Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE (Associate Minister of Justice)
: I move,
That the Justices of the Peace Amendment Bill be now read a third time. The Justices of the Peace Amendment Bill is designed to modernise the legislation governing a community voluntary institution, for the first time in more than 50 years. The Government introduced the bill to reform three main areas: training, discipline, and retirement. I believe that the quality and consistency of the work carried out by justices of the peace, or JPs, will be improved through the introduction of compulsory training prior to appointment, specialised training for all justices who wish to exercise a judicial function, and the robust disciplinary provisions introduced by the bill. The bill’s measures also indicate the high standard of behaviour that is expected of JPs as respected members of our community.
The disciplinary provisions in the current Justices of the Peace Act allow for a JP to be removed from office in only the most serious of cases. The bill enhances the disciplinary regime by specifying the grounds for removal or suspension of a JP, and the process that must be followed to secure a removal or suspension. The lower-level disciplinary measures in the bill also ensure that JPs who are not performing to an acceptable level can receive an official written rebuke, and can be required to attend suitable training or receive counselling. I believe that specifying the disciplinary regime in the legislation provides for a consistent, fair, and transparent basis for decision making.
Justices of the peace have a proud tradition in our country of voluntary service in the community. This Government and, I believe, all members of this House commend JPs throughout New Zealand for their work and their commitment. As a way of recognising the significant amount of time and effort of long-serving justices, the bill allows former JPs who have served for at least 10 years to apply to use the title “JP (retired)”. The professional body representing around two-thirds of New Zealand’s justices of the peace, the Royal Federation of New Zealand Justices’ Associations, has a keen interest in the progression of this bill, and has been consulted throughout the bill’s development.
At this point I want to pay some special tributes. In respect of the history, I want to thank the former justice sector Ministers and the current Minister for Courts, but firstly I thank the Hon Paul Swain—who I am advised is in great demand internationally for his
thoughts on this bill, and other things—who kicked the ball off in terms of getting this legislation off the shelf, into shape, and progressing through, by means of consultation with the stakeholders and the public. I also thank the Minister for Courts and the previous Associate Minister of Justice, Rick Barker, who began much of the work on this legislation. As Associate Minister of Justice I have had the privilege to bring the bill into the House and conclude it. That is my small contribution to that process.
I also thank other members of the House, including Simon Power and his team from the Opposition benches, who raised some interesting questions as the Law and Order Committee proceedings went through. To be fair, I think that the select committee, headed by my colleague Martin Gallagher—
Simon Power: Formidable!
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: My colleague Simon Power calls Martin Gallagher formidable, and I agree. As a justice of the peace himself and chair of the Law and Order Committee, Martin Gallagher pushed this bill through, and I believe the committee has given a product to this House that is superb.
This bill has been supported by the royal federation, which represents all associations. I specifically thank the immediate past president of the Royal Federation of New Zealand Justices’ Associations, Gavin Kerr, who was the president throughout last year. He really provided some momentum and assistance to me as the then new Associate Minister of Justice to get this legislation off the ground. He is an innovator. He was recently honoured by our Queen, and it was a well-deserved honour. He has made a huge contribution to his community, and in taking on the role of president he has demonstrated that he is an innovator, a
moderniser, and a person who wants to further
professionalise the office of justice of the peace. He is out there, promoting it every day, trying to recruit younger people, trying to encourage senior JP members to continue in their mentoring role, and trying to get more diverse members of our community to take up the office of JP so that they can assist communities.
I also want to acknowledge the work, alongside that of Gavin, of the current president of the royal federation, John Falconer, who took office recently, and thank him for his commitment. I also acknowledge the long-serving royal federation registrar, Alan Hart, who provides all the administrative support. He has been superb in working with the Ministry of Justice and assisting them as we have gone through.
Running alongside this, as I said at the Committee stage, is a stocktake document that we are mailing out literally today. Members of the select committee will know that the document, which has been agreed to and promoted by the royal federation, and contributed to by the ministry, seeks to line up a lot of the so-called customs and practices that do vary—some very positively and some very negatively—from association to association. I acknowledge the Hon Paul Swain again, who very recently, with interactions with his own local association as a good, committed member trying to assist it, has provided some great input into that stocktake document. The objective of that document is quite simple: to get some best-practice functions and ideas and to standardise them right across the country, to take the best ones and institutionalise them, and to remove the worst ones—and there are one or two.
It is noteworthy to reiterate what I said last night, though. This bill is about
professionalising JPs, but in doing so the reforms in this legislation do not confer a power of veto or a vetting capability on JPs’ associations. It is right and proper that members of Parliament continue to nominate justices of the peace. It is right and proper that the Minister of the day, of whatever political shade, continues to have the ultimate right, through the Governor-General, obviously, to appoint. That is how it should be, and that is how it will remain.
It just remains for me to again thank all members for their support. This is one of the few times in this Parliament where we can genuinely stand up and say we all agree that we are humbled by the contribution made by voluntary members of the community, like justices of the peace. They are part of our judiciary, they fulfil a huge role, and also, bluntly, they save us a heck of a lot of money. If we did not have 10,500 JPs out there signing search warrants, or witnessing documents for students, travel documents for people, passports, or whatever, somebody would have to do that, and it would probably be incumbent on the taxpayer to stump up and pay for that facility to be provided.
