Skip Main Navigation
Share this page

History of the magistracy

Magistrates have existed for over 650 years and are an essential part of today’s judiciary.


Keepers of the peace

Richard I appoints first ‘keepers of the peace’.


Justice of the Peace Act

Justice of the Peace Act comes into effect under Edward III and the title ‘Justice of the Peace’ is introduced.


18th century

In the 18th century, magistrates were members of the landed gentry. As the need for a professional police force became apparent, so too did the need for a more diverse and professional magistracy.


First paid magistrate

The first paid professional magistrate is appointed.


Municipal Corporations Act

The Municipal Corporations Act enables boroughs to request the appointment of a paid or ‘stipendiary’ magistrate. Today, magistrates are volunteers who sit in their local communities.


First seven women appointed

Among the first seven women appointed as magistrates is Gertrude Tuckwell, who was involved with early MA training. Together they draw up a list of 172 other women suitable for appointment.


The 172 women are appointed to the magistracy in July 1920. After this, appointment was usually done by committees.


MA founded

Alderman Wilkins, a magistrate for Derby, proposes to establish an association of magistrates.


The Magistrates’ Court Act

The Magistrates' Court Act attempts to consolidate the jurisdiction, practice and procedures of the magistrates’ court.


Retirement age changes

The retirement age for magistrates is increased from 70 to 75.