Justice of the Peace (JP)

A justice of the peace in Australia is typically someone of good stature in the community who is authorized to witness and sign statutory declarations and affidavits and to certify copies of original documents. Criteria for appointment vary widely, depending on the state.

What do Justices of the Peace do?

Justices of the Peace work broadly in two main areas of jurisdiction – criminal law and provincial offences.

Criminal Law Jurisdiction. Justices of the peace preside:

  • over virtually all bail hearings in the province, and
  • in first appearance and remand courts (appearances that occur prior to a trial).

They also:

  • receive information (the documents that commence criminal proceedings)
  • issue process in the form of summonses or warrants
  • deal with applications for the issuance of search warrants and production orders under the Criminal Code
  • deal with applications for peace bonds
  • consider applications for warrants to seize weapons, and
  • conduct weapons disposition and prohibition hearings.

Provincial Offences Jurisdiction. Justices of the peace exercise jurisdiction over the whole range of provincial offences and offences against municipal bylaws.

In this regard, their duties include:

  • issuing process
  • receiving applications for warrants, and
  • presiding over provincial offence trials under statutes including the Highway Traffic Act, the Occupational Health and Safety Act, the Trespass to Property Act, the Safe Streets Act, the Environmental Protection Act, the Liquor Licence Act, and the Consumer Protection Act, and the Dog Owners’ Liability Act, and the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act.

A statutory declaration is a written statement which a person declares to be true in the presence of an authorised witness.  Various organisations such as banks, insurance companies and superannuation providers often require information provided to them via a statutory declaration.

Justices of the peace handle both civil and criminal cases, including small claims court, justice court, and administrative hearings. In practical terms, these are lawsuits over debts, evictions, car accidents, unlawful towing, and property.

An affidavit is a written statement for use as evidence in court proceedings. A person making an affidavit must promise he or she is telling the truth in the presence of an authorised witness.

A certified copy of an original document may be required by various organisations. This avoids the need of a person to submit original documentation such as a birth certificate or academic qualifications.

Their criminal workload involves disposing of all class C criminal misdemeanor complaints, such as traffic citations, issuance of bad check, and others. These cases involve payment, setting contested cases for trial, and pretrial hearings with the county prosecutor.

Other duties include presiding over peace bond hearings, reviewing applications for mental health or chemically dependent commitments, conducting compulsory school attendance trials, giving warnings to juveniles required by law. They issue warrants for and conduct hearings concerning seizure and disposition of cruelly treated animals. Most JP's perform marriage ceremonies as well.

Justice Of The Peace Building

Other JP Duties:

  • conducting hearings and making orders under the Mental Health Act for examination of a person by a physician
  • conducting hearings and issuing warrants to apprehend a child pursuant to the Child, Youth and Family Services Act for children in need of protection
  • presiding at trials of municipal by-law infractions, and
  • presiding at trials prosecuted under certain federal legislation, including the Canada Shipping Act and the Motor Vehicle Transport Act.

A JP is trusted to be honest and impartial when performing their functions. They cannot:

  • unreasonably refuse to provide JP services
  • charge you a fee or accept a gift for providing JP services
  • assist or write in a statutory declaration or affidavit
  • provide you with legal advice.