We now move on. I went to the office of the royal federation last week, and Alan Hart, who was present, presented me with a cake. On the cake was the number 50. I said to Alan that I knew I looked past my years but I had not reached that milestone—like you have, Mr Assistant Speaker. The cake was to mark the 50 years that the royal federation has been asking for a reform bill to come into the House. So it has been a long time coming.
Simon Power: I must have mislaid my invitation.
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: I saved a bit of cake for you. This is a great day for JPs. I am especially indebted to the ones in my electorate of Waimakariri for the huge job they do, and I know all members of Parliament are also indebted. I commend the bill to the House, and I look forward to its passage and enactment.
SIMON POWER (National—Rangitikei)
: I take this opportunity to thank the Hon Clayton Cosgrove for his kind and bipartisan-like words on the Justices of the Peace Amendment Bill. On behalf of the National Party I too take this opportunity simply to say a few quick words regarding the third reading of this bill.
Firstly, like the Labour Party, National would like to take this opportunity publicly to thank JPs for the voluntary work they do in our community. Often, it is difficult to quantify exactly the level of depth and breadth of work done, and the only time we will truly know the commitment and the effort made by JPs on a voluntary capacity, I suspect, is if one day they are not there. On that basis, I want to take this opportunity, formally, to thank JPs across New Zealand for their work.
I too add to the Minister’s thanks to the royal federation, because, as I said during the second reading, this is in many ways its bill, its legislation, although there were some important debates in the Law and Order Committee. In the first instance the legislation looked simple, but it actually was not because other issues have remained unanswered as this legislation is being passed—which I will return to shortly. I too would like to thank Alan Hart for the work he does on behalf of the federation, and I apologise for not attending the cake ceremony recently.
I also take this opportunity to thank Gavin Kerr, the immediate past president, for the work that he has done. This legislation was largely an initiative driven by him in a way that saw him exercise, frankly, quite some political skill, because the Minister had bold ideas about how quickly this legislation would travel through the select committee—and so he should have had. But the select committee, of course, is not a creature of the Minister’s wishes, and wanted to take some time to discuss the bill in some detail.
I am interested to find out that Martin Gallagher is a JP. He did not declare that, at the point the legislation went through the committee. So that was quite interesting. I was thinking back about it, and he did not make too much of a contribution when we started talking about remuneration. So maybe we will forgive him, in relation to that potential conflict of interest.
I think that the appointment and training processes that have been initially suggested by the Ministers—two or three of them who are present in the House—and also by the select committee, are appropriate. Members of Parliament, at the time they make a recommendation for an appointment of a JP, worry that those people may not front and
do the job that they, I guess in front of the member when being interviewed, have committed to do. So I think that swapping the presumptive nature of the order in which the training and the warrant are bequeathed is the right way to go—training first, then receipt of the warrant, and not the other way around. I think that is sensible, and I think that is to be encouraged.
The disciplinary clauses are important, but largely thematic, actually. I suspect that they will be used in a very minor way, if at all, by the federation. There are some unanswered questions, as I indicated earlier. The committee, during its deliberation, considered carefully and seriously the issues of limited tenure, practising certificates, and registration and licensing—or their equivalent. The idea of renewal after a certain period of time in the job—maybe 5, maybe 10, or maybe 15 years—was attractive to the committee at those stages. But in the end it was after two or three different discussions with the federation—we asked the federation back to discuss those issues, I think, on two occasions after the initial submission was made—that we decided to leave the issue of tenure, and that of remuneration for that matter, for another time.
I do share, however, the Minister’s concerns, although he did not express them as concerns, to see more diverse JPs appointed. This is not a club, and it is not up to the federation to invite people to become JPs to the exclusion of those whom others in the community may think might make good JPs. On that basis, I endorse the Minister’s view that ultimately the decision to have the warrant placed on a JP should be at the recommendation of the Minister, or Associate Minister, of Justice, of whatever political stripe that individual may be. I think that is important. That is not to take away from the fact that most members of Parliament, as I understand it, work closely with their JP associations to make sure that appointments are acceptable both to the association and to the member. But let us not forget that ultimately any high office bestowed by the likes of the Governor-General on the recommendation of the Government of the day, must reflect the make-up of New Zealand society at any one point. That does mean having more women JPs. That does mean having more
Māori JPs. That does mean having more Asian and Pasifika JPs, and frankly it does mean having younger people in the job, as well. I would like to take this opportunity to put those thoughts on record. After having sat through what I thought was going to be a straightforward piece of legislation, it struck me that it was not—and that we had to get it right.
I want to thank the officials who sat through the select committee’s deliberations. They were patient, and we thank them for that. They steered us in the right direction and, although the Minister was chomping at the bit, I think he will agree that the legislation that came out of the select committee and has been through the House, was worth waiting for. It is going pretty much to the timetable he envisaged, and I think all members of the House are to be congratulated on that.
Lastly, I am going to finish where I started, and say thank you to the JPs of New Zealand for the work they do. Its value is immeasurable. Their contribution will continue to be valued long after this legislation makes it through its third reading today. I wish them well, and I look forward to a continuing association with them, as I am sure do all members of the House.
Hon RICK BARKER (Minister for Courts)
: The Justices of the Peace Amendment Bill in the name of the Hon Clayton Cosgrove is an interesting piece of legislation for a number of reasons. Firstly, I had some association with it when I was Associate Minister of Justice, as did my immediate predecessor, Paul Swain. Paul Swain said to me a short time ago that the wisest words he heard from Peter Tapsell were: “It doesn’t matter what portfolio you’ve got, they’re all interesting.”
