The Magistrate’s Court: the story of a pedant’s comeuppance

11th April 2016  

One thing every legal pedant knows is where the apostrophe is in the term Magistrates’ Court.

It may look ugly, especially on a public sign, but it should be after the “s” – that is, if there is an apostrophe at all.

Or so you would think.

One day I was walking through a town – not a big town but the biggest town around – and I saw a sign which said Magistrate’s Court.


Aha, I gloated – for such a mistake in such a place is a treasure for any pedant.

There is a misplaced apostrophe on an official court sign, I announced smugly.


No, came the devastating response, there is in fact only one Magistrate.

And it was true.

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5 thoughts on “The Magistrate’s Court: the story of a pedant’s comeuppance”

  1. Bizarre, since according to it states:

    All criminal cases start in a magistrates’ court.

    Cases are heard by either:

    2 or 3 magistrates
    a district judge
    There isn’t a jury in a magistrates’ court.

    I was fairly certain that a magistrate cannot sit alone and the government’s own website says the spelling is clearly magistrates’ court.

    Might I suggest you return to this place of the aberrant apostrophe and remind them of both their spelling error and their possible breach of Court Rules?

      1. Is this somewhere within England & Wales? (Lots of jurisdictions have magistrates, but they are not generally the same thing as in E&W).

  2. I did leave a comment, but was eaten …

    I think I know the answer to the conundrum (I have inside knowledge as I think it is in my home town) which is that it is in a different jurisdiction where there are no lay magistrates, just a full time one and various relief magistrates (part-time).

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