Transforming Summary Justice: Modernisation in the Lower Criminal Courts, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Transforming Summary Justice

Modernisation in the Lower Criminal Courts, 1st Edition

By Jenni Ward


164 pages

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Sweeping changes are being introduced into the lower-tier magistrates’ courts in England and Wales in efforts to modernise the system and speed up case processing. They concentrate on delivering prompt justice within a modern, efficient and technologically advanced system. But these transformations are fundamentally changing the way justice is delivered. This book analyses criminal court streamlining processes and argues that there are areas where due process protections are being undermined.

Transforming Summary Justice reports empirical research carried out with lay magistrates and criminal justice professionals. Views and experiences drawn from magistrates are valuable because of the central role they perform in lower court justice. Further, magistrates provide a wider understanding of the context in which the lower criminal courts operate and enable a critical appraisal of this unique style of ‘lay justice’.

This book is directed at students of criminology, criminal justice and socio-legal studies, who will find the debates stimulating and useful to engage with in contemporary analyses of criminal court justice. It will also be of interest to justice and legal professionals who are seeing swingeing alterations to the field in which they work. The book will have appeal in other common-law jurisdictions, where similar modifications to lower court justice are occurring, and also across Europe, where lay involvement in legal decision-making is being debated and becoming accepted practice.


"In an era of budget cuts and a search for more efficient criminal justice, Jenni Ward's Transforming Summary Justice provides new and important insights base. All who are interested in the future of summary justice at a time of austerity should read the book."

Julian V. Roberts, Professor of Criminology, Centre for Criminology, University of Oxford, UK and Fellow, Worcester College

"Transforming Summary Justice goes to the heart of the distinctive role and value of lay magistrates in the English legal system. Through detailed interviews combined with court observation, Ward deftly shows how broader changes, under the banner of modernization and professionalization, shape magistrates’ experience and delivery of local justice. It offers an up to date, valuable addition to the classic studies of English magistrates and their courts."

Sharyn Roach Anleu, Matthew Flinders Distinguished Professor, School of Social and Policy Studies, Flinders University, Australia

Table of Contents


1. Introduction

2. Transformations to Lower Court Summary Justice

3. The Magistrates’ Courts, Magistrates and Lay Justice

4. Magistrates, Motivations and Contributions to Justice

5. Magistrates’ Courts, Modernisation and the Future

6. Social Justice Meets Criminal Justice

7. Conclusion

About the Author

Jennifer Ward is a Senior Lecturer in Criminology of the School of Law at Middlesex University, London.

About the Series

Routledge Frontiers of Criminal Justice

Routledge Frontiers of Criminal Justice offers the very best in research on criminal justice systems around the world, offering fresh insights on a range of topics in criminal procedure, including policing, prisons, courts, youth justice, community measures, rehabilitation, victimology and forensics science.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Criminology