The Associate Minister of Justice portfolio dealing with JPs might, on the surface, not seem particularly important to some. But I expand on the words of Peter Tapsell that
all portfolios are interesting; I found this area of work very interesting indeed. I enjoyed my relationship with the Royal Federation of New Zealand Justices’ Associations while I held the responsibility for JPs. I enjoyed meeting justices of the peace from around the country and attending their conferences, and I found them all to be very genuine, well motivated, good and decent New Zealanders who were interested in the welfare of their communities.
I picked up from my predecessor Paul Swain the requirement for people nominated as justices of the peace to have recommendations and references from community groups. This was in the belief that if those people could not garner community support for their nomination then they would not have the support of the community. Paul Swain’s innovation has carried on until today and I believe that it ensures that we have justices of the peace who are well supported by the community—as they must be.
Justices of the peace have been with us for hundreds of years. It is an old institution that we inherited from Britain. It has stood England in good stead, and it stands New Zealand in good stead as well. JPs do an enormous amount of good work in their communities. They not only exercise judicial powers sitting in the court from time to time, hearing warrants, and doing other things that are very important to our criminal justice process, but also do a lot of other smaller things that are very important to individual members of the community, such as signing student application forms to say that the documents submitted are a correct copy, and that the student has shown proper identification and authorisation. To do this, the JP puts his or her stamp and signature on the document, and the person receiving the application knows that that information is reliable, it is gold standard, it can be accepted, and it is bankable. That is the quality of the JPs we have in New Zealand.
I think this bill is good. It represents significant progress for justices of the peace and I know that the Royal Federation of New Zealand Justices’ Associations has been lobbying for this for some time. Like Clayton Cosgrove, I have enjoyed the good services of Gavin Kerr and Alan Hart, who have worked with me and other members of the federation to get this legislation through.
On occasions it is difficult to get smallish bills like this through the House because very often the legislative programme is dominated by larger, sometimes more contentious pieces of legislation. It is to the credit of this Government that it has gone through all of the outstanding matters and picked up issues such as the Justices of the Peace Amendment Bill and put them through the House.
It is a credit to Clayton Cosgrove that he got the bill on the Order Paper so quickly. The previous Minister responsible had 3 years on the job and very little progress could be seen! Yes, there was a lot of talk, a lot of policy, a lot of papers, a lot of everything, but members never actually saw the bill. It was only when Mr Cosgrove appeared on the job as the Associate Minister of Justice that the bill appeared instantly. This typifies the work of Clayton Cosgrove. He is good and effective but he does not say that the hard work has all been done beforehand. However, he has done a marvellous job.
I also want to sing the praises of Martin Gallagher. As the Associate Minister of Justice responsible for JPs, I attended a number of JP conferences and meetings and Martin Gallagher was always there. Martin turned up and spoke to the justices of the peace. He did so because he was the chair of the Law and Order Committee—
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: And a JP.
Hon RICK BARKER: —and a JP, as well. He took his responsibilities as a member of Parliament very seriously and made sure that he was in contact with JPs because that was part of his responsibility as the chair of the Law and Order Committee. I think that Martin deserves a particular pat on the back for his unstinting efforts in this area. I am
sure that my comments will be reflected by the Royal Federation of New Zealand Justices’ Associations.
This bill brings in a number of innovations. It updates the legislation. We now have a new position called JP (retired). This is an important innovation as often people want to continue to be JPs and do not retire because they would lose the recognition of the years and years of unstinting work they had done. So we are recognising that work, which is what this Government does consistently.
I also echo the words of Simon Power because I have said them myself before—we need to have greater diversity in our justices of the peace community. The search is always on to make sure that we have younger people. As the Minister associated with justices of the peace it never ceased to amaze me how often people would turn up who were 85 or 86 years of age—about the mid-point of their working career—and who wanted to have a career change. They wanted to become involved as a justice of the peace and to do things they had not done in the previous 86 years of their life. I admired them for their tenacity and their forward-looking approach, but obviously we also want to have people whose working-age mid-point is a bit lower than that.
Also we need more JPs from the diverse ethnic backgrounds that make up New Zealand’s community today. I have spoken with a number of these people and they see it as a particular privilege, as new migrants to this country, to be recognised in the community and by the State as a justice of the peace. They are very proud people who take their responsibilities seriously. It sends a powerful message to the community that they are part of the broader fabric of New Zealand society, and that is an important point that we need to keep in our mind.
This is very good legislation. I commend the select committee for its hard work in considering all the issues. I note that it has had quite a number of changes. The bill has been significantly improved and I commend the Minister who is now responsible for it, Mr Cosgrove. It has been a rather interesting little relay team. Paul Swain handed the ideas and thoughts on to me, I did quite a lot of the drafting, then the third hand on the baton in the relay, Mr Cosgrove, saw the job finished. I congratulate him on that; it was a good job well done.
I think that members of Parliament have worked very well together to bring about such a fine bill. It is a significant improvement that will mean a lot to justices of the peace throughout New Zealand. It is a sign that Parliament recognises what a wonderful job they are doing. Thank you.
LINDSAY TISCH (National—Piako)
: The third reading is an interesting point as far as justices of the peace go, and I acknowledge the registrar, who is in the gallery. The Royal Federation of New Zealand Justices’ Associations has been very proactive over the last few years in updating the Justices of the Peace Act, which dates back to 1957—it is 50 years old. The role of the justice has changed considerably in recent times. We have more Acts that are more specific, and more accountability is required.
