Reviewed by: Robert J Allan, Pauline M Callow
Author: Ann Rouse
Publisher: Wildy, Simmonds and Hil
ISBN: 9780854901128
Price: £19.99

This edition was written in 2011/12, 16 years after the previous edition and 650 years after the Justice of the Peace Act of 1361. The book is up-to-date as far as the law is concerned to 1 May 2012, and takes account of recent major legislative changes such as the Criminal Justice Act 2003 and the Courts Act 2003.

The two authors, a deputy justices’ clerk and a serving lay magistrate, bring together their own knowledge, experience and perspective in an interesting, informative but non-technical way. The handbook is wide-ranging – almost an A to Z but actually an A to Y (Adjournment to Youth Panel). It is supported not only by a comprehensive index but also by a table of contents which helpfully lists the subject headings within the chapters, which makes it easy to navigate. In addition, there is a glossary of the terms.

The book begins with an explanation of how lay magistrates are appointed and goes on to describe the court system (criminal and civil), the organisation of magistrates’ courts, their powers and their jurisdiction. It explains the unique way in which the magistracy functions, and describes in some detail the frontline work undertaken by the 27,000 magistrates in England and Wales, covering how offences are dealt with, the decision-making process, bail and sentencing.

This is a well researched and well organised handbook, and it could usefully be issued to all newly appointed magistrates. It would also provide guidance to any prospective applicants, explaining the responsibilities, duties and commitment involved, eligibility criteria, application, selection and training.

In fact, anybody with an interest in the magistrates’ courts and how they work should find this book interesting and informative, free of jargon and easy to read.

Ann Rouse is a magistrate, North Essex Bench