As officers of the court, both solicitors and Justices of the Peace (JP’s) are authorised to witness and certify documents, such as mortgage documents or land title transfers. However, a JP is not qualified or authorised to offer legal advice. Therefore, when considering whether a JP or solicitor is required to sign or witness your document, first ask yourself: do you need legal advice?
If you require legal advice, seek out a solicitor. If not, a JP will be sufficient and won’t cost you a cent. Law firms are entitled to charge for the cost of a solicitor’s time in six minute intervals.
Essentially, a JP is a voluntary witness that is only qualified to carry out basic roles such as:
- witnessing signatures
- certifying true and original documents
- witnessing and administering affirmations or oaths
- witnessing statutory declarations and affidavits
- certifying a person’s identity
Their role is also almost interchangeable with that of a Commissioner of Declaration (Cdec). As public servants, they both act as independent and objective witnesses to authorise documents for official use, often giving them legal effect.
Justices of the Peace were first introduced as “Peace Officers” by King Edward III in 1327. They were tasked with handling lessor offences so that judges could place a greater focus on more serious matters. Over the years, although the responsibilities of a Justice of the Peace have considerably grown and developed, their role has remained historically consistent. By conducting lesser routine matters, they have afforded solicitors the ability to concentrate on complex legal matters, which require professional legal training.
JPs and Cdecs are also more often readily available than solicitors and can be found at your local police station, post offices, bank branch, shopping centres or in CBD head offices. A list of qualified Justice of the Peace can also be found online at http://www.justice.qld.gov.au/justice-services/justices-of-the-peace/jps-search for urgent matters after hours.