Although I was not a member of the Law and Order Committee and did not hear the submissions, I have been involved in my local branch of the association as the president, and I have been on the Waikato executive of the justices’ association. So I have an understanding of the challenges facing justices throughout New Zealand.
It is interesting to note, Madam Assistant Speaker, that you are a JP, as is Martin Gallagher, which was mentioned before, and the Hon George Hawkins—
Hon George Hawkins: Not me.
LINDSAY TISCH: The member’s name is in the directory. It states that Mr Hawkins is a JP.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: When he was mayor.
LINDSAY TISCH: When he was mayor. I know that my colleague Anne Tolley is a JP. So a number of people within Parliament have the role of JP.
It is an honourable tradition that dates back to the 14th century, when the post was set up as wardens, conservators, and keepers of the peace. This bill acknowledges the changes that JPs need to be kept up to speed with. The provision relating to training before a person is finally gazetted to become a JP is important. We heard during the Committee stage that there have been some problems when people have not understood the role or have not been able to commit to the job. Training will be an integral part of solving that problem.
The provision in relation to JPs moving to retired status is important. Those who have given honourable service may have met an age that means they do not want to be involved further but feel obligated to be. There is a role for them to be respected and honoured for their commitment over the years. I think that being able to say “JP (retired)” is a noble cause and it is a provision that we have supported.
The role of the Royal Federation of New Zealand Justices’ Associations in relation to disciplinary matters is an important measure in order to maintain the integrity that the community looks to justices for. Being able to have those rules in place, and being able to have discipline and guidelines that are clearly set out, allows for that integrity.
During the Committee stage I commented that many seek the role of justice of the peace as a self-promotion. Although there was some nodding and agreement about that in the Committee stage, I want to make it clear that I was not saying that all people who aspire to become justices of the peace fall into that category. I just want to clear up that matter because it might be construed that there is a lot of self-promotion. Although that does happen, we look for people in the community, as has been identified today, who can act in the role and fulfil the obligations that communities look for.
The role of justice of the peace is an admirable one that is steeped in history. Over 26,000 hours of voluntary time is put in by justices of the peace and our communities are well served. We are indebted to their commitment to our communities. I wish all justices of the peace and the royal federation all the best with the passing of this bill.
NANDOR TANCZOS (Green)
: On behalf of the Green Party I rise to support the Justices of the Peace Amendment Bill. Like other members, I want to begin by thanking JPs for the excellent work that many of them do, and for the very real and valuable contribution they make to New Zealand in that role. They perform judicial functions and some more mundane tasks, which members have referred to. In the past I myself have had recourse to the services of JPs for certification of documents, and various things like that. I have found the access to JPs in the community, and the dispersion of individuals, to be enormously valuable in terms of getting access to those services. I thank them for the work they do. Having said that, I recognise the need to acknowledge that there have been some problems in the past. That is why this bill is before the House.
Simon Power has mentioned the issue of homogeneity among JPs and the need to ensure greater diversity in terms of gender, ethnicity, and the like. I think that that is true. In that regard I am not sure that I entirely agree with that member and the Associate Minister of Justice, Clayton Cosgrove, who both said that the current appointment process is the best possible way to ensure diversity. If there is an issue of homogeneity, the current process is what has led us to that position. So I think there is a debate to be had, but that it is a debate for another occasion. So we take that as a given in terms of the current bill.
The other issue, which I have raised in the past, is around the use by police of tame JPs to get speedy search warrants on the basis of what is not always full information. That is why I particularly welcome the provisions around the training of JPs before they
can perform any judicial function. I think it is important, where JPs are signing off on search warrants and the like—and these are serious infringements on the rights of New Zealand people—that there is a clear understanding that those JPs have been through judicial training, that they understand the rights and responsibilities associated with those issues, and that they exercise those powers carefully and judiciously. So we wholly commend the new provision, new section 3B(1), to be inserted by clause 4, which states that a JP “must not exercise or perform any judicial power or function unless he or she has completed training in the exercise and performance of judicial powers and functions to the satisfaction of the Chief District Court Judge.”
The other issue is around the disciplinary action that is now available for a variety of reasons. This, again, is something we fully support, because in recognising that most JPs do excellent work, we believe that there has to be some procedure for dealing with individuals whose performances are falling down. So in proposed new section 5(1)(b), to be inserted by clause 5, the bill provides for the ability to remove or suspend a JP from office on the basis that he or she has neglected or refused to perform his or her functions, has been convicted of an offence punishable by imprisonment while being a JP, has been adjudged bankrupt, or has failed or refused to comply with the requirement. So it is a useful thing that that provision has been introduced.
There is a safeguard in the bill in the form of proposed section 5A, to be inserted by clause 5, which provides that the Minister must consult the Chief District Court Judge before recommending the removal or suspension of a JP. There are some provisions around constraining that, and those are welcome, as well. New section 5D, to be inserted by clause 5, lists a range of actions that can be taken at a lower level than suspension or removal. Justices of the Peace can be given an official written rebuke; they can be required by written notice to apologise to a person or people; they can be required by written notice to undertake training, or further training; and they can be required by written notice to receive counselling, or further counselling. So those are examples of lower-level sanction that can be used.
New section 5D(2) states that the Minister must not recommend the giving of such a direction unless he or she is satisfied that the JP concerned has behaved in a way that is “inappropriate or undesirable for a Justice (otherwise than in relation to the exercise or performance of judicial powers or functions); or (b) has performed a function of Justice while suspended from office; or (c) has neglected his or her … functions as a Justice. Again, there are some constraints around that in terms of the requirement that proper notice and an opportunity to reply be given, and so forth.
