Justices of the Peace

They were local people, not great magnates, but were definitely not just ordinary villagers, like the members of the tithings. JPs gained their powers only gradually. In 1344 they were called “Guardians of the Peace”. By 1361 they were called Justices of the Peace and allowed the considerable expenses of 4/- (20p) a day. By the end of the Middle Ages JPs were the mainstay of local government and law enforcement and became the main local officials responsible for crime prevention. Monarchs found JPs useful and gave them more work to do: one 16th century JP complained of “stacks of statutes”. JPs had the great advantage to the government of being unpaid. For their part, they liked the power and the prestige of running their locality.

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