History of the Royal Federation of New Zealand Justices' Associations
In New Zealand
The first appointment of a Justice in New Zealand was in 1814 when Governor Macquarie of New South Wales appointed the missionary Thomas Kendall as a Justice "in the Bay of Islands in New Zealand and throughout the islands of New Zealand and those immediately contiguous thereto".
In 1840, after New Zealand had become a British colony, the first regular appointments of Justices were made. The Royal Charter of 1840, which constituted New Zealand a separate colony, required the Government to include in the Legislative Council three senior Justices of the Peace.
It is said that in the early days of colonisation Justices of the Peace were considered to be in some measure the representatives of the settlers, and indeed, in a number of districts, Justices identified themselves with the popular agitation for self government.
These conditions have long since passed, and the functions of modern Justices in New Zealand are now more limited than in former times. Notwithstanding their more restricted powers, it remains true that Justices of the Peace are citizens given special duties and powers. It is important for all Justices to remember that their office is an ancient and honourable one.
In accepting and holding office, Justices should constantly remind themselves of these factors:
• Although there is a certain status, which is in itself honourable, the position is not an "honour" but one involving serious duties and responsibilities.
• In exercising the powers conferred by the appointment, Justices may affect the fundamental freedoms and rights of a citizen.
• It is thus the duty of Justices to be thoroughly familiar with the limits of their powers and with the proper manner of exercising the associated responsibilities.
• Justices have the important responsibility of assisting in preserving the rule of law in this country.
• In keeping with the status accorded, Justices should seek to uphold the law not only in the office of Justice of the Peace, but also in their private and working lives.
The solemn and dignified words forming part of the judicial oath, which all Justices swear or affirm upon appointment, should be kept firmly in mind:
"I will do right to all manner of people after the laws and usages of New Zealand, without fear or favour, affection or ill will."
Long long ago....In England
Conservators, Wardens, or Keepers of the Peace have existed in England since ancient times but it was not until 1361, when a statute in the reign of Edward III gave them the power of trying felonies, that they acquired the more honourable appellation of "Justices". An earlier statute in 1327 had taken the election of Conservators of the Peace from the people and had given it to the King.
The Act of 1361 provided, amongst other things, "That in every county of England shall be assigned for the keeping of the peace, one lord and with him three or four of the most worthy of the county, with some learned in the law, and they shall have the power to restrain the Offenders, Rioters, and all other Barators, and to pursue, arrest, take and chastise them according to their Trespass or Offence".
That Act therefore envisaged that peace should be kept and justice administered in each county by a group having a noble as a leader assisted by "some learned in the law". To this day Justices are lay people who are assisted in England by Justices Clerks and in New Zealand by court officials.
The duties of the early Justices were many and onerous, and included supervising the accuracy of weights and measures, the seizing of wine sold for excessive prices, and assisting those whose homes were burned. Justices had great authority over the lives and liberties of those brought before them.
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