Justices of the Peace

Judicial and administrative duties

Aberdeen Sheriff CourtClick to enlarge image

Justices of the peace are lay magistrates who sit with a legally qualified adviser to deal with summary criminal cases. There are around 450 justices, who are drawn from all walks of life. Justices sit either alone or on a treble bench and deal with many driving offences such as speeding, careless driving, tachograph offences and driving without insurance. They also deal with less serious assault, breach of the peace, theft and other less serious crimes.  Their powers of punishment are limited to 60 days’ imprisonment or a fine of up to £2,500 or both and to disqualify drivers on a discretionary basis.

The office of Justice of the Peace dates back to 1609, originally involving administrative, policing and judicial functions. The current justice of the peace courts were created in 2007 to replace district courts, which were operated by local authorities. The Scottish Court Service is now responsible for the administration of Justice of the Peace courts, which are organised by sheriffdom rather than local authority area. Throughout their history, justices have remained lay people, dispensing criminal justice on a local basis.

Justices are appointed for five-year periods on the recommendation of Justice of the Peace Advisory Committees under procedures approved by the Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland.

For more information about becoming a Justice of the Peace click here.

Related FAQs

Q.Can a judge have another job?
Q.Do all judges wear robes? Why do judges wear different robes in civil and criminal courts?
Q.How do I address a judge in court?
Q.Why do judges wear wigs?

View all related FAQs

A day in the life of a justice of the peace

Aberdeen Sheriff Court

Read about the work of a justice of the peace during a day in court

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