JIS News

The Ministry of Justice wants to make it a criminal offence for Justices of the Peace (JPs) to charge or accept a fee for their services.
In the meantime, a code of conduct is being developed in conjunction with the Lay Magistrates Association, which will direct and guide the action of JPs. “We are going to scour the law and we are going to make sure that if it is not a criminal offence for the charging of fees, it is going to be made so”, Attorney General and Justice Minister Senator A.J. Nicholson, has said.
He was speaking at the presentation of official seals to JPs in Westmoreland on November 11, at the Catholic Church Hall in Savanna-La-Mar.
He gave the opinion that the acceptance of payment by a JP “could very well be a criminal offence” under the Corruption Prevention Act, which deals with persons in public office.
Currently, there is no law making it illegal for JPs to accept payment for their work. In fact, under the Justices of the Peace Jurisdiction Act and the Justices of the Peace Appeals Act, which governs the basis and procedure for appeals against decisions made by JPs in the Lay Magistrates Court, it is not a criminal offence for a JP to charge for services rendered.
But, Senator Nicholson pointed out that it was a well-established rule and practice that JPs should not accept payment for their work and at the time of appointment that was made very clear to them. “The question is, what is the consequence of breaking that rule? As you know, for one to be criminally liable for an act done, the act must clearly constitute a criminal offence. You can’t be charged and found guilty in a court of law for an offence that does not exist,” he reasoned.
He explained that JPs who charged for their services could have their commissions withdrawn.
The Justice Minister however expressed appreciation to all JPs for their invaluable service to the country’s justice system.

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