by Linda Straker
- Government committee will purge existing list of all persons who are dead or no longer qualify to serve
- Government Gazette search has shown no publication for at least past five years
- No list was seen published for January 2012 nor January 2013 during the NDC administration
After years of not complying with the section of the Magistrate Act which provides for the annual publishing of all appointed Justices of the Peace (JP), government has established a committee that will not only publish a list as mandated, but will purge the existing list of all persons who are dead or no longer qualify to serve in that capacity.
Section 11 of the principal Magistrate Act which is subtitled “Publishing of annual list of Justices,” states: “In the month of January in every year there shall be published in the Gazette a list of all Justices of the Peace for the time being holding office, and in the list, there shall be stated the profession, occupation or calling and the place of residence, of each Justice.”
A search of the Government Gazette has shown that “it’s been a while” since the list was published as mandated in law. There was no publication for at least the past five years. The Office of the Governor-General is responsible for publishing the list, but preparation is done through the Department of Home Affairs, under the Prime Minister Office.
The Magistrate Act was amended in 2012 during the Tillman Thomas National Democratic Congress (NDC) Administration, and that amendment prescribe a code of conduct to which Justices of the Peace should adhere and at the same time established the criteria for the appointment of Justices of the Peace. The amendment also provides for a Justice of the Peace to serve no more than five years in the first instance.
That 2012 amendment was approved by the House of Representatives in June, in the Upper House in July and published in Gazette in August. “Kindly note that the Magistrate (Amendment) Act No. 22 of 2012 came into force upon publication in the Government,” said an email from the Ministry of Legal Affairs, Drafting Unit.
“A Justice of the Peace shall hold office for a period of five years, and all persons appointed as Justices of the Peace before the commencement of this Act continues to be Justices of the Peace for a period of five years after the day on which this Act comes into force, and maybe eligible for re-appointment,” said a new section which was inserted into the 2012 amendment.
No list was seen published for January 2012 nor January 2013 when the NDC administration was still the Government of the country.
“We are aware that the list was not published this year but that is a priority for 2020, so by establishing the committee to look into the matter, we will have a new list this year. It will be revised and be following the principal legislation and the 2012 amendment,” said a government official.
The original legislation which was approved in 1969, and which had various amendments over the years, provide for the Head of State to appoint a public officer as a Justice of the Peace. “The Governor-General may by instrument under his or her hand and the public seal appoint a public officer resident in a district to be a Justice of the Peace for that district for such period as may be specified in the instrument and may also revoke such appointment.”
However, the 2012 amendment broadens the selection, as under “Prescribed requirements for appointment as Justice of the Peace” states that a person shall not be appointed as a Justice of the Peace unless:
- the person is a Grenadian citizen between the ages of 30 and 72 years;
- the person is not an undischarged bankrupt;
- the person can speak English fluently and be sufficiently proficient in reading and writing in the English Language, so as to be able to – (i) read and understand instructions relating to his or her official duties; (ii) seek advice about his or her official duties; (iii) communicate clearly in a courtroom, and (iv) read and understand court documents and legislation;
- the person consents in writing to confidential inquiries being made as to his suitability for appointment, including a criminal record check;
- the person provides at least two references as to his good character, reputation and standing in the community;
- the person has not been convicted of any offence or have any outstanding charges or proceedings in relation to an offence alleged to have been committed by him;
- the person lives or works in an area or community in which there is a need for a Justice of the Peace and he or she establishes that the appointment as Justice of the Peace is required to fulfil a community-based need.
For the first time, all Justices of the Peace shall adhere to a Code of Ethics and shall keep proper records in an annual record book of the performance of all his duties and functions, especially when with respect to the granting of bail and the issuing of warrants.
According to the legislation, a Justice of the Peace who commits a breach of the code and other duties commits an offence and is liable, on summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding $10,000 or to a term of imprisonment not exceeding two years.
“And that is why, in preparing the revised list, we will be visiting every existing appointed Justice of the Peace to educate and inform them about this new provision before we publish the 2020 list,” said the official.
In the interim, government has extended the appointment of JPs until December 2020. “It means that any document a Justice of the Peace prepares will be valid until the new list is published,” said the official who explained that dozens of persons have been appointed over the years.
Several persons have used the service of a Justice of the Peace as proof of residency on the island when making an application for a voter identification card if other immigration admission documentation to the island is lost or unavailable.
“The appropriate authorities should proceed expeditiously to publish a current list of authorized Justices of the Peace, and should ensure that updated lists are gazetted and published, in keeping with the required schedule for the information of the general public,” said the OAS observer report following the 13 March 2018 General Elections.
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