Code of Conduct Date Updated: April 2022 (First issued Jan 2000 Policy005)
Our legal system is based on the principle of integrity and independence of the Judiciary.
This Code provides ethical standards for the promotion and preservation of these principles. This provides the minimum acceptable standard of conduct applicable to all Honorary Justices.
1. Personal Propriety and Behaviour.
(a) Honorary Justices are to maintain and promote such standards of conduct that are likely to uphold the integrity and independence of the office.
(b) Honorary Justices are to respect and comply with the law and conduct themselves in a manner to promote public confidence in the integrity and independence of the Judiciary. They are to avoid behaviour, which might bring the office into disrepute or undermine the impartiality, fairness or character of the honorary justice system.
(c) Honorary Justices are to always act impartially, not allowing their conduct or decision to be influenced by their family, social or other circumstances.
(d) Honorary Justices are not to convey, or permit others to convey, the impression that they are in a special position of influence.
2. Judicial Responsibilities
(a) Honorary Justices are to give due precedence to being an authorised officer and related administrative duties, without undue detriment to their personal or business life.
(b) Honorary Justices are to perform their duties without bias or prejudice.
(c) Honorary Justices are to comply with the requirements of the law, and be faithful to that law.
(d) Honorary Justices are to be unswayed by partisan interests, public clamour, fear of criticism or appeal.
(e) Honorary Justices are to maintain order and decorum in providing services and any proceedings before them.
(f) Honorary Justices are to accord to every person who is legally interested in a proceeding, full right to be heard according to law.
(g) Honorary Justices should abstain from public comment about any matters or proceedings subject to their jurisdiction.
(a) Honorary Justices are to disqualify themselves from any proceedings in which their impartiality might reasonably be questioned.
(b) If it is seen that a conflict of interest may arise, a Honorary Justice must disclose all actual and potential conflicts of interest known to them.
4. Administrative Responsibilities
Honorary Justices are to diligently discharge their administrative responsibilities and remain professionally competent through ongoing training.
5. Financial Dealings and Gifts
(a) Honorary Justices must not accept or receive any monies or goods in kind for performing their services or administrative duties.
(b) Honorary Justices will refrain from financial and business dealings that tend to reflect adversely on their impartiality, interfere with the proper performance of their duties, or exploit their position.
(c) Information acquired by Honorary Justices in their capacity as an Honorary Justice will not be used or disclosed by them in any way.
6. Legal Advice
Honorary Justices must not give any legal advice to any person whatsoever, unless they are also a qualified legal practitioner.
7. Public Activity
When acting in their capacity as an Honorary Justice, or when using their title, they are to refrain from public comment or activity in relation to politics.
8. Relationship with Informant & Accused
(a) Honorary Justices are to act impartially between the informant and accused.
(b) Honorary Justices must, as far as possible, refrain from personal relationships with people with whom, an association would bring Honorary Justices into disrepute.
9. Relationship with the Media
Honorary Justices are expected to avoid identification (in the media) in relation to their duties.
10. Misconduct by other Justices
Honorary Justices, having knowledge, based upon reasonable and sustained grounds, that another Honorary Justice has acted in a manner detrimental to the integrity and/or independence of Honorary Justices, should report the matter to the Royal Victorian Association of Honorary Justices, in writing.
11. Ethics Committee
Honorary Justices must respect and comply with all issues raised in this Code of Conduct. The Royal Victorian Association of Honorary Justices Ethics Committee will consider any alleged issue of misconduct submitted in writing. Honorary Justices so named will make themselves available to address any such allegation and accept the resultant decision.
Professional standards updated: April 2022 (First Issued Jan 2000 Policy 006)
Appointees to the offices of Justice of the Peace and Bail Justice come from various and representative sectors of our community and consequently from a variety of vocations, educational and cultural backgrounds and achievements. This could be regarded as influencing the manner in which they might carry out their duties.
This paper provides basic guidelines for the performance of duties by Honorary Justices to ensure that a high and consistent standard of behaviour is maintained.
In addition to what is set out in this paper, regard should be given to the law and to policy documents prepared by the Department of Justice and the Royal Victorian Association of Honorary Justices.