So some disciplinary actions have now become available with some safeguards around them. These provisions are thoroughly welcome—along with the other provisions that I have mentioned around training—in order to clarify issues around JPs, and to
professionalise and standardise the service that is being offered. We think that those provisions are wholly welcome, and that they in no way reflect on the majority of JPs, who already do an excellent job. We thank the JPs for the services they provide, and the Minister for bringing this bill through the House. We will vote for the bill at this reading.
Hon BRIAN DONNELLY (NZ First)
: I think back to the early days of the first MMP coalition Government in 1997, after the dust had settled somewhat from the quite prolonged negotiations held with both National and Labour, and I say to Minister Clayton Cosgrove, who is presenting this bill to the House, that I do not think that members of his party were extremely happy just before that Christmas. But that was in 1997, when the dust had settled somewhat and we were getting back into our work. One of the very first questions that came to our caucuses—and a few members here in the House may remember this—concerned how we would deal with recommendations to
the position of JP under MMP, because for the first time we had two different sorts of MPs. We had electorate MPs and list MPs. So it seemed—certainly to myself at that time—that the process would be made a mockery of, if every list MP were to charge forth and make a whole list of recommendations. It was decided, I think by all the caucuses at that time, that we would put all JP recommendations through electorate MPs. That seemed to me to be a very sensible process.
It is certainly one that I continue in my electorate. If there are brought to my attention any potential nominations, or areas where there are shortfalls in terms of numbers, then I put them through Phil Heatley for his processing.
Hon George Hawkins: Who?
Hon BRIAN DONNELLY: Phil Heatley. If the member has not heard, there is somebody who is actually the MP for Whangarei by the name of Phil Heatley. I know him, because I happen to live in the same area. I put those nominations through him, largely because he is in receipt of the bigger picture. I do not know whether that is still the norm, but I think it is the right thing to do.
JPs are a critical part of our judicial system, and have been for a long, long time. I think the critical role that JPs play is not always recognised by members of the public. It is certainly good this evening, for example, that that role is being acknowledged by all parties—acknowledged, recognised, and appreciated. I think 10,500 JPs is the number that has been mentioned. It has to be recognised that the service is carried out by volunteers, who willingly give up their time to make sure that this critical role within our system actually works.
It would be interesting to see the real cost to New Zealand of having this voluntary service. Maybe some research money could be taken away from looking at the lifestyle of bogans and put towards finding the real cost of JPs, and what it would mean, for example, if it had to be a charged service. Nevertheless, the voluntary system I think should maintain itself, because of the provisions and safeguards it provides.
We are talking about the requirements of training, and I think that it is obvious that our society has become much more complex and the law, particularly for those who go into the judicial field, has become far, far broader and far, far more complex. But I know that training has been available for JPs. My father became a JP in Mangakino way back in the 1980s. As someone who did not have any school qualifications—his only qualifications, I think, had been in becoming a machine-gunner and a shirt cutter—he was very proud of the training he undertook there, and of the assignments he did. He used to tell us about the sort of training he was being given, etc., and that was very important to him. So it is not as if training has not been available. But this legislation—and it has been mentioned that this is the first updating of the Act for 50 years—actually strengthens the provision for the requirement of training before people can undertake certain roles as JPs, and in particular their roles as JPs in the judicial area.
We have seen a fairly large example of the need for accountability and credibility in all parts and all sectors of our justice system in the last week or so—it is something that has been ongoing—and I refer to the police. So it is important to the public that we can ensure that systems are in place that safeguard the credibility of the JP system. Of course, I am talking now about having the potential to take disciplinary action, and to take intermediary disciplinary action when somebody is, possibly, operating at a shortfall but certainly has not brought himself or herself into total disrepute. Once again, we believe that the proposed required training for some JPs who may not be fulfilling their functions to the fullest, as expected, is a very positive step. It will strengthen the provisions of the JP system and ensure that it is able to
professionalise, and will continue to
professionalise into the future.
We think that the recognition of long-serving JPs, or people who have worked as JPs for over 10 years, by allowing them to use the term “JP (retired)” is a very worthy recommendation and addition to the statute. I will come to the point that Simon Power made, as it is true and a very important point. The reality is that a number of people come into the JP role when they have a bit more time on their hands, such as, possibly, when their families are out of their way. There will also come a time when they get to the stage they want to move out of the role. Maybe they do not have the energy to keep on going. Putting the “JP (retired)” term in place so that their service over the years is recognised, is very meritorious.
I refer to the point that I think was most strongly made by Simon Power, and that is the need for diversity within the JP system. There is a need, for example, for electorate MPs, in making their recommendations, to ensure that the diversity of the population of New Zealand is reflected in the make-up of the body of JPs. One group referred to by Simon Power, which I must admit would not readily have sprung to mind, is younger people. It is worthwhile taking note of the point that Simon made, and keeping it in mind in terms of making sure that the diversity of JPs parallels the diversity within our population. There are younger people within our population. In fact, the judicial system impacts upon quite a number of younger people; therefore their perceptions of the world, etc., should be taken into consideration.
