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Courts Act 2003

Protection and indemnification of justices and justices’ clerks

Section 31: Immunity for acts within jurisdictionSection 32: Immunity for certain acts beyond jurisdictionSection 33:Striking out proceedings where action prohibited

85.These sections make similar provision to sections 51, 52 and 53 of the JPA 1997. Section 31 provides immunity against action brought against justices of the peace in proceedings arising from the execution of their duty. It also gives immunity to justices’ clerks and those appointed to assist a justices’ clerk in proceedings which arise from their exercise, in accordance with rules made under section 28, of a function which could be exercised by a single justice of the peace. Section 32 excludes proceedings in which bad faith is proved and makes clear that the immunity does not apply where the justice, clerk or assistant himself is the subject of criminal proceedings. Section 33 provides that proceedings brought in circumstances where a justice or justices’ clerk has immunity may be struck out.

Section 34: Costs in legal proceedings

86.Section 34 makes similar provision to section 53A of the JPA 1997, with minor amendments. This section gives justices of the peace and their clerks statutory immunity against being ordered to pay the costs of legal actions arising out of the conduct of their judicial functions, unless it is proved that they acted in bad faith.  The section empowers the court to order the Lord Chancellor to pay any costs that, but for the provision of the section, it would have ordered against the justice or clerk. The section also provides for the Lord Chancellor to make regulations covering when the court is to exercise the power to award costs and how those costs are to be determined.

Section 35: Indemnity

87.Section 35 makes similar provision to section 54 of the JPA 1997 with some amendments. This section reflects the fact that in future the Lord Chancellor, rather than a magistrates’ courts committee, may indemnify justices of the peace, justices’ clerks and their assistants against costs orders in any proceedings, not only proceedings taken against them.  The section also removes the right of appeal to a person appointed by the Lord Chancellor against a decision by a MCC to refuse to indemnify a person under this section.  This is because in future the Lord Chancellor will decide whether a person should be indemnified. A person unhappy with a decision by the Lord Chancellor to refuse to indemnify them would, however, have recourse to judicial review proceedings.

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