Why become a JP?

By Sophie Bond


When The Aucklander meets Jade Wood, he's just a couple of hours away from becoming the city's youngest Justice of the Peace.

The 29-year-old has practised the short affirmation speech and is ready to start serving his local community.

Becoming a JP is something Mr Wood has had in the back of his mind for some time. "I had several encounters with JPs because of some charity stuff I was doing, so that's how I first got hold of the idea."

The Freemans Bay resident works as a property manager and web developer and says this fits in well with his new role.

"Since I work from home I should be a bit easier to contact than most."

He says there are several reasons he wanted to become a JP.

"I'm interested in law and took law papers after uni and I'm interested in service so it was a good fit for both those things.

"The majority of what JPs do is witness documents, but they can be involved in all sorts of things from marriage dissolution to verifying photocopies. Those things are what they call the ministerial services. Then there are the judicial duties, which you have to undertake extra training for, and that means you can do things like issue search warrants. You kind of become a low-level judge and that's something I'd be quite interested in doing later on."

To become a JP, Mr Wood needed letters of recommendation from several community groups. Next he approached his local MP, Nikki Kaye, who recommended him.

"I had been told by the JP Association that they were short of people my age so I think that worked in my favour," he says.

Following an interview at the district court with the Justices' Association, Jade was approved as a JP.

"There was a wait to do the one-day training course, so all up it's taken over a year to get to this point."

He says JPs offer their services free of charge and it's up to individuals as to how much work they take on, while bearing in mind they are there to serve.

"You have to have an ability and willingness to work with anyone. No matter what class or race etc, it's not your job to judge people. And of course a lot of the work involves stuff that is sensitive so you need to able to keep your mouth shut."

FAQS ABOUT JPS

- The Royal Federation of New Zealand Justices' Associations is the executive for 29 regional member associations throughout New Zealand which represent around 7000 JPs.

- People are nominated by their Member of Parliament to the Minister of Justice, who recommends them for appointment, if suitable, to the Governor-General.

- JPs take the same oath as Judges of the High Court and District Court, in which they swear to "do right to all manner of people after the laws and usages of New Zealand, without fear of favour, affection or ill-will".

- Appointment is for life unless the JP resigns or is removed from office by the Governor-General.

- Auckland-based JPs can be found at www.jpauckland.org.nz

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- The Aucklander

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