Ever Wondered What A JP Does?
by David Hudson
The role of a Justice of the Peace (JP) has existed since 1195 when King Richard 1 created the role of “keepers of the peace”.
The appointed knights were required to ensure the law was upheld and “the King’s peace” was preserved. Since that time the roles and responsibilities have changed significantly, but with most nations colonised by the English still retaining similar positions in their legal systems. In Tasmania, JPs are appointed by the Attorney-General to perform a wide range of administrative and quasi-judicial services for the community, all on a voluntary basis. These include witnessing a wide range of documents (including affidavits and statutory declarations) and certifying copies of documents. It should be noted that many nations do not permit Australian JPs to provide these services for international documents and processes. In addition, JPs are called upon by TasPol to witness drug disposal, attend juvenile interviews where a related adult is not available and consider search warrants for approval.
Upon completion of specified training provided by the Magistrates Court, JPs can be appointed as Bench Justices to preside, mostly in after-hours courts, in hearings for bail, and applications for interim family violence orders and restraint orders. A Bench Justice may grant bail or remand in custody for all matters brought before them except murder and terrorism, or a Supreme Court arrest warrant. Some Bench Justices are also authorised to preside in Preliminary Proceedings for the Supreme Court for the defence to cross-examine prosecution witnesses to get a fuller understanding of the prosecution evidence before going to trial. The increasing use of electronic documents and communications is requiring a review of the way in which JPs can undertake their duties without actual documents to consider. Already some activities have been modified to assist in situations where COVID restrictions mean that the JP and their client cannot have in-person contact. There are JPs located all around Tasmania. If you need to contact a JP or understand what a JP can do, the quickest way is to go to www. justice.tas.gov.au/justice-of-the-peace. All you need is to do is to use your suburb, postcode, language or, if you know a JP, their surname, to search the list of JPs in Tasmania.
New JPs are only appointed if there is an identified need in a particular region, or where an applicant is employed in an area of need and can provide JP services at their place of employment. You don’t need to have a legal background to become a JP – you will be provided training to ensure you are fully aware of the legally important roles and responsibilities.
The Tasmanian Society of JPs Inc. (which is celebrating its centenary this year) has JPs on duty at:
Hobart Service Tasmania – Thursday and Friday, 10am to 2pm
Rosny Park Service Tasmania – Tuesday, 9.30am to 4.30pm
Glenorchy Council Chambers – Monday, 10am to 2pm
Kingborough Council Chambers – Wednesday, 10am to 2pm