JP Association and AG office remain at odds?

Over the years,there have been numerous reports against JP’s who unlawfully request payments for their services. Belize has approximately 4000 registered JP’s and of that number 600 JP’s come under the National Association of Justices of the Peace. In order to join the Association, one must go through a careful examination process by the Association’s Vetting Committee. In 2005, the Association drafted and formulated the Justices of the Peace Act, 2005, which suggested a code of conduct to which Justices of the Peace and Senior Justices of the Peace should adhere. The act would have also seen JP’s being appointed through the National Association’s Vetting System, but it was never signed into law. Danny Madrid, President of the Association of JPs and CSC told Plus News today that he recently warned some of the accused JP’s, who in turn told him that they are ‘protected’. Madrid is of the view that a partnership between the Association and the Attorney General’s office in appointing JP’s is necessary to address this growing issue.

Adrian Madrid, President, Justices of the Peace Association: It’s one body that is the Justices of the Peace, but we have an association is a non-governmental organization that has nothing to do with the Attorney-General’s ministry directly. But, we want to join with the ministry and to look at the way we are appointing Justices of the Peace, the way they behave out there and that is what we want to correct. As we speak, (as confirmed by a former guest speaker who is a magistrate) there are hundreds of Justices of the Peace with criminal record, some have gone to jail. That’s what we are trying to correct and through the association, it can be done. When you apply to become a Justice of the Peace through the association, there is an application form to be completed,. You have to present a clean police record, two letters of recommendation, a letter stating the reason why you want to become a Justice of the Peace and the languages you speak, because we need Spanish speaking Justices of Peace. And a very important point we emphasize, is that you cannot sign any document until you receive a four hour training. When you are done with that training, you may not know all but you are trained on the most important documents that you have to sign. I don’t know what the government does when they appoint Justices of the peace, because they don’t tell us.

And according to Madrid, all of their efforts to partner with the Attorney General’s office have proven fruitless.

Adrian Madrid, President, Justices of the Peace Association: We have been trying from 2006, we have visited the Attorney General’s ministry and had very good and fruitful conversations, but once we close the door behind us, it often ends there and we continue to live like that. But as responsible justices of the peace that we are, we will not give up, we will continue the dialogue with the ministry. So that they can decide not to play politics anymore with the issues and look at our association as a very serious one. That’s the reason why we exist for 17 years, as we do not play politics in the association.

Solicitor General Nigel Hawke did weigh in on the issue when we caught up with him today. Hawke, who is Solicitor General at the AttorneyGeneral’sMinistry, admitted that the Ministry and the Association do not share the best relationship. However, he is urging the Association to put the past behind in order to move forward in one voice.

Nigel Hawke, Solicitor General: Me, myself, I’ve done some work with the Belmopan Chapter of the JP Association. I’ve delivered lectures to them in relation to their role and integrity, and I think the Hon. Attorney General has also done so. I think that we’ve also done for Belize City and some other chapters; but what we’re saying now, with the advent of UNCAC… let us forget about the past. IF there were issues in the past, let us try to forge a togetherness as we move forward because we can’t go to the people that will review us and say that we’re fighting and we can’t get things done. We have to go as one voice so we can say that without fear of contradiction that all JPs are trained, we know who are the JPs. The law requires that all the names be published at the various districts in Belize. Those are the things we want to do so that we can have compliance with the Justice of the Peace Act. We want to work with them, and I’ve indicated to Mr. Madrid that my doors are open, he’s free to come and discuss it so we can collaborate whether by way of training or otherwise so we can all speak with one voice.  

The Justices of the Peace and the Solicitor General were at a consultation in Belmopan today. We will tell you more about that later on in this newscast.

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