- Justices of the Peace (JP) are lauding the Ministry of Justice for continuing to advance the profession through ongoing sensitisation and training.
- More than 200 JPs were trained last year under the thrust, which is aimed at creating a first-class justice system.
- Among the beneficiaries was Karen Sinclair-Lym, who has been a JP for eight years and serves the St. Andrew North communities of Red Hills, Lawrence Tavern and Stony Hill.
Justices of the Peace (JP) are lauding the Ministry of Justice for continuing to advance the profession through ongoing sensitisation and training.
More than 200 JPs were trained last year under the thrust, which is aimed at creating a first-class justice system.
Among the beneficiaries was Karen Sinclair-Lym, who has been a JP for eight years and serves the St. Andrew North communities of Red Hills, Lawrence Tavern and Stony Hill.
She tells JIS News that “being a JP is no easy feat but being a part of a Ministry that is committed to guiding you is one of the things that make this voluntary job worthwhile”.
She notes that the training sessions hosted by the Ministry have helped her to better understand and reaffirm her dynamic role as a JP.
She cites, for example, the final session held in December, where Chief Executive Officer of the Passport, Immigration and Citizenship Agency (PICA), Andrew Wynter, gave a detailed presentation on the requirements of a JP when verifying documents and a person’s identity.
Mrs. Sinclair-Lym says that in his address, Mr. Wynter noted that although it is customary for some JPs to use their seal on the back of a photo when verifying a person’s identity, it is not necessary.
“That was just one area some JPs were unclear about, and I am sure there are other things, which were cleared up in other sessions. I am happy that I participated in two sessions last year because for a lot of the JPs who serve in the courts, these sessions are refresher courses. It’s like going to school; it’s easy to forget something which you learned in grade one by the time you’ve matriculated to grade two if you don’t constantly revise,” she points out.
During the sensitisation/training session held on December 13, Minister of Justice, Hon. Delroy Chuck, highlighted the importance of continuous learning in keeping JPs abreast of their duties and responsibilities.
He said that the idea behind the training exercise “is to inform JPs how to play their part in the governance of this great nation, so we seek their participation in these sessions, which are made possible through the Ministry’s partnerships with National Integrity Action (NIA), the European Union and Canadian High Commission”.
He said that the voluntary services JPs provide to their communities is invaluable, as it aligns with the Ministry’s mandate of making justice accessible to all Jamaicans.
JP Errol Edwards is also hailing the work being undertaken by the Ministry to equip personnel with the knowledge and skills required to effectively serve.
He says that while the role of JPs in the community has long been established, the Ministry is “pushing JPs to effectively carry out the full gamut of their role”.
“I have seen the functions of JPs extend to the execution of documents such as wills, affidavit, spirit licences, signing bail forms, among other duties,” Mr. Edwards shares.
Lay Magistrate and philanthropist Lorraine Ross-Clunie, who actively advocates for the rights of children and disenfranchised members in the communities where she serves, shares how the training she received from the Ministry over the years aids her in exercising her duties.
“I have been trained in lockup protocols, drug court, domestic violence, child diversion, mentoring, divorce and probates among a myriad of other legal and non-legal matters. For you to be good at your craft you must be trained,” she says.
“Gone are the days when JPs only signed documents,” she adds.
“I must commend Minister Chuck on his emphasis on training not just for JPs but for members of the judicial sector. The opportunity for training is so extensive and we must make use of it to enhance the service we offer citizens,” she adds.
Doreen Buchanan, for her part, tells JIS News that training must be a priority for JPs.
She notes that she has benefited from training in Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) testing and worked with the Centre for Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse (CISOCA).
“Training motivates us to work to the best of our ability and it also pushes us to learn more and keep up to date.
“When we, as JPs, are clear about our roles and functions, we are better able to inform citizens why we do what we do, so they too can understand, utilise and appreciate our services to the community,” Mrs. Buchanan says.
She recalls an instance where a member of her community was shocked when she refused to verify the documents of her son, who Mrs. Buchanan did not know.
“The training addressed common discrepancies JPs face when executing their duties. A lot of citizens don’t understand that it is outside of our practice to verify the documents of persons we don’t know, as we are held accountable,” she points out.
Mrs. Buchanan notes further that “we cannot sign a blank warrant, and the sessions hosted by the Ministry highlighted the implications that this can have on our character, as it may be seen as an abuse of power”.
She is strongly urging JPs to not only participate in the training/sensitisation sessions but to put into practice the lessons learnt.
“The sessions help us as JPs to give the best of ourselves, and they also help us to safeguard our integrity,” Mrs. Buchanan stresses.
The training is in keeping with the new Justices of the Peace Act, 2018, which sets higher standards of service for JPs.