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District judges V's Magistrates

(15 Posts)
helpneeded01 Thu 11-Oct-12 09:06:43

could I have your opinions on this please??

We have had our direction hearings heard by a district judge at the last hearing because of the other side not complying etc it got transferred to
Family proceedings court for a final hearing in front of magistrates.

We have been told by couple of people that magistrates are soft and favour the mothers and district judges are really who we want our final hearing heard by as they are qualified etc. We were told this by someone in last year of law and a friend who's going through the same things as us her barrister said it too.

I just wondered what people's opinion or experience was about this???

If perhaps this is the case, can you write to the court to request a district judge instead of magistrates or is that a really silly suggestion hmm

Thank you

SaraBellumHertz Thu 11-Oct-12 09:16:36

My experience as a criminal lawyer is that you get a more balanced view from a DJ - they tend to treat parties in a more equal fashion and don't make some of the assumptions that some lay mags tend towards.

On the other hand they are often perceived as "harsher" and less easily swayed by a "sob story".

Different circumstances but I always took the view it was easier to secure an acquittal in front of a DJ but if you were convicted the sentence would be more harsh.

I'm afraid you cannot request one or other.

Collaborate Thu 11-Oct-12 09:17:44

You can't do that, and my experience is that magistrates, like judges, vary in their approaches, but you could never say that mags (now actually called DJs) go one way and judges the other. Recently got a very good contact order for a father in the FPC.

BCBG Thu 11-Oct-12 22:00:16

Magistrates are not District Judges. Personally i find the derogatory remarks about family magistrates a little offensive - there are examples of poor practice on both sides of the fence. DJ's don't have to consult and their decisions are frequently more arbitary than those of a bench of three magistrates. Magistrates' training is now extremely professional and run on identical lines to that undertaken by the paid judiciary - however a DJ (whatever his or her background) will be a qualified lawyer, but will simply hold a family or youth 'ticket' - it doesn't imply any greater degree of specialist knowledge, just greater powers - to make certain directions, for example.

I am sorry you are going through a stressful time; I hope you have faith in whomesoever sits on your final hearing.

Lonecatwithkitten Thu 11-Oct-12 22:26:06

My Dad was a family court JP for 25 years from the very little he ever said of his time in court (he racked up a very large number of family court hours) his main interest was what was best for the child.
Sadly my own marriage has come to a rather sticky end his advice has been to be totally child centric and always have her best interests at the front of my mind as this is the attitude he has always seen favoured in court.
In last 10 years (he only retired at Christmas) he worked on a lot of family court cases that were heard be the combination of himself a JP and a DJ. I think in his region this was seen as a good balance in some more complex cases.
I would say his balanced was to either the mother or the father just the best set up for the child/children.

Lonecatwithkitten Thu 11-Oct-12 22:26:34

Sorry meant to say wasn't to either mother or father.

Collaborate Thu 11-Oct-12 22:43:17

BCBG: Actually, they're called DJs now, not magistrates. Confusing innit?

sicutlilium Thu 11-Oct-12 22:51:17

BCBG what used to be called Stipendiary Magistrates (to distinguish them from lay magistrates) are now called District Judges. They are qualified lawyers.

BCBG Fri 12-Oct-12 21:58:22

Collaborate: I am a lay magistrate. Stipes are now called DJs, but not those of us who are Justices of The Peace/lay magistrates. Sorry if I have misunderstood your post above at 17.44pm. As I said before, I am sure that as Lonecat says, the OP should be able to trust that whoever hears the case will have the best interests of the child at heart.

Collaborate Sat 13-Oct-12 00:02:37

I didn't realise you'd construed my post as a dig at magistrates. I intended it as quite the opposite.

SaraBellumHertz Sat 13-Oct-12 06:09:53

BCBG I'm sorry if you found my opinion offensive - it is borne out by many years of experience. I am also puzzled by your assertion that working as a DJ (as opposed to lay mag) "doesn't imply any greater degree of specialist knowledge" that is an incredible statement and I am quite surprised that a lay magistrate would believe they have the same degree of understanding and knowledge of the legal system as a DJ, no matter how rigorous and "identical" to the judiciary you claim your training to have been.

BCBG Sat 13-Oct-12 16:51:56

Wow. Not looking for a bunfight. Collaborate, I didn't, honestly. I was just trying to say that we are not 'called' DJs in case that gave rise to confusion for anyone else reading the post - actually for the very reason SarabellumHertz put forward - that DJs are lawyers and lay magistrates are not. Your comment was appreciated grin. SarabellumHertz ditto - I totally appreciate that many years of experience has provided your view: I don't disagree with you, and I believe the number of appeals upheld against DJs supports your comment. Perhaps I phrased my own comment badly - but a DJ sitting on a family matter in the magistrates court is not automatically more qualified to sit on that matter than a family panel magistrate of many years standing: the understanding and knowledge of the legal system may be greater, but is not necessarily applicable. The comment I disliked was reported in the OP's post and was not - in my view - reflective of the extraordinary dedication and long hours worked without payment by those of my colleagues who sit in the family court.

helpneeded01 Sat 13-Oct-12 17:27:12

Just wanted to say my comment in the original post wasn't to cause offence I was repeating what ive been told and wanted opinions on it as was concerned with what we was told.

Im really grateful that you've all posted these comments cos you've cleared things up in my mind.
Sorry again

peppapigpants Sat 13-Oct-12 19:44:46

DP had three hearings re contact, only the first was presided over by a judge. He then had the same magistrate in charge for the other two and got a very pleasing outcome at the final hearing which recognised that he is an equal parent.

BCBG Sun 14-Oct-12 00:15:27

Hey Help don't worry, I was probably being touchy anyway, so I'm sorry grin We all hope it really works out for you - it's such a worrying time for you. Good luck

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