LEGAL HISTORY: Seahouses and District Rotary Club enjoyed a very interesting talk by local magistrate Peter Slee, and legal adviser Andrew Finley. They gave a brief history of the justice system, which has its origins going back to Henry II in the 12th century. We heard how Justices of the Peace were established as long ago as 1361 and many tiers of the court system since. The first woman to be appointed a magistrate was Ada Summer, Mayor of Stalybridge, in 1911.
Ninety eight per cent of cases are dealt with in the magistrates court with two per cent going to the criminal court. Cases go to court because an offence has been committed, an arrest has been made and the miscreant taken to the police station, charged and then sent to court. If bail is refused, the person is remanded. The magistrate decides on bail or custody, after much deliberation with colleagues and a unanimous decision is reached.
We learned what it was like in the court room, which is differently laid out depending on the hearing. For example, the youth court is slightly less intimidating, with parents/guardians being allowed to sit alongside the defendant.
To become a magistrate, one has to be between the ages of 18 and 70.
A person applies, is interviewed and if accepted, is appointed and undertakes several hours of training before sitting on the bench. Training is on-going, throughout the time as a magistrate.
A lively question time followed, with many members asking thought-provoking questions.
The vote of thanks was given by Roy Dodds.