Trelawny’s Grant mulls stipend for JPs
BUSINESSMAN KENNETH Grant, who is president of the Trelawny Lay Magistrates Association, has called for justices of the peace (JPs) to be given a stipend for expenses incurred in providing their services.
Noting that all JPs are fully aware when they sign on that their services would be voluntary, Grant, in an interview with The Gleaner, said that they are sometimes required to dig into their own pockets to ensure that they can fulfil the mandate of their office.
“When I go to court, I perform the duty of a judge. If I have a business, I have to close it down for the day,” said Grant, “When I visit the police station to act as a lawyer when an accused is to be involved in a question-and-answer, that requires anywhere up to three hours away from my business and I am losing money.”
In speaking to a recent situation that caused him to be away from his position, and in an unplanned situation, Grant said it caused him to start thinking that there was justification in the call for JPs to get a stipend.
“I was present at a question-and-answer for an accused person. The High Court Judge summoned me to court, and I had to close my business to go to court. I also had to buy meals for my driver and myself. All this cost, including travelling, was borne by me. This kind of work should attract a stipend,” said Grant, who made it clear that he was not speaking as president of the Trelawny Lay Magistrates’ Association.
In a May 2022 statement, another JP, Ian Forbes, the custos of St Andrew, expressed views that differ from that of Grant. According to him, the services offered by justices are free and they should not seek to solicit or accept payment for their services.
Justice Minister Delroy Chuck, who has strongly denounced JPs who are said to be charging for their service, earlier this year reminded JPs that they are expected to offer voluntary services and warned that JPs who do otherwise will be relieved of their commission.
“It is not a profession; it is voluntary service to the public. If you are offered $1,000 or $5,000 refuse it,” said Chuck, who noted that the office of JP is one of high integrity.
While not coming down one way or the other on the idea of offering JPs a stipend, Trelawny Custos Hugh Gentles said going the stipend route would require a change in the regulations that govern the operations of JPs.
“I don’t have a straightforward answer. Justices are reminded that it is a voluntary position. Granted the duties performed by justices have increased tremendously over recent times,” Gentles told The Gleaner, “I would have to give it serious thought. Right now, I don’t want to give an opinion.”