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Our History Recorded in New Book

Ric Carlyon - Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The ‘Year of the Justice of the Peace", during which we celebrated 200 years of Justices of Peace in New Zealand, has been appropriately crowned with publication of a book tracing our history.

“Reading the Riot Act*, A 200 Year History of Justices of the Peace in New Zealand” by Philip Harkness chronicles the days of the first J.P., Thomas Kendall, and other early Justices (this chapter’s subtitled ‘Rough Justice’) through to the present day. The story ends with challenges supporting the case for non-partisan appointments of Justices of the Peace and greater deployment of Justices of the Peace to relieve the workload in District Courts.

Dr Philip Harkness is very well-positioned to write the book: his thesis was about New Zealand’s lay magistracy, he’s been a Justice of the Peace for more than 50 years during which time he has undertaken both Judicial duties on the Bench and Ministerial duties. He’s a former President of Waikato Justices of the Peace Association and is a Life Member of the Auckland Association.  He says in the Preface that this account is “not intended as an academic treatise but rather as a wide-ranging account of the adoption and development in New Zealand of British common justice…”
Philip Harkness has achieved his objective with an easily read text, accompanied by illustrations, telling the story, warts-and-all, from the earliest days of colonisation.

The book is dedicated to the memory of Henry Augustus Thompson, a young Justice of the Peace who was brutally murdered on June 17th 1843 in the execution of his duty at the infamous Wairau Massacre. The book is also in recognition of countless Justices of the Peace who over 200 years have served the New Zealand public in many ways.

*The Riot Act which helps give the book its title was, until 1961, New Zealand law providing for a J.P. to warn off members of unruly crowds, assemblies or gatherings, ordering them to disperse. Those who interfered with the Justice of the Peace reading the Riot Act might he imprisoned, along with anyone lingering in assembly more than an hour after the Riot Act was read. Philip Harkness also points out in his book that any Justice of the Peace who declined to read the Riot Act was also liable to a term of imprisonment!

Copies of “Reading the Riot Act” are available from the Registrar, Roger Brookes and arrangements can be made to pay the cost, $30, by direct credit on-line.

200 Years Apart - Same Message - “Happy Christmas”

Ric Carlyon - Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Preparations were underway, exactly 200 years ago today, to celebrate Christmas with the first church service on New Zealand soil.

It was to take place at Oihi, Bay of Islands, led by Mission head, Rev Samuel Marsden, and attended by, among others, Thomas Kendall, New Zealand’s first Justice of the Peace who had arrived just days before as part of the Mission to introduce Christianity to Aotearoa.

Reverend Samuel Marsden : Led the first Christian Service on N.Z. soil

The 200th anniversary will be celebrated tomorrow with a huge gathering at Oihi.

Since December 1814 the Christian message has continued, J.Ps have served their communities and Christmas greetings have been exchanged.

“Especially at this Christmas which is a special milestone for J.P.s,” says President Colin Davis, “I wish all members of our Association Seasons Greetings, safe holidays and a prosperous New Year.”

Shipping News : “Active” sails

Ric Carlyon - Sunday, July 27, 2014

Kororareka, (Russell) Bay of Islands 25th July 1814

The brigantine “Active” sailed today for Botany Bay having been a familiar sight in Bay of Islands this past month.

“Active“, Captain Dillon, is returning to Sydney-town having brought missionaries Thomas Kendall and William Hall to New Zealand, their task to ascertain current attitudes among Maori towards missionaries and settlers. Long-time and sometimes impatient advocate of establishing Christian missionaries here, the Reverend Samuel Marsden, commissioned both the ship and the persons as an “advance party” to make certain future European visitors won’t meet the same dreadful and unforgettable fate as the ship “Boyd”. 6 years ago the ship was sacked by the natives. Most of its crew and passengers were killed, some cannibalised.

Kendall returns to Marsden with favourable signs that a mission might be established. Since their arrival here both Misters Kendall and Hall have travelled throughout the Bay of Islands, and a little inland, meeting Maori chiefs.

The visitors have been amicably received throughout and have persuaded a number of chiefly personages to return with them to Botany Bay aboard the “Active”, namely Ngapuhi chiefs Ruatara, Hongi Hika, Korokoro, Te Nganga, Punahou and Hongi's son Ripiro.

Their appearance in Sydney-town will almost certainly persuade Governor Macquarie to allow departures for New Zealand and to encourage Marsden to bring Christianity to these islands. This  will be greatly assisted if, as envisaged, the natives give assurances of a peaceful reception for all future missionaries and settlers.

Before departure Captain Dillon estimated the voyage across the Tasman, given favourable conditions, would take about a month.

Year of the JP begins

Ric Carlyon - Monday, March 03, 2014

‘Year of the JP’ kicked off this weekend, appropriately in the Bay of Islands where New Zealand’s first Justice of the Peace, Thomas Kendall, began duties in 1814, 200 years ago. The milestone was the featured theme at the Justices of the Peace annual conference held at Waitangi this weekend. The Mihi was held at Whare Waikairo in the Treaty Grounds (below)

The Royal Federation of New Zealand Justices’ Associations also took the opportunity to launch year-long activities to celebrate two centuries of continuous service by JPs.

Delegates were given detailed accounts of the life and times of Thomas Kendall, and the history of JPs over the decades, by eminent historians Dame Claudia Orange, Dr Phillip Harkness and others.  The conference didn’t only dwell on the past but considered future services JPs might be providing, the need to keep abreast of technological changes and what these will mean for the way JPs serve the public.

The large attendance at the JPs’ s 86th Annual Conference at Waitangi almost overwhelmed facilities, but the host committee’s organisation and management ensured a successful and enjoyable conference. Delegates thought the 200th anniversary of Thomas Kendall J.P. arriving in New Zealand had been well and truly celebrated.  

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