Justices of the Peace who fail to notify authorities they face criminal charges will no longer slip through the cracks as the Queensland Government tightens a legislative loophole where they rely heavily on the information to be volunteered, InQueensland can reveal.
The same loophole applies to Commissioners of Declarations (Cdec) who have less responsibilities and authority than a Justice of the Peace (JP).
Justices of the Peace are volunteers who undertake special responsibilities and can hear certain types of court matters, according to the state government website.
Their role can include signing documents, including wills, passports and statutory declarations, which require a qualified witness.
The Department Justice and Attorney-General currently relies on affected JPs and Cdecs to notify them as per their Code of Conduct, as well information from areas such as the public and police.
In April, amendments to the Justices of the Peace and Commissioners for Declarations Act will mean the overseers of both will have access to Queensland Police’s database for criminal histories.
It is unclear how the notifications system will work.
A Department of Justice and Attorney-General spokesperson said in a statement that currently the department requests a police check “when it is brought to its attention” that a Justice of the Peace (JP) or Commissioner of Declaration (Cdec) is facing criminal charges.
“In April, From April 2024, amendments to the current Act will allow the department’s Justices of the Peace Branch to have continuous monitoring of JPs and Cdecs through the Queensland Police Service criminal history system,’’ the spokesperson said.
It comes as InQueensland yesterday revealed a Queensland Revenue Office public servant, who is also a Justice of the Peace, faces eleven criminal charges.
The 43-year-old is accused of misusing her position, inside knowledge and government computer to withdraw three traffic infringements for her son who is also facing charges.
The most serious offence for which she is charged – misconduct in office with benefit – carries a maximum of seven years jail if convicted.
The woman remains registered on the Queensland government website which lists Justices of the Peace. InQueensland is not suggesting the woman did not notify the department of her charges.
The departmental spokesperson said if a JP or Cdec are convicted of an offence, they are disqualified from staying in either role.
“A Justice of the Peace (JP) will remain registered when charged with offences due to the concept of natural justice. However, if a conviction is recorded, a JP or Commissioner for Declarations (Cdec) will be ineligible to hold office under the provisions of the Justices of the Peace and Commissioners for Declarations Act 1991.
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However, if no conviction is recorded, they can remained registered.
The Justice of the Peace handbook says candidates with criminal and traffic convictions as well any bankruptcy proceedings will be taken into account to determine their eligibility.
A candidate can be disqualified from becoming a JP and Cdec on several grounds including if they are an insolvent, convicted of an indictable offence or a range of traffic offences.
The government’s current Justice of the Peace handbook states a JP and Cdec must advise of the department of anything that disqualifies them from holding the role.