Justices of the Peace Act 1361
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The Justices of the Peace Act 1361 (34 Edw 3 c 1) is an Act of the
Parliament of England The Parliament of England was the legislature of the Kingdom of England from the 13th century until 1707 when it was replaced by the Parliament of Great Britain. Parliament evolved from the great council of bishops and peers that advised ...
. The Act, although amended, remains enforceable in England and Wales in 2022.


Background

Maintaining the peace had long been a concern of society and part of the
common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent, judge-made law, or case law) is the body of law created by judges and similar quasi-judicial tribunals by virtue of being stated in written opinions."The common law is not a brooding omniprese ...
, but that aspect of the common law was enshrined into
statute A statute is a formal written enactment of a legislative authority that governs the legal entities of a city, state, or country by way of consent. Typically, statutes command or prohibit something, or declare policy. Statutes are rules made by le ...
by the enactment of the Justices of the Peace Act 1361. The primary reason for the legislation was due to concerns about soldiers returning from the war in France, and the potential of them not reintegrating back into their communities as peaceful citizens. The Act defined who was eligible to become a
justice of the peace A justice of the peace (JP) is a judicial officer of a lower or '' puisne'' court, elected or appointed by means of a commission ( letters patent) to keep the peace. In past centuries the term commissioner of the peace was often used with the sa ...
, their duties and their powers. It detailed that each county assigned a
lord Lord is an appellation for a person or deity who has authority, control, or power over others, acting as a master, chief, or ruler. The appellation can also denote certain persons who hold a title of the peerage in the United Kingdom, or are ...
and three of four worthy people to become justices of the peace. The role of a justice of the peace was to deal with 'offenders, rioters, and all other barators'. It empowered them to apprehend, arrest, and punish them, in accordance with the 'law and customs of the realm'. The Act empowered a justice of the peace to imprison offenders, bind them over with sureties to be of good behaviour towards
the Crown The Crown is the state in all its aspects within the jurisprudence of the Commonwealth realms and their subdivisions (such as the Crown Dependencies, overseas territories, provinces, or states). Legally ill-defined, the term has differe ...
and people of the realm, and set fines, specifying the fine should be 'reasonable and just' according to the circumstances of the offence.


Ireland - the Land War

The Act applied to
Ireland Ireland ( ; ga, √Čire ; Ulster-Scots: ) is an island in the North Atlantic Ocean, in north-western Europe. It is separated from Great Britain to its east by the North Channel, the Irish Sea, and St George's Channel. Ireland is the sec ...
, but was not of much importance until the so-called Land War of 1879-1882, a highly organised campaign for tenant's rights. Lay magistrates, anxious to find a legal device to suppress the mass meetings which were a key part of the campaign, sought legal advice from the central government. The Crown's legal advice was that they should invoke the power in the 1361 Act to bind offenders over to keep the peace. The advice was controversial due to the reference in the Act to "rioters": it was argued that since the meetings were largely peaceful they could not possibly come within the definition of riot. Due to these concerns, widespread use of the Act soon ceased.


