In Australia, Justice of the Peace (JP) officers are volunteers who are chosen because they are seen as honourable members of the community. Each state and territory has legislation regulating the appointment and powers of its JP’s. Let's have a closer look at what the roles and responsibilities of a JP are in your state.
What is the role of a Justice of the Peace?
The primary roles of a JP include being able to witness a person making or giving an affidavit or statutory declaration, as well as being able to certify copies of original documents. A Justice of the Peace cannot:
- Unreasonably refuse to provide their services
- Charge a fee nor accept a gift after providing Justice of the Peace services
- Assist in the writing of a statutory declaration of affidavit
- Provide legal advice
As a JP your role is to be an objective and impartial witness to documents for legal and official use. You must perform the role for all members of the community and not be restricted to a specific language, religion, ethnicity, organisation or cultural group. You must always act honestly, fairly and independently to reduce the chance of conflict of interest, especially because the public, institutions and the courts will be relying on your word.
What types of documents can a JP certify?
As a JP it is important that you are aware that some of the documents that you witness will have large financial implications for the people involved. They may also be used in court proceedings. These documents can include statutory declarations and affidavits.
A statutory declaration is used by organisations such as banks and is a written statement which a person declares to be true in the presence of an authorised witness. An affidavit is a written document used as evidence in court proceedings. The individual making the affidavit must make a promise that they are telling the truth in the presence of an authorised witness. The authorised witness in both of these situations could be the Justice of the Peace officer.
Ever been asked to provide a ‘certified’ copy of an important document? Many organisations require a certified copy of a document to avoid the need for a person to submit original documents. These might include things like academic qualifications or birth certificates, which many people would be cautious about sending in the post or leaving somewhere where they could be misplaced or lost. In this instance, it would be the Justice of Peace that certifies the copies.
How do you become a JP?
How to become a JP in Victoria
To become a JP in Victoria you must complete the following steps. You must also ensure you meet the necessary criteria at each stage of the process.
- Attend a recruitment information session
- Lodge both an ‘application for appointment’ and a ‘consent to check and release national police record’ form
- Undergo a police check
- Successfully complete the required course of training. Note, unlike in other jurisdictions, where training can mean sitting an exam or an accredited TAFE course, in Victoria there are no exams or TAFE courses. JPs however are required to undertake training prior to their appointment which will include a component of formal assessment.
- You must be recommended for appointment by the Attorney-General to the Governor in Council
- If you manage to complete all those steps, you will then be appointed as JP by the Governor in Council on the recognition of the Attorney-General.
- After appointment by the Governor in Council, and prior to performing your duties, you must take the oath or affirmation of office in front of a magistrate. This oath commits you to high standards of integrity.
Fun fact! The Honorary Justice Services Support (HJSS) is the team that appoints and manages honorary justice volunteers which not only includes Justice of the Peace officers, but also bail justices.
How to become a JP in New South Wales
To become a JP in NSW, you must first confirm your eligibility and then follow some specific steps. To be eligible, you must:
- Be at least 18 years of age
- Be nominated by a NSW member of parliament
- Be an Australian citizen or someone who is entitled to vote in an election
- Be of good character
If you meet the above criteria, you can go ahead and register for JP Online via the Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ). Once registered, you need to complete these steps:
- Learn the provisions in the JP handbook
- Complete the JP Knowledge Test, a set of 20 multiple choice questions focussing on the role and responsibilities of a JP
- Complete the appointment application (within 12 months of passing the Knowledge Test)
- Take the Oaths of office (within 4 months of your appointment date)e.
- Start your service as a JP
It’s important to know that in NSW you will need to reapply, and complete these steps, every 5 years.
How to become a JP in Queensland
In Queensland to become a JP you must be:
- An Australian citizen
- Be at least 18 years old
- Be of good character
- Be registered on the Queensland electoral roll
Before applying, you must complete a JP training course, which will provide you with the knowledge required to perform your duties. In order to apply you will need:
- Statement of attainment from the JP course you completed
- Two written character references from two separate referees
- Proof of Australian citizenship (if born overseas)
If you are planning on applying to become a JP in Queensland, you should know that the registration process can take around 3 months.
How to become a JP in Western Australia
The road to becoming a JP in WA is a little different and also a little similar to the other states of Australia. First, nominations must be submitted through a State Member of Parliament (In regional areas nominations can go through the local magistrate as well). Then, you must complete a JP training course.
An applicant must also meet the following criteria:
- Be an Australian citizen who has resided in WA for at least 12 months
- Be enrolled on the state electoral roll
- Be of good character and reputation
- Show a willingness and ability to complete the duties of a JP when required
- Not be insolvent under administration
How to become a JP in South Australia
To be eligible to be a JP in South Australia, you must meet the following criteria
- Be at least 18 years old
- Be an Australian citizen
- Be a resident in SA
- Be of good character
- Not be bankrupt
- Read and write in English
- Work or live in an area in need of a JP
If you can tick off all the things on that list, why not go ahead and apply here.
How to become a JP in Tasmania
If you’ve read this far, you won’t find the criteria for becoming a JP in The Apple Isle too surprising. You must be:
- Enrolled to vote in Tasmania
- Between 18-75 years old
- Ready, willing and able to carry out the duties of a JP, including witnessing documents
- Located in an area that is in need of JPs
You will also need to complete an introductory course.
Given their role in the community, you won’t be able to be a JP if:
- You have been convicted or found guilty of an offence punishable by a term of imprisonment of 6 months or more
- You are an undischarged bankrupt
- You work in an occupation that would cause a conflict with your duties as a JP
Still think you want to be a JP? Complete the expression of interest form and wait for advice on the outcome. If accepted you will receive an application form.
Do JP’s have role in Power of Attorney?
When it comes to appointing an enduring Power of Attorney, two adult witnesses are required. Of those two, one must be a registered medical practitioner or someone who is authorised to witness affidavits. So, JP’s do indeed have the authority to witness enduring Power of Attorney documents.
Ultimately the role of a JP is to certify and witness specific documents such as statutory declarations and affidavits. However, the specific responsibilities can vary between states. Although the pathway to becoming a Justice of the Peace is a little different across state lines, hopefully this guide has provided enough information for you to get the application process started.
If you're ready to get your Power of Attorney sorted, get started today at willed.com.au