What are Justices of the Peace?
Justices of the Peace (JPs) are respected citizens who are entrusted by the community to take on special responsibilities within the Justice system.
What are their responsibilities?
JPs perform a wide range of services, from witnessing the signing of documents to dealing with certain matters in court.
Are JPs paid?
No, this is an honorary position. JPs cannot accept payment for their services.
Are they lawyers?
Most are not. Though some lawyers are JPs, you do not need a law degree to become a JP.
Does this mean that JPs are untrained?
No, but for many years there was no formal training. People were appointed as JPs because of their standing in the community; they were known as honest citizens who could be trusted to carry out their duties conscientiously.
However, in 1991, new legislation was passed to ensure that JPs have a good basic understanding of the legal system.
At the same time, the JP system was reorganised into three new categories. JPs are now offered training so they can carry out the duties of the category they choose to belong to.
Why were new categories introduced?
The new categories allow JPs to choose the level of responsibility they wanted to take on.
Under the old system there was no choice. Although these JPs sometimes known as'old style'JPs had a very wide range of duties, from constituting a court to witnessing signatures, the majority were only performing the witnessing duties. Not many were constituting courts.
What are the categories and what duties do they have?
1. Commissioners for Declarations (C.dec) have purely administrative duties. This category includes Justices of the Peace (Commissioners for Declarations), abbreviated as JP (C.dec). These duties are:
witnessing signatures on documents
certifying true copies of documents. They do not deal with any type of court process. 2. Justices of the Peace (Qualified) have the same duties as C.decs, plus:
issuing search warrants
remanding defendants (returning defendants
to custody until their case can be heard)
adjourning court hearings granting bail. Justices of the Peace (Magistrates Court) have the same duties as JPs (Qual) plus:
Dealing with simple offences where the defendant has pleaded guilty
Can anyone apply to become a C.dec or JP?
Yes, you can become a C.dec or a JP as long as you are:
an Australian citizen by birth, descent or grant
at least 18 years old
of good character
registered on the State Electoral Roll.
Note: If you have any history of criminal or traffic offences (e.g. speeding fines), you must disclose them on your application form, no matter how long ago the incidents occurred. They will be considered by the Registrar of Justices of the Peace and Commissioners for Declarations when your suitability is assessed.
How do I apply?
The procedure varies according to the category you choose.
Commissioner for Declarations:
Approach your local State Member of Parliament and obtain an application form
Complete the form and sign the attached certificate
Return the form to your local Member who must sign it. The two referee reports that accompany the application form must also be completed and returned. All this information should then be sent to the Registrar of Justices of the Peace and Commissioners for Declarations (see the address at the end of this fact sheet).
There is no exam and no training is necessary~ However, it is highly recommended that you buy the manual, Administrative duties of Commissioners for Declarations. This manual is available from the Justices of the Peace Branch, your local Magistrates Court or can be downloaded from the Department of Justice and Attorney General website (www.justice.qld.gov.au).
While you may not want to become a JP (Qual) you may also wish to do the training course which covers the powers and responsibilities of a C.dec.
Justice of the Peace (Qualified):
Phone the Justices of the Peace Branch of the Department of Justice and Attorney General on 1300 301 147 and ask for the dates and locations of the next round of JP exams, or go to the Department of Justice and Attorney General website (www.justice.qld.gov.au).
Pass the exam
Obtain, complete and return an application form (see steps for C.decs).
You are not required to do the formal training but you must pass the exam. It is highly recommended that you buy the manual, The Duties of Justices of the Peace (Qualified) which is available from the Justices of the Peace Branch, your local Magistrates Court or can be downloaded from the Department of Justice and Attorney General website (www.justice.qld.gov.au).
Justice of the Peace (Magistrates Court):
Currently, the appointment of JPs (MagCt) is restricted to remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities where there is no resident magistrate to conduct court hearings.
Do 1 have to be a C.dec before seeking appointment as a JP (Qual)?
No. All you have to do is pass the JP (Qual) exam and take the completed application form, with the two referee reports, to your local state Member of Parliament.
How can I ensure that I pass the exam?
While it is not mandatory, it is strongly recommended that you attend a training course and study the manual, The Duties of Justices of the Peace (Qualified).
Do I have to buy these manuals?
No. All the publications listed above can be borrowed from your local State Member of Parliament. However, having your own copies of the manuals would be to your advantage as references in your role as a JP or C.dec. These manuals can be bought from the Justices of the Peace Branch, your local Magistrates Court or can be downloaded from the Department of Justice and Attorney General Website (www.justice.qld.gov.au).
What will identify me as a C.dec or JP?
The Justices of the Peace Branch has a range of badges of office available only to registered C.decs and JPs (Qual). They include badges, scarf pins, key rings, cuff links, wall plaques, letterbox signs and window stickers.
Phone 1300 301 147 to order any of these. Cash, cheques, money orders or credit card payment will be accepted. (Your registration will be checked before they are supplied.)
You can also nominate to have your name and contact details included in a listing on the JPs section of the Department's web site (www.justice.qld.gov.au).
How will I keep in touch with the latest developments?
A bulletin called Justice Papers is distributed annually to all JPs and C.decs. It will keep you informed of changes to legislation and other relevant information.
Justice Papers and other new information is also regularly posted on the JPs section of the Department's web site.
The Justices of the Peace Branch also conducts training seminars throughout Queensland to provide information on changes to legislation and procedures effecting JPs and C.decs.These seminars are at the invitation of the state member for your electorate.
Are JPs and C.decs recognised for their services?
Yes. A system of awards for long service has been established to show appreciation for the years of dedicated community service given by many JPs.
If you have served for 25 years or more, you are eligible for this award. Contact your local State Member for nomination.
Where can I get more information?
The Office of your local State Member of Parliament
Justices of the Peace Branch Department of Justice and Attorney General GPO Box 149 Brisbane Qld 4001. Information Hotline: 1300 301 147
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