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Lay Magistrates occupy a particularly controversial position in the English Judiciary. They are usually unqualified in the law, being lay people and the Courts they rule over, the Magistrates Courts, do not have Juries; that is, whether a defendant did in fact commit a crime is determined by the Magistrate and not by a panel of the accused’s peers. Juries are often seen as a strong defence of individual liberty and trials without them are derided by elements of the press as being dangerous precedents. The Magistrates Court, then, is a Court where the decisions of fact are essentially made by a “professional juror.” Nonetheless, this still follows the principle of participative democracy, which has a rich history in English Common Law; that ordinary citizens should be involved in the decision making process of law. Magistrates themselves date back to the 14th Century

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