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Justice of the Peace – Happy 650th Birthday

Thursday, January 13th, 2011

Dorchester’s Old Crown Court shall be playing host to the Dorset Magistrates Society this 25 January.

What’s the occasion? It’s the 650th anniversary of the lay magistrates’ role in the justice system of England and Wales.

This public event, if you are interested, will include lively mock court sessions featuring JPs in historic costumes sentencing members of the public down to the cells beneath the courtroom. Blue Badge Guides will also be on hand to show people down to the cells and to provide specialist knowledge about the building’s controversial history.

Dorchester Crown Court

Over the years Dorchester County Court played host to the famous Tolpuddle Martyrs. This is where a group of 6 people formed a trade union to protest about poor pay and wage cuts.

Also known as Justices of the Peace (JPs), magistrates have played a vital role in our legal system since 1361 when, during the reign of Edward III, “good and lawful men” were first appointed in every county in the land to “guard the peace”.
For the following 650 years and up until the present day, magistrates have been responsible for a large part of the judicial work carried out in England and Wales and, until the modernisation of local government in the 19th century, JPs also administered the country at a local level. It makes sense then that West Dorset District Council and the Dorset Magistrates Association are working together to mark this historic anniversary.

Sometimes referred to as “Justices of the Peace”, magistrates are volunteers that play a vital role in dealing with around 95 per cent of all criminal cases in England and Wales.


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