrates?

It is also important to consider some of the differences within the magistracy itself, which are obscured by the overall findings. Higher percentages over two-thirds of younger magistrates, women and most recently appointed magistrates identify as Australian compared with bare majorities of their older, male or longer-serving colleagues, and higher proportions of women, younger magistrates, recently appointed magistrates and those located in capital cities identify with no specific religious affiliation.

Overall, lower proportions of women, younger magistrates and recently appointed magistrates identify as Catholics. Larger proportions of women, the youngest and the most recently-appointed magistrates attended state schools, contrasting most sharply with the longest-serving magistrates, with the lowest proportion attending a state school just over one-third.

In terms of current household characteristics: Nearly all magistrates are married or in a de facto relationship, though the proportion of women magistrates who are not partnered is higher than their male counterparts. Educational and career background Nearly all magistrates today are qualified for, and admitted to, legal practice and have substantial experience in legal practice.

At the same time, there is a significant diversity of occupational backgrounds within the magistracy, including non-legal work and a variety of legal practice areas and positions.

Occupational and educational backgrounds of magistrates differ, in some ways, according to age, gender and time as a magistrate. Women, the youngest and the most recently appointed tend to form a distinct cohort.

Nearly one-third of magistrates have higher degrees or qualifications outside law or beyond the minimum legal education for qualification to practice. Of this group, women, the most recently appointed and youngest magistrates are more likely to have a BA or postgraduate degree. Magistrates have varied experiences of areas of practice and a majority held more than one position in their legal career.

One in seven report exclusively criminal experience and even fewer report exclusively civil experience. Over seven in ten have experience in private practice and nearly six in ten have experience in government or public sector legal practice, with women, the youngest and most recently appointed more likely to report experience across both sectors. Over half of magistrates report a wide range of experience in non-legal occupations at various stages of their career with proportionately more women and recently appointed magistrates having non-legal work experience.

The stereotype of magistrates as former clerks of the court without legal qualifications or a legal practice background is clearly not supported by the survey. All but four of these have legal qualifications and over half roles and relationships in the magistrates court practised law, mainly in the public sector.

This research clearly shows that there is no one career path into the magistracy, beyond qualification for legal practice. There is no specific pattern of type s of legal practice, legal work or legal positions which dominate the magistracy.

Overview of Magistrates Project research findings

Australian magistrates bring a very wide experience of legal practice to their work, as well as substantial experience in work outside the law across a range of occupations. Factors shaping overall career and the decision to become a magistrate The decision to become a magistrate is an affirmative desire to undertake that role, pulled into the work, rather than pushed into it by dissatisfaction with previous occupations or positions. The intrinsic qualities of the work itself are of primary importance in the choice to become a magistrate and in overall career.

This includes features such as diversity of the work, intellectual challenge or the opportunity to use certain skills. For most respondents, factors reported as significant reflect a flexible approach to career development. These include time for a change, desire for variety or a challenge, the availability of opportunities and, for some, a view that becoming a magistrate was a progression or career enhancement. Altruistic social factors are also important, especially the ideas of the value to society of the work and the opportunity to be of service, less so a desire to improve the court system.

  • Undertaking these many tasks entails a wide range of qualities or skills, and frequently involves work outside regular working hours;
  • More information about the organisation of the everyday work of magistrates and their courts was obtained from the Workload Allocation Study.

These qualities are particularly significant to younger, recently appointed and female magistrates. Magistrates, regardless of gender, age and time of appointment, share the same basic views about the importance of the work itself and the lack of importance of outside factors in shaping their careers.

What is the everyday work of the magistrates and their courts? As revealed by the surveysmagistrates undertake a range of judicial and non-judicial tasks, in and out of court.

  1. This research clearly shows that there is no one career path into the magistracy, beyond qualification for legal practice. Transforming legal processes in court and beyond.
  2. As revealed by the surveys , magistrates undertake a range of judicial and non-judicial tasks, in and out of court. These qualities are particularly significant to younger, recently appointed and female magistrates.
  3. For most respondents, factors reported as significant reflect a flexible approach to career development.
  4. Nearly one-third of magistrates have higher degrees or qualifications outside law or beyond the minimum legal education for qualification to practice. More information about the organisation of the everyday work of magistrates and their courts was obtained from the Workload Allocation Study.
  5. Many of the qualities of everyday work which magistrates commented on in the survey were observed and described in concrete detail in the findings of the National Court Observation Study the high volume of cases, the rapid pace at which they must be handled and the importance of formulating decisions, especially sentencing. Magistrates courts and social services have a complex relationship.

Important, frequent tasks and activities include sentencing, determining and formulating orders, preparing judgments, keeping up to date, community relations, court and staff management, meetings and presentations. Undertaking these many tasks entails a wide range of qualities or skills, and frequently involves work outside regular working hours. Magistrates express considerable satisfaction with their overall work, but some dissatisfaction with control over the amount, which they agree has increased and is unrelenting.

Many of the qualities of everyday work which magistrates commented on in the survey were observed and described in concrete detail in the findings of the National Court Observation Study the high volume of cases, the rapid pace at which they must be handled and the importance of formulating decisions, especially sentencing.

The interactive nature of the criminal list demands the qualities which magistrates identify as especially important: The emotional demands of the work are also vividly present in the criminal list. More information about the organisation of the everyday work of magistrates and their courts was obtained from the Workload Allocation Study.

What is the relationship between magistrates courts and social services? Magistrates courts and social services have a complex relationship. In our consultations linkseveral individual magistrates articulated their concern to make a difference to the operation of the courts and to the everyday citizens who use them. In the National Surveys of Australian Magistratesthree-fifths of the magistrates identify value to society as an important including very important factor in their decision to become a magistrate and two-thirds express satisfaction with the importance to society of their work.

Magistrates confront the human consequences of broad social inequalities or changes in socio-economic conditions and government policies, such as the flow on from law and order, zero tolerance, tough policing and similar campaigns.

  1. One in seven report exclusively criminal experience and even fewer report exclusively civil experience. They mostly grew up in capital cities and are nearly evenly divided between those who attended state schools and those who attended Catholic or other independent private schools.
  2. Undertaking these many tasks entails a wide range of qualities or skills, and frequently involves work outside regular working hours.
  3. Magistrates confront the human consequences of broad social inequalities or changes in socio-economic conditions and government policies, such as the flow on from law and order, zero tolerance, tough policing and similar campaigns.
  4. What is the everyday work of the magistrates and their courts?
  5. Nearly all their fathers participated in paid work, most frequently in white collar positions as professionals or managers.

Often the ways in which magistrates can make a difference involves some relationship with social services. A recent example of structural and procedural changes in the lower and some higher courts is the development of problem-oriented courts, such as drug courts or mental health courts. These are examples of ways courts have responded to larger social and economic changes. Australian magistrates, therapeutic jurisprudence and social change. Transforming legal processes in court and beyond: A collection of refereed papers from the 3rd international conference on therapeutic jurisprudence.

Australasian Institute of Judicial Administration, 173-186. Magistrates, magistrates courts and social change. Another way to look at the interaction between social services and the magistrates courts is to examine who is regularly present in the courthouse or the courtroom. The National Court Observation Study noted the presence of a range of social service organisations with allocated rooms in the courthouse, though not necessarily always staffed.

Of the 20 different courthouses observed, nearly all had some visible presence of social welfare or assistance organisations.

Sturt Rd, Bedford Park.