The national Association of Justices of the Peace and Commissioners of the Supreme Court is the association with the function of looking after those two important classes of legal officials. There are over 3,000 Justices and Commissioners in the country, most politically appointed, of which about 600 are members of the association. After eight years of advocacy, a Justice of the Peace Act was only signed into law by the Attorney General in February of this year despite being assented to by the Governor General in 2005 under a PUP Government. The reason? Wilfred Elrington told PLUS News that nobody told him about it. J
Wilfred Elrington – Attorney General:
Sometimes it’s just not brought to your attention. You know, when you go into office as a new Attorney General it’s just not brought to your attention. And when it was brought to my attention I dealt with it. It would have been drafted under the Peoples United Party, and it was not something that was brought to my attention before.
The new act cracks down on JP’s who misuse their office for personal gain such as falsely assenting to information on passport documents as in past passport scandals. Association President Danny Madrid told PLUS News that penalties are in place to prevent such abuse and there is a code of conduct included.
Danny Madrid – Association President:
It’s a freedom. You join the Association if you wish. There’s a one time registration fee of $10, and a yearly frr of $60. But the only difference, if you join the Association and you’re a Financial Member then there’s rights. And the rights is that when it is time to elect your executive Members of the Association, only those who are financial have the right to vote. Other JPs have the right to attend the meeting, but do not have the right to vote.
[With reference to the training on Saturday:] We’re taking the opportunity to do two things. At the first session which starts at one o’clock, Mr Mario Arzu who is the Port Commander for Belize City will be present to give us information on the new applications forms for passport, and explain to us how it should be done. Then the second segment we’ll have is complete training for those JPs who have not received any training.
Membership in the association is not compulsory; the Attorney General told us that the association is “unincorporated” under the law and is there mainly as an umbrella. However, it does conduct training of JPs and one such training is scheduled for tomorrow, Saturday, in Belize City. The training takes place at 1:00 Saturday afternoon at the office of the Northern Fishermen cooperative in Belize City.