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HMRC internal manual

Debt Management and Banking Manual

Enforcement action: summary proceedings: hearings and orders in the magistrates' court: addressing the magistrates' court

Magistrates (known as ‘the bench’ when they are sitting) do not expect you to be legally qualified but will expect you to:

  • be polite and deferential
  • be familiar with each case
  • speak clearly and briefly.

You should address:

  • the presiding magistrate(s) as ‘your Worship(s)’
  • the clerk of the court as ‘Sir’ or ‘Madam’ as appropriate.

If you believe the bench has misunderstood you, or you make a mistake in anything you say, begin ‘With respect, your Worships’ and explain yourself fully.

If your explanation is ignored or rejected:

  • accept the decision but if you feel you are right and the point is worth pursuing
  • discuss it with the clerk of the court at the first opportunity outside the court.

Magistrates and justices’ clerks are aware of your legal right to take proceedings. You do not need a detailed knowledge of the magistrates’ courts legislation. However, if you are challenged on any matter that you cannot answer:

  • ask for an adjournment and if you cannot resolve the matter locally
  • telephone the Enforcement Technical Team, Shipley for advice.