I finish with one other point. Rick Barker congratulated Clayton Cosgrove on getting this legislation on the Order Paper. But given the amount of legislation on the Order Paper, I think the process went somewhat like this: I think that Michael Cullen said: “Look, we’ve got nothing to go on the Order Paper. Has anyone got anything to put there?”. Clayton put up his hand and said he had something, and Michael thanked him and said he could have it. Nevertheless, the legislation is here, and I think that everybody in this House is pleased to see its passage. Hopefully, it will come to its fruition this evening. New Zealand First supports this bill. Thank you.
TE URUROA FLAVELL (Māori Party—Waiariki)
:Tēnā koe, Madam Assistant Speaker. Kia ora
[Greetings to you, Madam Assistant Speaker, and to us involved in this present debate today].
Yesterday this Parliament was shell-shocked by the release of a report, which members variously described as recording a blot on the law and order landscape, the undermining of one of our key pillars of society, and a red flag day that signalled the urgent need to restore and rehabilitate the nature of the justice system in Aotearoa. We learnt about disgraceful sexual conduct, and we learnt about a wall of silence that protected police officers from complaints laid against them. At the end of the day, the Government promised a major overhaul of the policing system. But, of course, the operation of an effective justice system is not just the responsibility of
NgaPirihimana o Aotearoa. The attainment of due access to justice is a worthy goal that we can all play a part in achieving.
So we come to this Justices of the Peace Amendment Bill, which targets, as Mr Donnelly has said, the training, discipline, and retirement of justices of the peace. We ask the question of how the appointments and ongoing professional development of JPs serve to restore community vitality. I remind the House that justices of the peace have particular and unique skills that lead them well into taking up leadership positions at a community and national level. I was thinking about some of the outstanding leaders in, for example, my area who have taken up the role of JP. I talk of
Ōhinemutu in Rotorua, both appointed as JPs in the 1940s;
Ringatū leader from Kawerau; Henry
Ngāti Whakaue and
Ngāti Raukawa, and Rachel
Ngeungeu Te Irirangi
Ngāi Tai and
There is also an amazingly rich range of tangata whenua talent who have served as JPs across the nation, including some distinguished former members of Parliament, including
ErueraTirikātene, Ben Couch, and the local politician Sir Ralph Love.
MāuiPōmare was the first
Māori president of the Royal Federation of New Zealand Justices Associations in 1989. A former
Māori language commissioner, Sir
Ngāti Hine leader Te
Ngāpuhi leader Hone Heke Rankin were JPs, just to name a few.
So there is no denying that the position of justice of the peace attracts some of our finest individuals—people who are well able to carry out the legal obligations and responsibilities appropriate to public office. These are outstanding members of our community—persons respected for their common sense, good sense, character, and integrity.
So the question is how this extremely able pool of people can be used to restore peace, enhance justice, and improve well-being across our communities. Well, the
Māori Party is always looking for new ideas that can be useful for the nation to adopt, and we have found just a couple of concepts that we want to share in the context of the Justices of the Peace Amendment Bill. Although this bill is specifically focused on training, discipline, and retirement, some aspects come within the framework of professional development. We must make explicit the close connection between professionalism and cultural competency, and I will draw on a couple of international examples to show how this can be done.
We make these suggestions with some trepidation, I might say, as we are aware that new ideas, and the application of those ideas, are a bit of a danger to this Government of the superficial. Its fear of moving from a narrow, ethnocentric view of the nation was demonstrated last night when the rarely used mechanism of financial veto was called on to ensure that any serious attempts to give substance to Treaty education and immigration would not occur. Where was the
Māori Labour caucus while the Treaty was being voted on, or at least vetoed? Unfortunately, it was not here. But we remain eternally optimistic, and today is a new day. We hope that the ideas we put forward may be useful in enhancing the service provided by justices of the peace.
I say to the Minister, Clayton Cosgrove, that in Canada the criminal justice system has, since 2000, implemented a range of aboriginal justice strategies across the country. These include an increased number of appointments of aboriginal justices of the peace, the establishment of aboriginal justice of the peace courts under the Indian Act, the cross-cultural education of non-aboriginal workers, and the incorporation of aboriginal processes such as elder panels and sentencing circles.
What would these native justices of the peace do? Before I talk about this, I apologise to the tribal nations mentioned for any mispronunciation. I will have a go. The Nunavut Court of Justice recognises that the majority of Nunavut are Inuit and speak Inuktitut as their mother tongue in an initiative called the circuit court. The circuit court travels to 85 percent of the communities across the territory, holding court in community halls, school gyms, and local venues. In these courts, elders and justices of the peace sit with the judge in the courtroom and are given the opportunity to speak with the accused prior to the passing of sentence. In Ontario, aboriginal judicial decision makers have been recruited, trained, appointed, and supported by the Attorney-General. There are currently 21 active native justices of the peace, who take part in local legal education and mock trials, and in bearing the first face of the judicial system to the public.
Across the Tasman, indigenous sentencing in circle courts is a key component of justice system procedures, including the
Nunga and Aboriginal courts of South Australia, the Koori Courts in Victoria, the
Rockhampton courts in Queensland, and circle sentencing in New South Wales. Across these developments, Aboriginal justice officers may take an active role in assisting the prosecutor, offender, and defence counsel to devise an appropriate sentence plan, or they may not speak at all during the hearing but remain active behind the scenes.
Indigenous courts, circles, and other justice practices are all examples of initiatives that have been developed by, and alongside, indigenous communities for the benefit of the whole community. In particular, the indigenous community itself becomes influential in helping to make the new justice practices meaningful and effective in their communities. So although we here in Aotearoa are way ahead of some other countries in indigenous issues, we fall behind so often, for some reason or other. We seem to be scared to give
Māori tangata whenua a shot at using their own systems to achieve positive outcomes. It would be awesome, I think, if we could follow the lead of our indigenous brothers and sisters from overseas.
