In a magistrates’ court, a trial is heard by a ‘bench’. The bench would usually consist of 3 magistrates and a court clerk.
The court clerk plays a vital role in the magistrates’ court. They will act as a legal adviser to all court cases as well as control a majority of the proceedings. The clerk is there to ensure the decisions being made by the magistrates are fair and just, as well as ensuring that everything remains legally correct and compliant with the rules and regulations of the court.
Magistrates are not legally qualified and most do not have any form of legal background. Magistrates are present in court to bring a moral case from the view of a typical member of society. This is why court clerks are fundamental within the justice system. When it comes to a trial, the magistrates consider and analyse the facts presented in the case and the court clerks provide them with the advice needed on applicable laws and procedures.
It is also the responsibility of the court clerk to ensure that all court proceedings run as smoothly as possible, to read the charges to the defendant as well as explain all procedures to witnesses and defendants.
Duties of a Court Clerk
Court clerks have many other responsibilities, including:
- preparing a calendar of cases to be called and arranging it around the magistrates available
- making record of dispositions, court orders, arrangements for payments of court fees
- answering questions from the public regarding court procedure, trial dates, adjournments, warrants, summonses, payment of court fees
- preparing probation order and sentencing information
- recording the outcome of court proceedings into documents
- contacting witnesses regarding information for the court
- following procedures to keep evidence safe by securing courtrooms.
In order for someone to apply to be a court clerk at entry level the applicant would need to have a Law degree as well as having completed the LPC (Legal Practice Code) or BVC (Bar Vocational course). As well as this, these further skills are required:
- Clerical – knowledge of clerical procedures and systems like word processing, stenography and transcription, and form designing
- Government and law – knowledge of laws, legal codes, precedents, procedures in the court, government regulations, agency rules and political process
- Computer skills – IT skills, relevant software skills, applications and programming
- Customer service – being able to assess the needs of the people involved in the court cases
- English language – to have good understanding of the English language and excellent grammatical skills