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Duties of Justices' of the Peace in New Zealand

Jade Wood - Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Justices of the Peace are appointed to provide a range of duties important in the administration of New Zealand. Their functions fall into two categories, referred to as ministerial duties and judicial duties. All Justices of the Peace are required to carry out ministerial duties but further training must be undertaken by JPs before they may provide judicial duties.

Ministerial duties include:

  • Taking oaths and declarations
  • Witnessing signatures
  • Certifying copies

Judicial duties include:

  • Hearing summary offences
  • Presiding over preliminary hearings
  • Conducting traffic courts
  • Hearing bail applications and requests for remands and adjournments

Along with the jury system, judicial JPs represent the participation of ordinary people in the administration of justice in New Zealand. Approximately 4 per cent of all JPs in New Zealand provide judicial duties but they must firstly complete a tertiary course in judicial studies. Once they become practising bench-sitting JPs they are required to attend four training update sessions each year to keep their judicial knowledge and skills up-to-date. Judicial duties include exercising powers in court under the Criminal Procedure Act 2011, the Summary Proceedings Act 1957 and various other enactments and include issuing summonses and warrants to arrest.

Other functions of Justices of the Peace

Coronial Services

Under the Coroners Act 2006, some JPs may take evidence at a distance on a Coroner's behalf.

Elections

Under the Electoral Act 1993 and the Local Electoral Act 1991 and the Electoral referendum Act 2010, JPs have various roles during elections.

Independent Witnesses

  • Under the Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act 1992, some JPs act as 'any person' when a committal notice is explained to a proposed patient.
  • Under the Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act 1990, some JPs act as nominated witnesses when children or young persons are interviewed by police, however they are not acting as a JP when doing so.
  • Under the Criminal Investigations (Bodily Samples) Act 1995, some JPs may act as a person present when a young person gives a sample, however they are not acting as a JP when doing so.

Search Warrants

As from 1st October 2012, the issuing of search warrants ceased to be a function for Justices of the Peace. Only those people who have been personally authorised by the Attorney-General to act as Issuing Officers are permitted to consider a search warrant application. A small number of appointed Issuing Officers are also Justices of the Peace.

Visiting Justices

 A number of Justices of the Peace also act as Visiting Justices to Corrections facilities.

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