When Trevor Grove was called up for Jury service he became so intrigued with the justice system that he wrote a successful book about it - The Juryman's Tale. Subsequently he joined the magistracy and here gives a fascinating, funny and insightful account of just how the magistracy works. Lay magistrates deal with more than 95 per cent of all criminal cases in England and Wales, yet they are all volunteers, drawn from local communities, with no legal training or special qualifications, and are not paid a penny for what they do.
Astonishingly little is known about what it is like to serve as a magistrate. (Each year 5,000 people apply to become magistrates; only 25 per cent are successful.) This book is the first for many years to shed light on the experience. Interweaving his own personal experience of becoming a magistrate in north London with general observations, relevant interviews and a little history, Trevor Grove takes us on a fascinating journey into this extraordinary and unique institution. He has visited courts all over the country to talk to magistrates and observe how crimes and criminals differ from region to region, and how the 'benches' dealing with them differ too. He has visited jails and Young Offenders' Institutions and he has interviewed all of the principal players, from the Lord Chief Justice and Home Secretary, to more integral characters such as justices' clerks, ushers, probation officers, local police and offenders. His journey uncovers a remarkable act of national faith in the good sense of ordinary people, which says a great deal more about the strength and health of our democracy than is sufficiently appreciated.