Magistrates' Court Bench Book

A resource for those presiding in the adult magistrates’ and youth courts.


This Benchbook flows, in the first instance, from the work of the Criminal Courts Judicial Committee which, under the chairmanship of Mr. Justice Hart, has had as its primary focus the efficient management of cases coming before the criminal courts for the benefit of all participants, consonant with the overriding object of ensuring that those cases are disposed of fairly and justly.

Earlier this year, in furtherance of that aim, a JSB case management workshop for the Magistrates’ Courts tier was held with the express purpose of sharing good practice across the tier. The agreed conclusions formed the basis of an extremely useful practice note on case management subsequently issued by the Presiding District Judge with my approval. This important practice note, together with other, related, case management materials, now occupies a central place within this manual and establishes definitively the appropriate manner by which to progress summarily prosecuted criminal charges.

Additionally, the Benchbook contains those portions of the Magistrates’ Courts Sentencing Guidelines which have already been issued by the Sentencing Group. As further guidelines are produced by the Magistrates’ Courts sub-committee of that group, these will likewise be added to the book, thus providing the judiciary in the adult court with a comprehensive and readily available resource to assist them in sentencing deliberations.

Other existing resources such as: the recently created table of orders ancillary to sentencing; and certain useful specimen directions have similarly been included to provide the Benchbook with added value for its primary users, the District Judges (Magistrates’ Courts). It is hoped that, in its totality, the Benchbook will come to be seen – and made use of – as the proverbial vade mecum of the Magistrates’ Courts tier.

Everything contained in this Benchbook will also be publicly available as an easily accessible electronic resource on the JSB website, so that both practitioners and members of the general public may see the way in which these courts are run. This transparency is only right in our era and I am hopeful that it will serve to enhance the public’s confidence in the administration of justice.

I wish to register my gratitude to Judge Fiona Bagnall, Presiding District Judge, for the significant work that she has done in ensuring the creation of this book and I warmly commend it to all who sit in the Magistrates’ Courts in this jurisdiction.

The Right Hon. Sir Declan Morgan
Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland
December, 2011​