Magistrates' courts in Hong Kong are presided over by 'Permanent' and 'Special' Magistrates. Permanent Magistrates are professionally qualified. They come from the legal profession. Special Magistrates need not be professionally qualified but can be appointed from persons with experience of the courts; they may have been court clerks, court interpreters or lay prosecutors. There are certain professional qualifications required to become a Special Magistrate.
Permanent Magistrates have criminal jurisdiction over a wide range of indictable and summary offenses meriting up to 2 years of imprisonment and a fine of HK$100,000; a sentence of up to 3 years can be imposed in certain circumstances. Special Magistrates deal with minor offences and cannot impose a prison sentence and are limited to impose a maximum fine of HK$50,000 only.