Minister of Justice, Senator the Hon. Mark Golding, says the Government intends to expand the jurisdiction of Justices of the Peace (JPs), to enable them to assume an enhanced role in the court system, particularly in reducing case backlog.
"I see the role of the Justice of the Peace, which is an ancient role…taking on a new life, as we try to find ways of improving our justice system and relieving some of the burden that our court system has had to bear," he said.
Senator Golding was speaking at the swearing-in ceremony for 71 JPs Thursday (January 12) at the Bread of Life Ministries, Linstead, St. Catherine.
"I believe within the communities that you live in, there is an important role for the JP, as a person who can mediate amongst the citizenry, in a way that brings assurances of fairness. And I think that there are opportunities for JPs to play an enhanced role in bringing fair adjudication to civil matters within the communities, and of course within the court system itself," he added.
Senator Golding encouraged the newly appointed JPs to show an interest in the court system, and to avail themselves of the training available in that area, "so that you can play your part in trying to improve Jamaica's justice system, which is central to the civilization of this country".
The Justice Minister also advised them to approach their task with balance, probity, and a high level of integrity, adding that he was happy to see the gender balance among the appointees.
He implored them to tread warily in instances where they are asked to complete tasks considered fraudulent, such as cases where they are requested to witness signatures on documents in the absence of the individual.
"I'm sure you will, over time, develop your own approaches to handling those types of fairly mundane but important tasks. But…always bear in mind, the rules that you are supposed to be applying, and apply them fairly and equitably so that whatever happens, you’ll never be embarrassed," he advised.
Member of Parliament for St. Catherine North West, Hon. Robert Pickersgill, told the JPs that their role will be critical to the continued growth of St. Catherine, as more people will be approaching them for assistance in a number of areas.
"In fact, your duties will be no less important than that of persons who are legally trained. As of today, you have been given an awesome responsibility. You have been empowered to play a greater role in restorative justice. You must promote and instill good values in the society and ensure that you adequately meet the needs of the people that you serve," he said.