In particular, a key competency across all of these practices is that of improved communication between the offender, the justice of the peace, and other relevant people. The skills required are about learning about the offender, learning about the offence, and then developing an appropriate response. The duties we expect our justices of the peace in Aotearoa to take up include witnessing documents, taking declarations, certifying copies, issuing search warrants, hearing summary offences, hearing bail applications, and hearing requests for remand. Duties also include presiding over preliminary hearings and conducting traffic courts. These are all duties and responsibilities where excellent communication skills, sensitivity and understanding of indigenous knowledge and cultural protocols, and creativity could help to make a major difference in the movement toward a more peaceful community.
I have referred to individual
Māori leaders and to international indigenous initiatives in order to assist the Minister in considering new approaches to supporting JPs in performing their key functions. I am sure that Dr Sharples, along with his other JP peers in this House, Mark Blumsky, yourself, Madam Assistant Speaker, possibly Mr Hawkins—
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: Martin Gallagher.
TE URUROA FLAVELL:—no, not any more—and Lindsay Tisch, at least, would also greatly appreciate an opportunity to assist the Minister with their feedback about the current role, standing, and requirements of justices of the peace.
The important thing is that we do not simply sit still and automatically assume that the fact that JPs are in a position of trust would suggest that such confidence is warranted. We know better than that, following the evidence from yesterday’s damning police report. We believe that this nation is at a critical point in the crossroads—in the interface between the criminal justice sector and the community. We can either ignore the community at our peril, or we can work together in restoring a new sense of public confidence in the key justice agencies. The
Māori Party has suggested throughout the course of this bill that training for justices of the peace might also include understanding of cultural safety, education around Te Tiriti o Waitangi, and some basic information on tikanga, te reo
Māori, and, particularly, the pronunciation of people’s names.
We have concluded our comments on this third reading by also drawing on our indigenous counterparts as a way of providing us with other models that could be used to improve the JP service—to uphold accountability and cultural safety—and to move the nation forward towards achieving a new standard of justice. Kia ora
LESLEY SOPER (Labour)
: I am pleased to be able to call some of the over 10,000 JPs in New Zealand good friends of mine. I say thank you to all of them for the diverse work they do, from the core tasks of witnessing documents and issuing search warrants to the work done by some JPs in hearing summary offences and presiding over preliminary hearings.
Our JP system is an institution built on a history of service to communities throughout New Zealand—and on volunteerism. Let us not forget that the first-ever JP in New Zealand was appointed in 1814, and it is good to report that last year equal numbers of men and women were appointed as JPs. Overall, our current 10,700 JPs are increasingly reflecting the diversity of New Zealand society in terms of gender, age, and ethnicity. I note that we have our first-ever Nepalese JP. I am also pleased that Clayton Cosgrove—a good Minister—has thought to recognise the significant amount of time and effort of long-serving JPs by writing into the bill a provision that allows former JPs who have served for at least 10 years to apply to use the title “JP (retired)”. They deserve to have that privilege.
It is significant that the Royal Federation of New Zealand Justices’ Associations was consulted throughout the bill’s development and has had a very keen interest in its passage. This is a good bill that modernises the legislation for the first time in more than 50 years. The Labour-led Government is very pleased to introduce improvements that will greatly support the vital role that JPs have in New Zealand communities, and it is good to record that the bill has had support from all sides of the House.
I have already mentioned the new retirement provisions. The other key features of the bill are around training and discipline matters. There is a new requirement that all newly appointed JPs undertake training prior to being appointed by the Minister of Justice and taking their oath. That is designed to standardise the initial training, support JPs in their role, and also assist them in understanding the responsibilities and significance of the JP role. It will greatly enhance the professional approach from JPs and, I believe, lead many to take on further training as well.
Part 2 of the bill introduces a new disciplinary regime that includes a range of sanctions where the conduct of JPs is considered to be inappropriate. That will assist in preserving the good name of the office of Justice of the Peace in this country and, very important, in maintaining public respect and confidence in that office. It is not that there are many complaints against JPs, but it is important to have robust processes there if and when we need them to be used. The current Act provides for the removal of a JP only by the Governor-General, and lacks any statement of express grounds for removal. The new Act will empower the Governor-General, on ministerial advice, to remove or suspend a JP on any one of a number of serious grounds, such as neglect of duty, misconduct, and conviction of an offence punishable by imprisonment. Having those sorts of provisions definitely gives the public extra reason to have confidence in our good JP service. The new provision also provides for the possibility of further training or counselling where appropriate, and those are good additions that have not been there in the over-50-year-old current Act.
This is a very good bill to reform the 1957 Justices of the Peace Act in key areas, and the reforms are all improvements for a valuable and much-respected group of hard and, I would say, selfless workers. I am pleased to be speaking in the passage of the bill. I congratulate the Law and Order Committee, the Minister, and the JPs association, on a very good bill that deserves the wide support it has. Thank you.
ALLAN PEACHEY (National—Tamaki)
: It is a privilege to rise in the House this afternoon and speak on behalf of the National Party in support of the third reading of the Justices of the Peace Amendment Bill, and also to pay my respects, and those of the party I represent, to the JPs throughout New Zealand. To be a justice of the peace is to
be a servant of one’s community. It is to hold a position of respect and of trust. It is also to hold an office that has a long tradition of service and commitment.
