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Crackdown on crooked JPs - Uncooperative public making it difficult to weed out bad apples

Published:Sunday | November 22, 2015 | 11:00 AMRyon Jones
Custos of Kingston Steadman Fuller.
Custos of St Catherine the Reverend Jeffery McKenzie.
Custos of St Thomas Marcia Bennett.
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Efforts to crack down on rogue justices of the peace (JPs) who are charging for their services and signing documents for people they don't know are being stymied by Jamaicans who are refusing to provide information to the authorities.

Some three months after The Sunday Gleaner exposed JPs in the Corporate Area and St Andrew who are ignoring the rules under which they were appointed, some are continuing to operate.

Custos of St Catherine the Reverend Jeffery McKenzie last week admitted that some JPs are getting away with their illegal and unethical practices as persons have been reluctant to come forward and say they have been requested to pay for services.

"We have put it to our team and we are not getting anybody to come in to indicate that they do pay for services. And unless you have somebody swearing that they came at a given point and they were charged money for services from a justice of the peace, then we can't do anything," said McKenzie.

"We are asking the public, those who have a complaint, they need to put it in writing with their names attached to it. People are a little bit timid to bring forward their names, and without the names we are not going to be able to expunge them from the system."

McKenzie pointed out that since the two JPs seen by The Sunday Gleaner in September, who charged for their services, were not from St Catherine, their names have been passed on to the authorities in the parish in which they are registered.

Custos of Kingston Steadman Fuller also has rogue JPs from other parishes operating in his jurisdiction, as two of the three JPs already found to be making a business out of what is to be a voluntary service were not from Kingston.

DISCIPLINARY COMMITTEE

Fuller said the one JP from Kingston identified as breaking the rules is facing a disciplinary committee.

"There is a process, and we have enough evidence to take that person successfully to the disciplinary committee to answer allegations," said Fuller.

"We have other persons on the list for a variety of reasons, such as inappropriate domestic arrangements and getting involved in situations such as owing money, and that sort of thing."

Fuller revealed that four persons are down to face the committee, but the process is being delayed, as his office is currently in the process of recruiting a few persons to make a quorum following some attrition.

Custos of St Thomas Marcia Bennett said the JP from her parish who was found to be operating unethically in Kingston is currently being investigated with a view of taking strong action.

"They might be collecting $1 now, the next time it is $1,000 or $100,000; you never know," said Bennett.

"We have taken a position that we are going to be taking the seals away from them and then they can take us to court, but we are going to remove the seals, because if they have no seals they have no jurisdiction."

Bennett also lamented the unwillingness of persons to give evidence against the JPs.

"What happens when these things come to light is you need evidence when you are taking them to the minister," Bennett said. "Even when you have information, a lack of persons to testify is why these people most times are not convicted in court."

ryon.jones@gleanerjm.com