Rather than looking back at our history as we celebrate 200 years since the appointment of the first of J.P., here’s a look at some of the J.P. Ministerial duties carried out today. It also helps answer the frequently asked question, what do J.P.s do?
It’s Monday afternoon at a few minutes to one o’ clock at one of Auckland's Citizens’ Advice Bureaus when I arrive for my weekly, 2 hour “session”. Every seat in the waiting area is taken. It’s going to be another busy afternoon. Having adjusted my date stamp, got out my notebook and headed up the CAB “log”, I’m all set to begin. The first client wants to make a Statutory Declaration enabling her to sponsor her sister-in-law from China.
This is part of form ‘INZ 1025’, familiar to all JPs and the most common document I will see in the next 2 hours, or, for that matter, at any of my Monday sessions. In fact, before I leave today there will be 8 similar Declarations completed and 2 held over, awaiting essential details.
Education, Insurance and Security
An anxious parent who has just moved into the district has a Declaration enabling her to enrol her daughter at the nearby secondary school and then a young man, a recent arrival to New Zealand, wants to complete a Declaration of his identity which he needs to augment his Bangladeshi travel document. He’s followed by a client with an insurance agreement - a witness is required as he signs acceptance of the Underwriter’s offer for the “written off’ value of his crashed car.
Several clients want copies of passports, birth certificates and academic records certified as “true copies”.
A young woman wants me to witness her 18+ card Declaration, and two young men are affirming they are of good character, without criminal convictions, which will assist them to become licensed security guards. The next client was following up on his recent change of gender; she’s here to take the next statutory step towards a name change.
Pensions, Visas, and another Stat Decs
I was happy to welcome one of my regular clients, a retired stationmaster who served his time with the Indian Central Railways in Mumbai (Bombay as was).
I sign his “Life Certificate” each year* to attest that he’s still in the land of the living so that his pension will continue. “Keep well, see you again next year... and that’s a definite arrangement”, I tell him as he departs the office, my standard line after signing these “Life Certificates” and after dealing with that other hardy annual, “Application for Rates Rebate”, which is presented mostly by local aging pensioners.
One of the clients presenting with an ‘IN 1025’ is one attachment short for her application, so while the missing page is being photocopied I take a glance into the waiting room. About half full, I note. One of the ever-helpful CAB Volunteers offers me coffee. Thanks, but I think I’ll carry on and try to see everyone before 3 o’clock. A couple more of those Immigration forms and then a man who wants to declare that he was not driving the family car the day it broke down, police ticketed it and had it towed away. This is likely to have family repercussions, he says, because his brother had borrowed the car that day but doesn’t have a current driver’s licence. By signing the form the client pointed out that he was, in essence, inviting police to go after his brother!
*2015: Alas my old friend has since passed on, and , anyway, Justices of the Peace are no longer able to sign Life Certificates.
Home Schooling and Brothel-keeping
The next client had a form I rarely see, a Statutory Declaration detailing home schooling attendances, and then a woman with a document which went even one better: it’s a document I had never seen before. As she was assembling the paperwork I spotted the Ministry of Justice logo on one document and the words ‘Application for Operator Certificate’.
“Um... to operate... what... exactly...?” I wondered silently. And just as well I kept the question to myself. It’s issued pursuant to Section 35 of the Prostitution Reform Act, 2003, and has several aspects that may be signed by a Justice of the Peace. With perhaps just a tad more discretion than usual and very careful small-talk that could not be mis-construed in any way, I furnished the details required, and the woman’s application to operate a business of prostitution was complete. That left the last client to be seen, just on 3.10pm, one more ‘IN 1025’, just for luck.
Variety – The Spice of a JP’s Life!
During the 2 hours I dealt with 31 clients, an average of less than 5 minutes with each: Tangata Whenua, Pacific Islanders, Chinese, a Malaysian family, a man from Serbia, a woman from the USA, Indian nationals, Pakistanis and Sri Lankans, a couple from Brazil, the Bangladeshi and a few pakeha New Zealanders. In fact, looking down the list I note that the first seven entries show people from seven different overseas countries.
The range of documents encountered was extended the very next week by a woman formally declaring she was pregnant so she could request Maternity Leave and a man who wanted several means of identification attested so he could apply to the TAB for a remotely operated betting account. Now that was a strange one! An Australian woman returning home to re-settle brought in a Statutory Declaration which, if accepted by MAF, would enable her to take the family’s pedigree Spaniel with them to Adelaide. A man from Ethiopia, a family from South Africa and a native of Uruguay helped round out the global representation we see at the CAB.
What variety! Where’s time to be bored dealing with such interesting clients, and their diverse documents?!
My “JP Day” some 200 years after our first Justice of the Peace was appointed was not quite complete because I had made an appointment to see a couple that evening to sign their “Dissolution” papers. The pair arrived on time, the paperwork was quickly seen-to and they departed with another step towards dissolution, the two young men showing genuine sadness that their partnership had not worked out.
Now there’s a concept of “union” that missionary/J.P. Thomas Kendall could not possibly have envisaged in 1814. J.P. duties have diversified more than somewhat over 200 years!