Stipendiary magistrate

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Stipendiary magistrates, magistrates in receipt of a stipend, were the most junior judges in the Scottish judiciary. As of 2014 there were only 4.9 full-time equivalent posts and the only court they sit in was the Justice of the Peace Court in Glasgow. The Courts Reform (Scotland) Act 2014, passed by the Scottish Parliament, abolished the post with the creation of the new post of summary sheriff.

The intention is that there will be a larger number of summary sheriffs, with around 60 of them sitting in more justice of the peace courts and sheriff courts, throughout the country. Under the Act any stipendiary magistrates in post on implementation of the legislation became summary sheriffs and transferred unless they declined appointment.

Summary sheriffs are able to sit in justice of the peace courts and sheriff courts. In justice of the peace courts they can exercise the same summary criminal powers as a justice of the peace. However, when they sit in a sheriff court they will exercise the same powers as a sheriff in relation to summary criminal business.


All 6 sheriffs principal had the power to appoint stipendiary magistrates but the power had only been used in the Sheriffdom of Glasgow and Strathkelvin.

Stipendiary magistrates exercised the same powers as a sheriff (judge) when dealing with summary criminal cases. Like sheriffs, stipendiary magistrates wore wig and gown in court.

Stipendiary magistrates were approved solicitors or advocates, and they handled similar summary cases as sheriffs, for example drink driving, dangerous driving and assault cases. They could impose sentences of up to one year's imprisonment and fines of up to £10,000.

Stipendiary magistrates in other countries

Stipendiary magistrates have also existed in Australian law, Canadian law, English law and New Zealand law.

The post was abolished in England and Wales in August 2000 when their role was passed to district judges.

The post was abolished in New Zealand in 1980 when it was renamed to district court judge.

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