Sat | Jan 20, 2018

Trelawny JPs overwhelmed, more needed

Published:Tuesday | February 21, 2017 | 12:00 AMLeon Jackson

Despite the expressed desire of Jamaica's justice minister, Delroy Chuck to have one justice of the peace (JP) per 100 persons in Jamaica as early as possible, the parish of Trelawny is woefully out of sync with the minister's expectations.

Since Trelawny's custos, Paul Muschette, took office on March 18, 2010, he has only commissioned 30 new JPs. In the almost seven-year period, a number of justices have either died or have migrated. Last November, the custos told The Gleaner that he hoped to have 80 new justices installed in 2017, but so far, there have been no new appointments.

Because of the limited number of JPs, the few that are available are being overworked, prompting justices like retired teacher Lettice Brown, who can be found daily on her verandah between 8:30 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. providing the scarce service, to suggest that justices be given a form of a stipend for their work.

"I buy paper, ink, run my computer and printer all in the name of voluntary service," said Brown, who sees the mothers, fathers, grandmothers, and grandfathers, who she has encountered over the years, always turning to her, especially when other justices come up with excuses not to sign. "Even the police, because of where I live, also find it convenient to take a bundle of summons for me to sign."

Service should remain voluntary - Okoro

While agreeing that the demand on their services is quite taxing because of the limited number of justices of the peace (JPs) in the parish of Trelawny, justices Valrie Okoro and Justice Reverend Devere Nugent are not in agreement with the call for a stipend for JPs.

"We took an oath to provide voluntary service and that is the way it should stay," said Okoro.

Nugent, who finds that almost everybody from Sherwood Content where he was born finds him at William Knibb Baptist Church to sign their documents, has an interesting proposal.

"I am not going to agree that the citizenry should pay, however, from my experience government should levy a cess on members of the private sector, especially the banks. From this cess, needed material can be distributed to those justices who need such material," said Nugent. "The names of Justices and their addresses should be placed at a convenient section on public buildings. This is because many of the Justices are not known, even in the districts where they reside."

Falmouth's mayor, Councillor Collin Gager, who is also a JP, has mixed views about whether or not justices should be paid.

"It is time consuming and if you are not careful you get overwhelmed with requests. Every little transaction now needs a stamp from a Justice of the Peace," the mayor said.