The office of Honorary Justice has been in existence for eight hundred years, but will only survive in the future through beneficial and necessary service to the community. It is therefore necessary to maintain a positive community perception of the office and to make appropriate changes to the manner in which officers carry out their duties.
Although the office is honorary, Justices of the Peace and Bail Justices must carry out their duties in a professional manner and fulfil all lawful obligations.
Factors to be considered in detail
1. OATH OF OFFICE
The oath of office includes the obligation to administer the law ‘without fear or favour.’ It is vital that justice is done and is seen to be done. A perception of bias for or against any person is not acceptable.
2. OATH OF ALLEGIANCE
The oath of allegiance obliges Bail Justices and Justices of the Peace to uphold the common law and law made by Parliament.
3. ETHICS AND CONDUCT
This area is covered by publications and documents of both the Department of Justice and the Royal Victorian Association of Honorary Justices. They set standards that are perceived as necessary to maintain appropriate respect for the office of Honorary Justice.
From time to time breaches of these codes of behaviour may occur which require investigation and subsequent action. Any member aware of such breaches or allegations of such breaches is duty bound initially to bring the matter before the Association’s ethics committee.
The actions and conduct of individual Justices not only reflects on themselves, but also on others holding such offices. This is why it is essential to act in accordance with proper standards.
A courteous, knowledgeable and fair approach is most effective in establishing and Professional standards for maintaining the necessary authority for carrying out the duties of an Honorary Justice with appropriate dignity.
4. EDUCATION AND TRAINING
It is essential that Honorary Justices receive constant education and training, both formally and informally. This will ensure that the service that Justices offer to the wider community is undertaken by properly trained people. Unless this is done, there is the danger that Honorary Justices will cease to relate to community needs and become part of history.
It is the responsibility of Justices to be involved in the formal training sessions that are offered from time to time.
Informal training is made available through special interest groups and peer group discussions as well as through seminars on related issues.
Honorary Justices are informed of the details of legislative change by both the Department of Justice and the Association. The Association should be asked to advise on interpretative concerns as soon as these may arise.
5. GENERAL MANNER BEARING AND ATTITUDE
The publicity given to Honorary Justices through media coverage is often adverse or, at best negative. Because of this it becomes all the more important that the manner, bearing and attitude displayed by Honorary Justices should correct any misconceptions by the general community and leave a positive impression of the office.
This public perception is formed from all the experiences people have of Honorary Justices in both their official and private capacities.
The service required of an Honorary Justice usually relates to a serious and important event in which the community member is involved. This includes even the more straightforward witnessing of documents. The environment, therefore, as well as the process of dealing with the matter, must reflect the professionalism and dignity necessary to leave the community member with a feeling of satisfaction and understanding. Failure to achieve this may jeopardise the perception of the relevance of the office and contribute to the introduction of alternative methods of dealing with matters that are now the concern of Honorary Justices.
Even in the more serious case of dealing with the removal of a person’s liberty, it is generally possible to have the defendant understand the reasons for the decision and reluctantly accept it as just. The adoption of appropriate professional standards will ensure a maximisation of positive results.
Where the service is provided in the Honorary Justice’s work or home environment, special attention should be given to ensure that the facilities are private and away from members of the family, pets and other distracting influences. The highest dignity should be afforded the situation.
In the case of remand hearings similar principles should be applied to ensure that both the Honorary Justice and the facilities are clean, neat and tidy and afforded the dignity and respect of any other Court.
The impression left on the participants as a result of the appearance, conduct and knowledge of the Honorary Justice will be lasting and should be as positive as possible.
6. EXERCISING AUTHORITY
Though it is essential to maintain control of proceedings in order to deliver the desired level and quality of service, it is also vital that the participants in any process are left with the impression that they have been dealt with justly. As has been mentioned earlier, justice must not only be done, but be seen to be done.
Consequently the excessive use of authority by the Honorary Justice is as potentially harmful to a positive response as the exercising of too little or no authority when the situation calls for the opposite.
Authority is most effectively exercised through the practice of professional standards in a courteous, knowledgeable and efficient manner as has been outlined in this paper.
