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Thesis – Lay Magistracy in New Zealand (PDF file 13Mb)



The association acknowledges the generosity of long-serving member Dr Philip Harkness in permitting his doctoral thesis – Lay Magistracy in New Zealand – to be featured on the association’s website. Through his involvement for many years at meetings, conferences, training seminars and social functions, Philip has contributed richly to the development of our association.

Several articles written by Philip on JP matters have been published.

Philip’s doctoral thesis holds special importance for the future of lay magistracy as conducted in New Zealand by Justices of the Peace and Community Magistrates. Philip thanks especially the more than 1,000 current New Zealand JPs who contributed to his thesis-related research.

The association compliments and congratulates Philip on his major achievement and thanks him very much for its availability to all members.



Philip Vaughan HARKNESS
Doctor of Philosophy in Political Studies

The Lay Magistracy in New Zealand; Judicial Asset or Colonial Anachronism?

Philip Harkness received a Diploma of Journalism from the University of New Zealand, in the 1950s, and later graduated with a Bachelor of Journalism at the University of Missouri and an MA at Stanford University. His 45-year career in journalism involved senior newspaper editorial and managerial positions in New Zealand, the Pacific Islands, the United States and Europe, where he served two terms on the board of the International Press Institute in Zurich. But it was his 1964 appointment as the youngest judicial Justice of the Peace in New Zealand that instigated his post-career study of lay magistracy. His PhD research was superuised successively by Dr Helena Catt, Professor Andrew Sharp, and Dr Joe Atkinson.

Philip’s thesis is a comparative investigation of the New Zealand lay magistracy and like institutions in other, mainly British Commonwealth, jurisdictions. It examines the case for the long-established principle of English justice, a person’s right to be judged by his or her peers, assesses its relevance in the context of a modern judicial system, and evaluates the practicality and effectiveness of the New Zealand system as against overseas comparators. Combining an historical account of the lay magistracy both here and abroad with the first major survey of the New Zealand JP population, it assembles a wide array of evidence from official reports and statistics, parliamentary debates, professional association and district court files, and secondary sources relevant to the role and effectiveness of the lay magistracy. It argues that the New Zealand lay magistracy is worth retaining, and offers a detailed policy prescription for its reform.

Philip’s research has been consulted by Royal Federation of New Zealand, Justices’ Associations, the Ministry of Justice and the Chief District Court Judge. It has also resulted in several articles in the New Zealand Herald and professional publications. Philip plans to return to the University of Cambridge next year to conduct further research on the recent reintroduction of lay magistracy in the District courts of Scotland.



Philip investigated the case for the New Zealand lay magistracy by comparative examination of equivalent judicial institutions in British Commonwealth countries. He found it worth retaining and proposed reforms.