Queensland Law Society

JP (Quals) could compound dispute unease

Date 23 Apr 2013
Contact Natalie Graeff, Manager Corporate Communication
Phone (07) 3842 5868
Mobile 0488 433 884
Fax 07 3221 9329
Email n.graeff@qls.com.au

Queensland Law Society is concerned about the decision to trial Justices of the Peace (Qualified) to preside with legally experienced Justices of the Peace over certain QCAT matters.

The proposed change is contained in the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (Justices of the Peace) Amendment Bill 2013, recently introduced in Queensland Parliament.

President Annette Bradfield said only legally qualified and experienced Justices of the Peace – a proposed new type of JP – and Justices of the Peace (Magistrates) should be involved in determining QCAT matters such as minor civil disputes.

“There is an enormous difference between the current JP types, as JP (Quals) perform good community service by witnessing documents for people and JP (Mags) are predominately legal practitioners who have a working knowledge of the law,” Ms Bradfield said.

“JP (Mags) and the proposed legally qualified and experienced JPs understand legal procedure, how to assess evidence, make directions and orders for third parties and decide settlement.

“JP (Quals), however, are more accustomed to procedural certification and witnessing.

“The Queensland Law Reform Commission, in its report ‘The role of Justices of the Peace in Queensland’ also acknowledged that the exercise of Court powers be limited only to JP (Mags).

“The term ‘minor civil dispute’ in QCAT matters doesn’t mean that the matters aren’t legally challenging.

“For example, issues relating to the Neighbourhood Disputes Act and building matters have considerable elements of complexity and often involve reliance on expert evidence but they could fall within this category.

“We strongly recommend that there be further consideration about the justice implications and appropriateness of this proposed course of action and we will outline these issues in our submission to the Legal Affairs and Community Safety Committee”