7. CONDUCT OF HEARINGS
For the purposes of the Bail Act the hearing is regarded as the procedure of a Court. The location must therefore be suitable for a Court, with consideration being given to factors such as noise, human traffic, the possibility of interruption, security, and the cleanliness and comfort of the facilities used for the conduct of the hearing. The conduct of the court is vested in the Honorary Justice; security is a police responsibility; the physical and mental condition of the participants is a Forensic Medical Officer responsibility.
It is important that all matters to be considered in the hearing be given only in the presence of all the participants. It should thus be established as soon as possible who the interested parties are and that they are all present.
Either sworn or unsworn evidence may be given. Taking sworn evidence may assist in ensuring a balance for participants.
The Honorary Justice should ensure that any documents that should be filled in by the Justice are done by him or herself, or prepared under the Honorary Justice’s direction and not completed previously by the police.
8. RECORD KEEPING
Honorary Justices should keep accurate records only as indicated by legislation of their duties that they have undertaken, in particular remand hearings, in case such duties need to be referred to in later Court proceedings. To do this it is strongly recommended that Honorary Justices acquire the relevant record forms from the Department of Justice or the Association.
It is the community perception of the office of Honorary Justice that is the single biggest factor in determining the relevance of the office.
Only as long as the community is satisfied with the service delivered by Honorary Justices, will those in Government continue to provide appropriate roles for Honorary Justices and thus enable an eight hundred year old tradition to continue.
Technology is rapidly changing many of the traditional methods and practices of Honorary Justices. This is why Honorary Justices must continually review their performance and compare this with community needs and expectations. It is to this end that this paper has been prepared.
Postnominals and the use of the letters “JP”
Newly appointed Justices of the Peace frequently ask about the use of the letters ‘JP’ and where these letters should be positioned in relation to honours, academic and professional qualifications.
The position of the RVAHJ reflects the Code of Conduct issued by the Department of Justice and Community Safety, in Victoria which states that titles should not be used to advertise or advance, or appear to advertise or advance, business, commercial or personal interests.
We have seen that this can often be a matter of perception and interpretation and, in the case of municipal elections, the argument has been made that it might be appropriate for a candidate, wishing to demonstrate their community involvement, to include their honorary activities.
There are also differences between the various states in Australia, as the reprinted article from N.S.W below outlines. In the end, if in doubt then contact the respective Department of Justice in each State for clarification for a specific situation.
Recently, the Office of the Lord Chancellor of England issued re-written instructions on the use of the letters ‘JP’ which should answer those questions.
“Justices are entitled to use the letters ‘JP’ after their name and it is proper for the letters to be inserted after Royal Honours at all times but preceding academic, professional and other qualifications, eg. John Smith, OBE, JP, MEc, AASA, AFAIM.
Although it is customary for the letters ‘JP’ to be placed after the name of a Justice of the Peace, the proprietary of doing so in personal correspondence, and in connection with social functions is acceptable provided that the principle referred to below of not using or appearing to use the status of justice to advance trade, professional or business interests, is not violated.
It is also proper for the suffix ‘JP’, or the description ‘Justice of the Peace’, to be used where the justice is acting or signing as such. Exception would not be taken to the letters appearing after the names of directors of public companies on a public prospectus or in any annual report to shareholders.
On the other hand these letters should not appear on business cards, business or professional notepaper, or in commercial advertisements, as the principle behind the restrictions is that no-one should be given the impression, however unintentionally, that the office of Justice of the Peace is being used for furtherance of trade, profession or business interests.
It is also improper for the letters to appear on cheques, driving licences or other personal documents, and the magisterial status of an officer of a local authority should not be referred to upon its official notepaper.
Lastly the fact that a person is a Justice of the Peace must not be mentioned in, or on, any papers which relate to the candidature of the justice in parliamentary or local government elections, and such justices should ensure that their agents are aware of this.”
“The general policy adopted in New South Wales, is not to permit the use of the letters for the same reasons as outlined in the above article.”
The Honourable John Hannaford MLC
Attorney General and Minister for Justice
27 September 1993
The above article is reprinted here from the NSW Justices Association Journal, ‘The Justice of the Peace’, November 1993, (page 30). It is reproduced here for the benefit and information of JP’s and the public at large.