1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Peace, Breach of the

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PEACE, BREACH OF THE. Theoretically all criminal offences cognizable by English law involve a breach of the king's peace, and all indictments whether for offences against the common law or by statute conclude “against the peace of our lord the king, his crown and dignity.” Historically this phrase, now legally superfluous, represents the last trace of the process by which the royal courts assume jurisdiction over all offences, and gradually extruded the jurisdiction of the sheriff and of lords of manors and franchises, making crime a matter of national concern as distinguished from civil wrongs or infractions of the rights of local magnates, or of the rights of the tribal chiefs of the Teutonic conquerors of Britain. The peace of the king was sworn on his accession or full recognition, and the jurisdiction of his courts to punish all violations of that peace was gradually asserted. The completion of this process is marked by the institution of the office of justice of the peace.

In modern times the expression “breach of the peace” is usually limited to offences involving actual tumult, disturbances or disorder. As regards such offences, although they do not fall into the class of grave crimes described as felonies, officers of police and even private persons have larger powers and duties, as to immediate arrest without waiting for judicial warrant, than they possess as to other minor offences (see Arrest). Justices of the peace have under early statutes and the commission of the peace power to take sureties of the peace from persons who are threatening to commit a breach of the peace, and it is within the power of any court on conviction of any misdemeanour and of many felonies to require the offender to enter into a recognizance (q.v.) to keep the peace.