Tuesday 21 August 2018
Hansard of the Legislative Council


Justices of the Peace

[11.16 a.m.]
Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - Mr President, we do not hear a great deal these days about justices of the peace - JPs - but we should because they fulfil a vital role for our community.  Three of them are members here, and there are probably more in the other Chamber.  Here there is the member for McIntyre, the member for Montgomery and the member for Launceston.  Any others?

We certainly have three JPs in our midst.  One JP who lives in Rosevears is Nigel Forteath, who has been working as a JP for 15 years.  He is one of nine JPs who work on a rotational basis in a temporary office in Henty House.  As I mentioned before the winter break, they will be moving to designated premises in the new CH Smith building.  They are pretty excited about moving down there.  As a reflection of the regard in which they are held, the Attorney‑General and the Government have agreed to provide that space for them to work in.

They operate a service from 10 a.m. till 3 p.m. on weekdays and they can be very busy indeed.  Nigel Forteath deals with between 150 and 200 documents a day; over a year that would be about 30 000-plus documents.  Interestingly all that work is voluntary.  As Nigel told me on Friday, it keeps his mind active during retirement.

He was motivated to become a JP when he retired as a professor of aquaculture by his son, who is a police officer.  When they were having a discussion about life in Launceston, he said, 'Dad, you really don't know what goes on out there.'  So Nigel set about discovering that and he has found out - and he will keep contributing as a JP because that work is very much needed on the legal side, in northern Tasmania particularly.

You might have heard the name Nigel Forteath; he was the professor of aquaculture who set up the seahorse farm at Beauty Point, which is also in my electorate.  Nigel helps a vast cross‑section of the community on many issues such as emergency travel documents, death certificates and marriage issues.  An important part of his role is to explain the seriousness of documents like statutory declarations to young people who are developing an understanding of the law.  He also handles a large number of police and search warrants, which is part of the process.  He said he never knows from day to day what next will come through his office door.

JPs are not required to hold a law degree but they need to obtain a legal education, be a good citizen and pass police checks - and, I suggest, have unlimited patience with the number of inquiries that come through.  If you have been to a JP recently, they are very meticulous in their filling out of documents and certainly take their time.

Ms Rattray - And undertake a course.

Mr FINCH - Yes, I am about to talk about that.  At the moment there are only four bench justices in Launceston, and that number is expected to increase to nine next month.  JPs authorised by the Chief Magistrate may perform what is termed 'bench duty'.  That involves sitting in out-of-hours courts to deal with bail matters, sitting in courts dedicated to traffic and parking offences, and also presiding over the taking of depositions in respect of indictable matters to be heard and determined in the Supreme Court.

Tasmanian bench justices meet regularly to discuss any areas or issues of interest, changes that may occur in legislation developed in this place, and also procedures.  Tasmanian JPs keep up to legal speed by attending regular refresher courses.  One was held in Launceston earlier this month.  Justices of the peace in Tasmania perform a vital role.  Without them our entire justice system would be in real trouble.  I salute our JPs.