What is a Justice of the Peace?
Many people wonder just what is a justice of the peace? Justices of the Peace are independent and impartial witnesses to legal documents. A justice of the peace may be required to perform a variety of judicial tasks. A justice of the peace in Australia is generally someone who is well regarded in the community and has been authorised to witness and sign statutory declarations and affidavits, as well as certify copies of original papers. The criteria for appointment vary from state to state. If you want to find a justice of the peace, search our online register to find a JP near you.
The following are some of the responsibilities of a Justice of the Peace:
- Witnessing oaths
- Witnessing affidavits
- Take statutory declarations and affirmations
- Witness signatures
- Attest to the execution of a document
- Certify a true copy of an original document and its authenticity
In the state of Queensland, a "justice of the peace (qualified)" can issue search warrants and arrest warrants in collaboration with another justice of the peace (qualified) to establish a magistrates' court for remanding detainees in custody, allowing bail, and delaying court hearings.
Eligibility to Become a Justice of the Peace
To be appointed as a justice of the peace and appear on a justice of the peace list and justice of the peace register, an applicant must fulfill the following requirements for an appointment:
The Attorney General has issued a code of conduct for JPs which sets out the high standards of conduct that a JP is expected to uphold.
- Be an Australian citizen with a minimum of 12 months residence in Queensland.
- Enrolled on the State electoral roll
- Of good character and reputation, including (preferably) a record of community service.
- Demonstrate a willingness and capacity to fulfill all the duties of a Justice of the Peace when called upon.
- Not insolvent under administration.
- Over 18 years of age
Difference Between a Justice of the Peace (Qualified) and a Commissioner for Declarations (Cdec)
There are many similarities between Justices of the Peace and Commissioners for Declarations (Cdec), but also some important distinctions. In essence, a Justice of the Peace can perform all the tasks of a Commissioner for Declarations, but also has additional responsibilities and authority.
A Commissioner for Declarations (Cdec) can undertake the following duties:
- Statutory Declarations
- Certify Copies
- Powers of Attorney
- Land Titles Documents
- Other documents where prescribed
A Justice of the Peace (Qualified) can perform the above and further judicial duties including:
- Issuing summonses
- Issuing arrest and search warrants
- Attending records of interview
- Other documents where prescribed
Justice of the Peace Historical Background
The office of justice of the peace originated in England during the fourteenth century when several statutes were passed to create it. In 1327, "conservators of the peace" were appointed in each county, with the power to punish offenders given to them immediately thereafter.
In 1344, they were given the power to hear and determine felonies and trespasses (now known as misdemeanours). In 1361, four or five persons (including one lord) were chosen in each county "to keep the peace, arrest and imprison offenders, take surety of suspected persons, and hear and determine felonies and trespasses done in that county."
Starting in 1363, these people were ordered to conduct court hearings (with a jury) four times a year. It was around this time that the term "justices of the peace" began to be used. The courts of quarter sessions were established at about this period. Cases heard by courts of quarter sessions covered almost all criminal offences aside from treason and difficult cases. Until the eighteenth century, courts of quarter session did not hear cases that might be capitally punished.
In addition, several statutes were passed that granted justices of the peace jurisdiction over minor issues outside of quarter sessions courts. In the 1800s, these court hearings - which took place without a jury - became known as the courts of petty sessions.
The sixteenth-century saw several changes in the justice of the peace system. They were responsible for a lot of paperwork by this time, and they had the power to issue arrest warrants, which is something that would be handled by local government or other government agencies nowadays.
Justices of the peace were formerly men of rank. In 1389, it was determined that they should be "the most competent knights, esquires, and gentlemen of the realm." A property qualification was introduced in 1439.
History of the QJA
Get in Touch
If you’re trying to find a justice of the peace, or are searching for a ‘justice of the peace near me’, use our website to view a justice of the peace list and justice of the peace register. The Queensland Justices Association offers the best training and development to become the best justice of the peace QLD you can be.