Who is a Justice of the Peace?
A Justice of the Peace (JP) is a person of unquestionable integrity who seeks to promote and protect the rights of individuals and helps to give justice to those persons in a particular community. The Ministry of Justice provides supervision for the various processes involved in the appointment of Justices of the Peace and ensures that records are accurately maintained.
The position of Justice of the Peace originated in England in 1361 with the passing of the Justice of the Peace Act. The "peace" to be guarded was the "King's (Sovereign's) peace".
The office of a Justice of the Peace is a voluntary one; therefore a JP must not charge or accept any reward for services performed in this capacity. Justices of the Peace are not usually required to have a formal legal education in order to qualify for the office. However, every JP is expected to complete a period of training before he/she is commissioned into office. JPs are governed by a Code of Conduct
How is a Justice of the Peace selected?
- Any citizen, club, organisation or other such body or enterprise, may recommend that an individual be appointed a JP. The recommendation must be made to the Custos of the parish in which the individual resides.
- Having received this recommendation, the Custos will then instruct that enquiries be made into the background of the person so recommended. This is a precautionary measure to ensure that the individual under consideration is suitable for the position of a JP.
- Every parish has an Advisory Committee which deliberates and selects persons deemed to be qualified to become Justice of the Peace. It is made up of the Custos, the Resident Magistrate and the Superintendent of Police and is constantly reviewing the requirements of each community to ensure that there are enough JPs to meet the needs of the community, the Courts of Petty Sessions, the Juvenile Courts and the Drug Court. These parish Advisory Committees also ensure that there is an adequate supply of JPs willing and able to sign documents for the public throughout the parish.
- The Custos submits the names of persons approved by the Advisory Committee to the Minister of Justice who has responsibility for making recommendations to the Governor General.
- Each appointment is by Commission.
- Every JP must be trained prior to being commissioned.
- By virtue of the Oath of Office taken at appointment, a JP undertakes to ‘well and truly serve the Office of Justice of the Peace’. The JP is given the instrument of office and the official seal authorizing the discharge of the functions of that office.
Criteria for appointment as a Justice of the Peace
To be appointed a Justice of the Peace, the candidate must fulfill the following criteria:
- Be a Jamaican citizen who is resident in Jamaica at the time of appointment, and is able to read and speak English fluently
- Be between the ages of 25-70 years
- Be a person of unquestionable integrity and who commands the respect and confidence of the local community
- Be a person who has given good service to the community and the wider Jamaica and who demonstrates the potential for continued service.
- Be able to communicate and interact at all levels and with all types of individuals in his/her community.
Applying to become a JP
Download the Application Form and submit the completed form to the Custos of your parish.
Functions of a JP
In addition to upholding the rights of citizens, the JP is required to:
- Serve as a Justice in a Court of Petty Sessions
- Attend the Children’s Courts and Drug Court
- Consider applications for bail
- Attend police stations
- Explain and sign documents
- Sit on licensing panels
- Give counsel and advice