Justices of the peace call for new blood

Ann Rawson, chairperson of the Te Awamutu branch of the Waikato Justices of the Peace Association, with one of the packages prospective JPs will need to collect.

Steps are being taken to recruit more Justices of the Peace in Te Awamutu, both to boost numbers and bring younger people on board.

Ann Rawson, chairperson of the Te Awamutu branch of the Waikato Justices of the Peace Association, said the move was being made following the retirement of several senior JPs over the past year.  Numbers were also affected by the Covid-19 lockdown, she added, when senior JPs were advised by the national body that they could not make themselves available unless under exceptional circumstances.

“After that, we received a message from the Waikato Association saying that over 63 percent of our membership was over the age of 70,” she said. “We currently have 41 JPs looking after the Te Awamutu district, and while we are managing with that number, around 50 would be better. That means other JPs can go on leave without stretching others, and it would be easier to cover weekend and evening requirements.”

For those reasons, Ann is keen to encourage younger people to become JPs, preferably those between 30 and 50 years of age.

She began her own involvement as a JP in July 1991.

We were running a farm at Wharepapa South.  One of the JPs in the district moved into semi-retirement … he began travelling a fair bit, which left gaps in cover. I was encouraged to join and although I was full-on farming at the time, I found a way to fit it into my life.”

Since moving to Te Awamutu in 2002 she has continued her JP duties, conducting meetings primarily from the Citizens Advice Bureau offices.

Ann said concerns around when and where people meet with individuals requiring JP services often deters employed people from joining.  There is some flexibility around that, she said, with JPs able to fill in for others when necessary, thus making it easier for employed people to offer their services.

Those interested will be directed to a group Q & A session. The entire process takes around a year as it includes a nomination, an interview, provisional approval by the Associate Minister of Justice, face-to-face and online training and an online test. Once signed off by the Governor General, the new JP is sworn in by a District Court Judge and will then work alongside an established

JP until they feel comfortable operating on their own.

“It’s a voluntary role,” Ann pointed out, “but one that has real value in the community”

She said people needed to have empathy, be accurate and follow instructions, show initiative, be good listeners and show good judgement. They should not have been declared bankrupt at any stage.

Those keen to know more should contact Ann at [email protected], or on 021 2066 761.

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