New JPs to positively impact justice
Scores of new justices of the peace for the parish of St Andrew took the oath of office yesterday at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston with a provocative reminder that their services were too priceless for them to charge the public to access.
Guest speaker at the swearing-in ceremony, chief parish judge Chester Crooks, told the 58 justices of the peace that they were now a part of the justice system, and as such, they shared responsibility in ensuring that justice reached the average Jamaican.
"Just a few years ago, there was some uncertainty as to what the justice of the peace was to the average Jamaican. Some JPs charged for their services, and some members of the public thought they had to pay for the services of the justice of the peace. There was a recent amendment to the act that has put that beyond any doubt," the judge stated.
IMPORTANT LINK IN SYSTEM
Emphasising the importance of JPs, Crooks said that based on his experience, the average Jamaican's first or only contact with the justice system was through a justice of the peace.
He said that during his time trying to mediate matters, almost 100 per cent of the time, it was always a justice of the peace that all parties involved in a matter were comfortable working with.
"We are now in the age where we are focusing on what we call restorative justice, and I can tell you, it has been a great value in reducing the caseload before the courts, especially the parish courts."
Custos of St Andrew Dr Patricia Dunwell, in delivering her charge to the new JPs, argued that their roles had to change with the passage of time as society becomes more sophisticated.
"As you interact with citizens of St Andrew and the wider Jamaica, you will be asked many times, 'So what is the role of the justice of the peace?' Be quick to inform: JPs are voluntary servant leaders whose focus is to touch the lives of others in positive ways in an effort to maintain peace and the rule of law in communities," she said.