Although the office of Justice of the Peace is steeped in history, the office today derives its status and functions from a very brief statute of the New Zealand legislature, the Justice of the Peace Act 1957.
Section 3 of that Act provides that the Governor-General may from time to time, by Warrant under his or her hand, appoint fit and proper persons to be Justices. The Act does not set out how this is done, that being a matter of ministerial convention that has developed over the years. Briefly, the convention is as follows:
- Nominations for appointments are accepted only from the Member of Parliament for the electorate where the nominee resides or from a list Member of Parliament with the endorsement of the appropriate electorate Member.
- There is a standard nomination form, commonly referred to by its shoulder reference, JPB. Members of Parliament hold supplies of these forms.
- Nominees must have an adequate standard of education and a genuine desire to serve the community; they should be of good standing in the community (which is not to be identified with material prosperity), and should be respected as persons of good sense, character and integrity.
The purpose of an appointment is not to bestow an honour on a deserving citizen, but to serve the public. Notwithstanding a person’s character and ability, appointments are made only where there are not already sufficient Justices to meet the requirements of the public.
A nomination having been made by the Member of Parliament, the procedure is as follows:
- A confidential check is made through New Zealand Police to establish if the nominee has any record of criminal convictions.
- A questionnaire is completed by the appropriate local Justice of the Peace Association on the need for additional Justices in the nominee’s business or residential areas.
- The nominee is required to be interviewed by a District Court Registrar who makes a report to the Minister of Justice.
- The Minister usually considers the nominations at monthly to six weekly intervals. If the Minister then decides that the appointment is desirable, notification is sent to the Member of Parliament concerned that the appointment will be recommended to the Governor-General. Where the nomination is declined, the Member is likewise notified.
- Appointments are made by a warrant signed by the Governor-General. Notice of appointment is published in the New Zealand Gazette.
- Appointees are advised of their appointment by the Secretary for Justice and are issued with a warrant of appointment.
- Appointees are entitled to act as Justices of the Peace only after they have taken the Oath of Allegiance and the Judicial Oath as required by the Oaths and Declarations Act 1957.
Certain professions and callings are customarily excluded from JP appointment, because of their special duties and responsibilities. This includes Members of Parliament, barristers and solicitors, practising medical practitioners, clergy and persons in religious orders, along with those working in various aspects of law enforcement.
Tenure of Office
A JP holds appointment for life, or until he or she resigns by notice in writing to the Secretary for Justice, or is removed from office by the Governor-General. The Governor-General has an unfettered discretion to remove any person from the office of JP by publishing a notice in the New Zealand Gazette. The more usual grounds for removal are conviction for an offence punishable by imprisonment, and bankruptcy.
Ex Officio JPs
Under section 41 (4) of the Local Government Act 2002, all Mayors and Chairpersons of a territorial authority or regional council are JPs for the period that they hold office.
Use of the Letters ‘JP’
Justices of the Peace are entitled to use the letters ‘JP’ after their name, and it is the usual practice in New Zealand for the letters to be inserted after any honours, eg, Mr John Smith, MNZM, JP.
It is improper for a Justice to use his or her office to foster business interests. Accordingly, it is most undesirable to use the words ‘Justice of the Peace’ or the letters ‘JP’ in personal or commercial email signatures, business cards, social media or advertising/signs.
Auckland Association’s Boundaries
Our Association provides services as determined by its charitable purposes for its JP members who reside between Wellsford/Kaipara and Clover Park/Manurewa, coast-to-coast.