The Expanding Role of the Justice of the Peace
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AbstractJPs' duties vary from province to province. In Ontario, JPs preside over criminal trials of summary conviction but are not allowed to issue peace bonds. The opposite holds true in British Columbia, where JPs do not preside over trials and do issue peace bonds. Within each province, there may be various categories of JPs, such as Sitting JPs and Presiding JPs. Sitting JPs in several provinces conduct trials in provincial and municipal regulatory offences. Traffic tickets form the largest proportion of these offences. If one is involved in the legal system at all, it is most likely to be in relation to this type of offence. In some provinces, the Sitting JP will hear evidence at trials for summary conviction and preside over trials at request of the Chief Judge. JPs in Nunavut are judges in their single-level trial court system. The duties of JPs may be administratively changed without amending the legislation. In Manitoba, senior court officials change the daily duties of JPs as required. A duty roster system operates in British Columbia ensuring the JPs time off from work as well as spreading out their coverage. In Ontario, the duty roster scheme was created partly to prevent police from JP-shopping. Although protected by the Constitution and legislation like the rest of the judiciary, JPs' independence is subject to more administrative control than other members of the judiciary. JPs consider the evidence brought forth by police to lay charges. They issue powerful warrants of all kinds. They decide whether accused persons should be released pre-trial. They conduct the trials on a multitude of regulatory offences. This means that JPs are often at the forefront of the justice system. In most cases, the first independent decision maker an accused person will meet in the system, will be a JP. Because JPs do work that is inconvenient, routine, or off-hours for full time, permanent judges, they fill an essential role in the judiciary.
Article deposited after permission was granted by the editor of LawNow Magazine, 06/28/2010.