JPs should be paid for some services — Chang

Observer writer

Monday, October 22, 2018

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ESHER, HANOVER — National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang has expressed support for justices of the peace (JPs) being compensated for some services provided to the public.

He was responding to a point raised at the Lay Magistrates Association of Jamaica's annual general meeting here on Saturday.

“Some justices are of the feeling — and I don't know if it has ever come to the attention of the Government — that they should be compensated for some of the duties that they do,” said president of the Trelawny Chapter of the Lay Magistrates Association of Jamaica, Kenneth Grant.

Said Chang: “…I think the discussions are going on...but this is not so much a legislation [issue], and it falls in the remit of the Ministry of Justice. [But] I am saying here to the leadership, discuss it openly, because there are things that you can do for which you may not be in a position to be compensated, but there are other things that you are doing which justify compensation.”

President of the Lay Magistrates Association of Jamaica Errol Greene noted that similar arguments to Dr Chang's were floated over seven years ago.

“Indeed, Minister, we have looked at it as a body. I remember when Miss [Dorothy] Lightbourne was the minister of justice. She addressed us and we had that very discussion, because she was very sympathetic to your sentiments,” said Greene.

Dr Chang said the association should start with a protocol, and the Government would have the final say from a legal point of view about what is allowable.

Earlier in his presentation, Dr Chang argued that while there are questions surrounding the evolution of the JP — to include issues of selection and fees charged for certain services — the custodes maintain the position that it is against the culture of the voluntary organisation for JPs to charge fees.

He stressed, however, that while there is a need for the voluntary service, valuable time should not go unrewarded.

“There are hundreds of humble citizens who need a JP signature they really can't afford otherwise. They can't afford to pay for it because they are struggling. They need to access justice; they need a JP to sign, but it takes many hours of your time. And how do we deal with that? I cannot give you a final answer. It is something that you need to discuss… but I believe in challenging the system because we have to create what I think should be suitable for Jamaica — what is based on Jamaica's situation, our culture, our history and our people,” Dr Chang argued.

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