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Browse the 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand
Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.



Justices of the Peace are honorary judicial officers appointed by the Governor-General by warrant on the recommendation of the Minister of Justice, in practice from nominations made by members of Parliament. In 1814 Thomas Kendall was appointed by the Governor of New South Wales as a Justice of the Peace to exercise jurisdiction in New Zealand. This appointment was almost certainly invalid, and the first regular appointment of Justices followed the establishment of British sovereignty over New Zealand in 1840.

The traditional responsibility of Justices for the preservation of law and order, made largely superfluous by the establishment of an efficient police force, has now disappeared in New Zealand. Formerly the judicial duties of Justices were extensive, and during our earlier history their part in the administration of justice was vital. But improved communications and the realisation that specialised experience is desirable for the sentencing of offenders has reduced their role. The principal functions of Justices in New Zealand now are the administration of oaths and the taking of declarations, the issue of search warrants and warrants of arrest, the preliminary hearing of indictable cases where no Magistrate is conveniently available, and the hearing of certain very minor criminal charges.

The number of Justices holding office at the end of 1962 was about 6,500.

by Bruce James Cameron, B.A., LL.M., Legal Adviser, Department of Justice, Wellington.


Bruce James Cameron, B.A., LL.M., Legal Adviser, Department of Justice, Wellington.