History of the JP

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A justice of the peace (JP) is a “puisne judicial officer” elected or appointed by means of a commission to keep the peace. Depending on the jurisdiction, they might dispense summary justice or merely deal with local administrative applications in common law jurisdictions. Justices of the peace are appointed or elected from the citizens of the jurisdiction in which they serve, and are (or were) usually not required to have a formal legal education in order to qualify for the office, but in some jurisdictions are required to have varying forms of training specifically for JPs.

History

The modern Justice of the Peace belongs to a centuries-old system of voluntary legal officers. The description of a person as a "Justice" comes from the fact that in earlier times, people who provided justice for the population in general came to have the term attached to their own name and role. The term "justice" ("Justiciar") had originally been used to describe the travelling judges, who moved from place to place throughout England, trying persons who had been accused of serious offences.

According to Her Majesty's Court Services of Great Britain the part played by magistrates and justices in the judicial system of England and Wales can be traced to the year 1195. In that year, Richard I ("the Lionheart" 1189-1199) of England commissioned certain knights to “preserve the peace” in unruly areas. They were responsible to the king for ensuring that the law was upheld, and were known as "keepers of the peace" a phrase that imported a police or militia function.

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