The role of justice of the peace

The role of justice of the peace, now often known as magistrates, originates from the Justices of the Peace Act 1361. The powers and responsibilities of them have altered over their long history. A justice of the peace held powerful sentencing powers such as
hanging Hanging is the suspension of a person by a noose or ligature around the neck.Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed. Hanging as method of execution is unknown, as method of suicide from 1325. The '' Oxford English Dictionary'' states that hanging ...
, whipping and
penal transportation Penal transportation or transportation was the relocation of convicted criminals, or other persons regarded as undesirable, to a distant place, often a colony, for a specified term; later, specifically established penal colonies became their ...
. Justices of the peace gained an array of duties such as dealing with local infrastructures such as roads and bridges, and regulating weights and measures used by traders. Many of the duties of justice of the peace, due to the development of local administration, were transferred to
local government Local government is a generic term for the lowest tiers of public administration within a particular sovereign state. This particular usage of the word government refers specifically to a level of administration that is both geographically-lo ...
authorities. , about 21,500 volunteers service as a justice of the peace in magistrates' courts. Typically, they deal with low-level offences and crimes, and deal with 95% of criminal cases taken to court. The maximum sentence a magistrates' court can impose is six months imprisonment for a single offence, or 12 months imprisonment for multiple offences, and an unlimited fine. A magistrates' court is the starting point for the majority of the most serious types of crime that are later committed to the
Crown Court The Crown Court is the court of first instance of England and Wales responsible for hearing all indictable offences, some either way offences and appeals lied to it by the magistrates' courts. It is one of three Senior Courts of England and W ...
. An appeal court against a decision made in a Magistrate Court is the appeal is heard by two Justice of the Peace sitting with a Judge. In addition to criminal cases, magistrates also hear youth court cases, involving people under 18 years old, civil cases, such as non-payment of
Council Tax Council Tax is a local taxation system used in England, Scotland and Wales. It is a tax on domestic property, which was introduced in 1993 by the Local Government Finance Act 1992, replacing the short-lived Community Charge, which in turn re ...
, and sit in
family proceedings court {{CourtsEnglandWales In England and Wales, family proceedings court was the name given to a magistrates' court when members of the court's family panel sat to hear a family case. It was a court of first instance in England and Wales that deal ...
s.


Breach of the peace

The Justices of the Peace Act 1361 permitted a justice of the peace to bind over people who disturbed the peace to provide recognisance to ensure their future good conduct. A breach of the peace can occur at any place, including private houses. The modern definition of a breach of the peace is: Any person can make an arrest or a preventative measure when, * "a breach of the peace occurs in his presence, or * he reasonably believes that such a breach is about to occur, whether or not there has yet been a breach' Binding over orders originate from the Justices of the Peace Act 1361. A person can be taken to court to be bound over, formally known as being bound over to keep the peace, after 2013, the specifics of what a person cannot do is tighter and clearly defined on the bind-over order. A breach of the peace is a civil law case, although it uses the criminal standard of proof '
beyond reasonable doubt Beyond a reasonable doubt is a legal standard of proof required to validate a criminal conviction in most adversarial legal systems. It is a higher standard of proof than the balance of probabilities standard commonly used in civil cases, bec ...
'. After 7 October 2013, the Criminal Practice Direction
013 013 is a music venue in Tilburg, the Netherlands. The venue opened in 1998 and replaced the ''Noorderligt'', the ''Bat Cave'' and the ''MuziekKantenWinkel''. 013 is the largest popular music venue in the southern Netherlands. There are two conce ...
EWCA Crim 1631 contain the full court procedures for Binding over orders for any matter, including breach of the peace. A person must agree to be bound over. In a magistrates' court, a person refusing to be bound over is dealt with under the
Magistrates' Courts Act 1980 The Magistrates' Courts Act 1980 (c. 43) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It is a consolidation Act.The Public General Acts and General Synod Measures 1980. HMSO. London. . Part IV. Pages ''i'', ''j'' and i. It codifies the p ...
, and liable to imprisonment up to a maximum of six months or until they comply with the order. In the Crown Court, such a refusal is dealt with as contempt of court.


See also

*
Binding over In the law of England and Wales and some other common law jurisdictions, binding over is an exercise of certain powers by the criminal courts used to deal with low-level public order issues. Both magistrates' courts and the Crown Court may issue ...
* Breach of the peace * Halsbury's Statutes, *
Magistrate (England and Wales) Magistrates are trained volunteers, selected from the local community, who deal with a wide range of criminal and civil proceedings. They are also known as Justices of the Peace. In the adult criminal court, magistrates decide on offences whi ...
* Justices of the Peace Act


References


External links


The Justices of the Peace Act 1361
as originally passed.
The Justices of the Peace Act 1361
as amended from the National Archives. {{UK legislation Acts of the Parliament of England 1360s in law 1361 in England