Search Legislation

Courts Act 2003

Justices’ clerks

30.Most cases in magistrates’ courts are heard by lay magistrates who are not qualified lawyers.  They rely on the legal advice of justices’ clerks and their assistants, often known as “legal advisers”.  Justices’ clerks and their assistants can also exercise the powers of a single justice of the peace in certain circumstances.  Justices’ clerks are vital to the administration of justice in magistrates’ courts.

31.At present, under section 42 of the JPA 1997, justices’ clerks are appointed by an MCC to a particular petty sessions area, following the approval of the Lord Chancellor. MCCs are required by section 42(6) to consult local lay magistrates on the appointment or removal of justices’ clerks in certain circumstances. MCCs also have the power to designate assistants to justices’ clerks under section 44(3) of the JPA 1997.

32.When exercising any legal function, justices’ clerks are not subject to the directions of a justices’ chief executive (JCE) or any other person or body, by virtue of section 48 of the JPA 1997.  Assistant clerks may only be subject to the directions of justices’ clerks.

33.This Act provides that in future the Lord Chancellor will have the power to employ appropriate court staff, including justices’ clerks and their assistants who must be specifically designated as such. The Act retains the statutory qualifications for justices’ clerks and assistants and confirms their independence when exercising any legal function. It also places a duty on the Lord Chancellor to assign justices' clerks to one or more local justice areas.

Back to top


Print Options


Explanatory Notes

Text created by the government department responsible for the subject matter of the Act to explain what the Act sets out to achieve and to make the Act accessible to readers who are not legally qualified. Explanatory Notes were introduced in 1999 and accompany all Public Acts except Appropriation, Consolidated Fund, Finance and Consolidation Acts.


More Resources

Access essential accompanying documents and information for this legislation item from this tab. Dependent on the legislation item being viewed this may include:

  • the original print PDF of the as enacted version that was used for the print copy
  • lists of changes made by and/or affecting this legislation item
  • confers power and blanket amendment details
  • all formats of all associated documents
  • correction slips
  • links to related legislation and further information resources