KINGSTON — A Bill to give Parish Councillors and Mayors the powers of a Justice of the Peace (JP) was approved by the Senate on June 24.
Under theAttestation of Instruments (Facilities) (Amendment) Act, Councillors and Mayors of municipalities will be able to verify and attest documents for the period they hold office.
Minister of Justice and Leader of Government Business in the Senate, Senator the Hon. Dorothy Lightbourne, who piloted the Bill, explained that itwasdelayed from February, as Senators were concerned about the lack of clarity in how the Mayors and Councillors would carry out these functions.
The Bill was amended on June 24 and a new clause three (Section 5) was inserted to give the Minister, subject to affirmative resolution, the power to develop regulations to set out how the functions of these ex officio JPs will be carried out.
“Section five of the Act would provide for regulations. The regulations would provide for penalties in excess of those penalties specified in section 29 (b) of the Interpretation Act,” Senator Lightbourne said.
The Bill was also amended to allow the Act to come into operation on a day appointed by the Minister by notice published in the Gazette. Senator Lightbourne explained that this was done as the legislation would come into effect once the regulations have been drafted and passed.
Justices of the Peace have a vital role to play in the verification of documents and there have been challenges relating to access by citizens to JPs. Increasingly, members of the public are forced to seek the assistance of JPs who are unknown to them.
It is within that context that the proposal has been made for the Justices of the Peace to be expanded by giving the Councillors and Mayors of Municipalities, who are close to the people, the statutory authority to carry out these functions. This will increase the number of persons available to verify documents.
By LATONYA LINTON, JIS Reporter