Justice of the Peace

Tennille is a registered Justice of the Peace (Qualified) in the State of Queensland.

If you would like to learn more about Justices of the Peace, the following summary was extracted from the Queensland Government, Justice for Queenslanders, Justice of the Peace website.

Justice of the Peace – Where did that name come from?

Justices of the Peace are the direct descendants of the ancient ‘justiciars’ who travelled throughout England hearing serious criminal cases. From the reign of Henry III (1216–72), the ‘Father of the Common Law’, prominent people of the times had the title of ‘keepers of the peace’ and were expected to rule in the King’s name in their local areas.

The actual title of Justice of the Peace started in 1327 when Edward III—who was not quite 15 at the time—established ‘peace officers’ in addition to the travelling judges. Later in his reign, about 1360, Edward III passed a law that Justices of the Peace were to come together and organise trials of important cases at least once every three months. These became known as the ‘quarter sessions’ and are still called by that name in some English towns today.

During the next 100 years, the powers of the Justices of the Peace became broader and more localised. The Justices themselves were wealthy landholders whose manor usually represented the geographical extent of their powers. Some were good people—by the standards of the time—with the best interests of their people at heart. Others were greedy and abused their powers and brought hardship and suffering on the people. The Sheriff of Nottingham from the Robin Hood story could well have been one of these corrupt Justices .

The role of Justice of the Peace developed over the following centuries until the early 18th Century when they came to represent ‘the government’ in their local areas.

They were still large landholders and were described as country gentlemen. Few, if any, had formal legal training. However, not only did they have the enforcement of the criminal law, they also decided on such issues as what hours the local pub would open, and appointed people—and granted them money—to maintain the local roads, jails and bridges. They also organised pensions for disabled soldiers and administered the relief of the poor.

With the coming of the industrial revolution and the mass movement of people from the country to the city, the old country gentlemen lost much of their power and many became corrupt .

The new challenges of administering the law in the industrial cities lead to the establishment of the modern police and the movement to reform offenders rather than just hand out the brutal punishments of years gone by.

By the time Australia became an English colony, the use of Justices of the Peace as the traditional government representatives in the local area had been established.

Throughout the 19th Century, this role developed and although people who had large landholdings were still the main candidates for appointment as Justices of the Peace, it was different from England because it was based on the success of individuals rather than on ‘family property’. If you want to know how JPs were thought of at the end of the 19th Century, read Banjo Paterson’s poems, Saltbush Bill JP or perhaps A Bush Christening.

Today, Justices of the Peace have a well-defined role in society and come from a broad cross-section of our multicultural society. They are no longer exclusively male landholders; they are men and women who want to serve their communities and fellow citizens in a way that carries on the best traditions of our legal heritage.

Types of JP

In November 1991, the law about becoming a Justice of the Peace in Queensland changed. We no longer just had the traditional JP, but rather four categories of Justice of the Peace.

  1. Justice of the Peace (Qualified) have passed an exam on the administration of the law and their roles in it.
  2. Justice of the Peace (Magistrates Court) are people employed in the Magistrates Court who are appointed to act as JPs because of the job they do. Justices of the Peace (Magistrates Court) are also appointed in remote areas of the State where the Magistrates do not visit or visit only occasionally. In these areas, Justices of the Peace (Magistrates Court) are called on to preside over a Magistrates Court.
  3. Justice of the Peace (Commissioner for Declarations) are those people who were JPs before November, 1991 and have not done the exam to become qualified.
  4. Commissioners for Declarations are people who have a primary role in witnessing signatures on legal documents.

Becoming a JP

Anyone can become a Justice of the Peace (Qualified) who is:

  • over 18 years of age;
  • on the Queensland electoral role;
  • of good character; and
  • has passed the JP (Qualified) exam to a satisfactory level.
  • To become a Commissioner for Declarations, the same rules apply,
  • except for the examination qualification.

How do I start?

To become a Commissioner for Declarations:

  • Approach your local State Member of Parliament and obtain an application form;
  • Complete the form and sign the attached certificate;
  • The two referee reports that accompany the application form must also be completed; and
  • Give the completed form and referee reports to your local Member who must sign it and then send it to the Registrar of Justices of the Peace and Commissioners for Declarations at the Department of Justice and Attorney-General.

To become a Justice of the Peace (Qualified):

  • Check the dates and locations of the next round of JP exams. You will normally have to sit at the local Magistrates Court or if you are in Brisbane at a TAFE college;
  • Pass the exam; and
  • Complete and return an application form.