Stipendiary magistrate

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Stipendiary magistrates, magistrates in receipt of a stipend, are the most junior judges in the Scottish judiciary. As of 2014 there are only 4.9 full-time equivalent posts and the only court they sit in is the Justice of the Peace Court in Glasgow. The Courts Reform (Scotland) Bill, making its way through the Scottish Parliament during 2014, proposes the abolition of the post upon the creation of the new post of summary sheriff. 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 Bill any stipendiary magistrates in post on implementation of the legislation will become summary sheriffs and would automatically transfer unless they decline the appointment.

Summary sheriffs will be able to sit in justice of the peace courts but will only be able to 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 have the power to appoint stipendiary magistrates but the power has only been used in the Sheriffdom of Glasgow and Strathkelvin.

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

Stipendiary Magistrates are approved solicitors or advocates and they handle similar summary cases as sheriffs, for example drink driving, dangerous driving and assault cases. They can impose sentences of up to 1 year imprisonment and fines of up to £10,000.

Stipendiary magistrates in other countries[edit]

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.