JPs find new home

Justices of the Peace John Alberti and Harry Collins are thrilled with the new, spacious office. Photo by Steve Grant

Concerns over age restriction

MELVILLE’S Justices of the Peace have found themselves a new home in the City of Melville’s Civic Centre in Booragoon.

For years the JPs have been in the Booragoon shopping centre, but association treasurer Harry Collins says their office was a “bit claustrophobic” and didn’t have signage.

“When you shut the door you could only put yourself and two people in there,” Mr Collins said. 

Covid distancing made that even more challenging.

A while ago Mr Collins bumped into a friend who worked at Melville council and she suggested they move back to the civic centre where they’d operated before being lured to the shopping centre.

Things were progressing until her retirement, when Mr Collins had to call on JP president John Alberti’s long list of connections to move things along.

“I spoke to George Gear the mayor and [acting Melville CEO] Gail Bowman and they were very, very helpful; they were fantastic and couldn’t do enough for us,” Mr Alberti said.

The JPs were given three potential options and eagerly took one next to the Civic Centre’s courtyard, with the City even helping to set up a welcoming area.

Mr Alberti said ample parking nearby was a great bonus, as was having the council’s receptionists making sure people can find the office easily.

The JPs are all volunteers and the service operates five days a week from 10am – 1pm and last year dealt with more than 18,000 inquiries.

Most of their work is witnessing signatures, with divorce proceedings and probate top of the list.

Mr Alberti says the biggest question people usually have when bringing in an affadavit is what’s the difference between affirming or swearing; which pretty much boils down to adding “so help me God” at the end of the latter.

JPs are also used by police for various things like signing search warrants, but Mr Alberti says there’s a growing problem in the age cut-off.

JPs over 75 years old are no longer able to sign most of the documentation, but their ranks are ageing and their younger colleagues are often tied up with work and family commitments.

Mr Alberti said the government should change the legislation to allow JPs to sign papers at least until they were 80 given the improvements in life expectancy.

“What is going to happen in the next five years is there are not going to be too many people able to sign a warrant, for the simple reason that younger JPs have families and they work, and they cannot volunteer to do this type of stuff we do any day.

“And then what they’re going to have to do is go to a magistrate, or they’re going to have to appoint the officer in charge to be able to do that, and I’m not sure whether that’s against the law or a conflict of interest.”

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