Joining the ranks of Australia’s government is a noble goal, but how difficult is it? Can you be a Justice of the Peace, and should you take a justice of the peace course? This article will tell you everything you need to know about becoming a justice of the peace.
What Does a Justice of the Peace Do?
The answer is: it depends on where you live. Every state in Australia gives its justices different powers. In Queensland, a justice of the peace has five main responsibilities while holding the position. These are as follows:
- Attending any records made by police during interviews
- Issuing out court summons and arrest warrants
- Certifying documents
- Various bench duties (interpreting statutes, attending meetings between judges and advocates, etc.)
- Witnessing the signing of documents when the law requires
Legal matters like these must be done in a precise and organised manner for the sake of fairness and equality under the law. It’s true that justices of the peace may be laymen, but there’s a reason they have to be thoroughly vetted and educated before serving.
How Does One Become a Justice of the Peace?
The good news for interested parties is that justices are elected or appointed by the citizenry. However, most jurisdictions require that their justices are proficient at common law and the various duties of a justice of the peace, which is why justice of the peace courses exist.
What Are the Requirements of a Justice of the Peace Course?
Every state has its own rules, but most of them require the same sort of basic information for justices applying for a position. Those interested will need to submit proof that they are and possess Australian citizenship, among other things.
There are also a number of stipulations that determine whether an individual is eligible to be a justice at all. For example, justices of the peace in Queensland cannot hold office if they have a serious criminal record or for other reasons.
According to the Act, individuals cannot hold office as a Commissioner for Declarations or Justice of the Peace (Qualified) if they:
- Have been convicted of a serious offence at any time (i.e. an indictable offence, irrespective of whether it was dealt with in the magistrates, district or supreme court)
- Have been convicted of more than 2 offences of any kind at any time
- Have been convicted of an offence of any kind in the last 5 years
- Have been convicted of an alcohol or drug driving offence in the last 5 years
- Have been convicted of more than 2 traffic offences in the last 4 years (i.e. convictions under the Transport Operations (Road Use Management) Act 1995)
- Are an undischarged bankrupt (i.e. not yet free from bankruptcy).
What Does a Justice of the Peace Course Teach You?
Every justice of the peace course is different depending on the state, but most follow a similar structure of educating people about what’s expected from justices in their respective state.
In Queensland, JP applicants will acquire the necessary skills to perform the following by the end of a course:
- Witness signatures
- Grant bail
- Issue various warrants (search, arrest, etc.)
- Witness affidavits and oaths
- Verify legitimate copies of original documents
These are the end goals of a justice of the peace course, but what does getting there look like? Take a look at some courses from different states to see what a typical JP applicant goes through.
Again, remember: justice of the peace courses vary from state to state. That means if you acquire a qualification in Queensland, that won’t transfer over to New South Wales.
A justice of the peace course in Queensland requires that applicants can prove they are proficient at witnessing and certifying documents and performing various bench duties.
The Australian Training Institute offers two ‘delivery modes’ for the justice of the peace course. One is via a two-day classroom experience, in which applicants learn the ins and outs of their future responsibilities. The other is through an online portal, which gives students a total of six months to complete the course. It’s recommended that students have their own computer or tablet, as much of the material they’ll need to learn is accessible through online modules. Applicants in Queensland will also need to familiarise themselves with the JP handbook, which thoroughly details all the expectations of a qualified justice of the peace.
Interested in Applying?
We hope this short guide has been helpful to you! These voluntary positions are incredibly important to the functionality of local governments.
If you’re considering applying to be a Queensland JP, feel free to explore our website and learn about our available justice of the peace course! Or give us a call on 07 3269 5005 if you have any questions.