Justices of Peace are persons appointed to keep the peace within certain prescribed limits, for which they hold a commission from the Crown with authority to act judicially in criminal causes, and in some matters of a civil nature arising within their jurisdiction. The origin of justices of the peace, or magistrates, can be traced back to the time of Edward I., for by statutes passed in the early part of this reign it was directed that every county and town should be well kept, and that upon any robbery or felony committed therein hueand-cry should be raised upon the felon, and they that kept the town were to follow him with hue-andcry from town to town with all the town and the towns near, and, failing capture, the hundred was liable for the damage. In the reign of Edward III. conservators of the peace were appointed whose duty it was to assist the sheriff, coroner, and constable, and they were empowered to imprison and punish rioters and offenders. These conservators were afterwards designated justices of the peace. By a more recent statute of Queen Elizabeth's reign the sheriff or constable was required to make the pursuit both with horse and foot; and to the present day hue-and-cry in that manner may still be made under that and the previous statutes; but this is seldom, if ever, now made, owing to the effective, if not so speedy, remedy which is provided in the ordinary police and criminal processes for the apprehension and punishment of offenders.
Justices of the peace are either appointed for particular counties or for boroughs. The former have been usually only appointed on the recommendation of the Lord-Lieutenants of the counties, the propriety of which has been recently debated in Parliament.