I listened with interest while Mr Barker went to some lengths to congratulate himself, the Minister, and the chairman of the Law and Order Committee on getting this bill to its third reading stage. I certainly offer Minister Cosgrove my compliments on the fine work that he has done and that Mr Gallagher as chairman of the committee has done. I also acknowledge the work of my colleagues on this side of the House for the positive and thoughtful approach they have taken in getting this legislation to its third reading stage.
As the member of Parliament for
Tamaki, I know of the good work that the justices of the peace do in that electorate. In fact, in my own electorate office one of the people I employ as an electorate agent is a justice of the peace. Not a day goes past without citizens coming in to seek his assistance, and I have observed the need for tact, for patience, and for good judgment in carrying out that responsibility. That is what 10,000 New Zealanders are doing, day after day, in serving their community. There is a view out there that the notion of serving one’s community is maybe not as strong as it used to be, but I believe this House can take great confidence in the knowledge that there are still good New Zealanders, both men and women, who are only too willing to take on this sort of responsibility, and to take it on for the right reason: to be of service to their fellow citizens and to the community around them.
When I was a secondary school principal, the law changed and where youngsters lived, and what their residential address was, suddenly became very, very important in determining where they could go to school and what their relationship was to other students who had been at the school or were at the school. I was very conscious that around July and August of each year I found myself unleashing on the JP population of the community 700 to 800 youngsters who desperately needed to get their documents, their address, and that sort of thing attested as being correct information. It really brought home to me just how hard our JPs work, and often at the most inconvenient of times, as well. I well remember, year after year, parents desperately contacting me—because applications for enrolment closed at 4 o’clock, and at 3 o’clock they still did not have their enrolment papers in—asking me to please tell them who could attest to the accuracy of their information. I remember the willingness of JPs in the community to step up and do that job.
One of the most interesting jobs electorate MPs have is to nominate potential JPs, and I, like all members of this House, take that responsibility very, very seriously. Like all members, I have had people approach me, or nominated to me, as potential JPs who I have felt would not be suitable. I, like other members, do not shrink from that responsibility. We have to do it right; it is important that we do it right. I take a lot of comfort now from the provision in this bill for training for new JPs, because that gives us a backstop and gives us the confidence that we are getting it right, that we are making good nominations, and—probably most important of all—that we are not putting people in situations they are not fully prepared for.
The other aspect of the bill I will comment upon is the designation of “JP (retired)”. I think it is appropriate that after 10 years of good service to the community—unpaid and often unrecognised—JPs should be able to step back from that position if they choose to in the knowledge that the title of “JP (retired)” will follow them and that they will get the acknowledgment of the community they have served long after they have been active as a JP.
I also want to say a word to those JPs who have approached me about the very demanding and time-consuming situation they find themselves in when they do court work. Some of those people have suggested to me that maybe this House should give
consideration to whether that sort of work should be paid work. This bill does not address that; it is not its place to address it. Maybe at some future time the House might like to consider that.
Having said that, I would not like to lose sight of the importance of the voluntary and unpaid nature of this work and of the motivation that good New Zealanders bring not only to doing it but also to doing it well. In conclusion, I am pleased to support the bill. I am honoured to be able to pay tribute to our JPs and to thank them for the great work they do for New Zealand.
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA (Minister of Customs)
: I join in making a contribution to the Justices of the Peace Amendment Bill that is similar to that of my Government colleagues, which is to support it. I also support the good work of the Minister, Clayton Cosgrove, in his stewardship of the bill through the House. Certainly, it is important to recognise the broad range of support across the House for the intent of modernising legislation governing JPs.
I speak on the bill for another reason. Earlier in March about eight hui were held within my district, where people had the opportunity to raise the most pressing political issues. Along with those issues, two others were raised. One related to the Coroners Act and the other to the Justices of the Peace Act and the role of JPs. Those two issues, some might think, are connected, because the reflection of many of our
kaumātua at those hui was that we needed more JPs as a result of many of our JPs passing on. So I too acknowledge the valuable role and contribution that former JPs have played within our communities, and, importantly, the need to increase their number in communities like mine.
I will pick up on a couple of points that were raised previously around the issue of diversity. We need to ensure that we are able to nominate JPs who represent more diverse communities—whether by age, gender, or ethnicity. It is all part of the picture. In doing so, some of the changes geared within this bill bode well for the changing face of our communities and, essentially, for the JPs who come through. One might expect that in the training implicit in respect of those changes, there will be mechanisms to be able to deal with more diverse communities and peoples—whether in terms of responding, of the language, or of relating to people from diverse communities. The other point around the issue of diversity that I think is important is accessibility. As has been said, JPs are contacted at all hours of the day and night, and they must be accessible. If we are able to increase the diverse look of our JP community, then we will be providing greater access to people at necessary points in time. I certainly support that.
A comment was made by my colleague Brian Donnelly about the need to increase the number of young JPs. I certainly support that. I have actively tried to encourage young people to become JPs, but it has been my experience with young people—under the age of 35, maybe—that although on the one hand they might be interested in looking at what the role of a JP entails, on the other hand things might be so serious that they feel they are not the best people to represent their community. I am not sure what other members’ experiences are, but I get a lot of hesitation around the aspect of added responsibility.
One of the things I appreciate about the existing process is the way the nomination form sits. When I first came into Parliament—and this was probably an innovation made in 1996—one had the ability as a list member to make a nomination, but ultimately it went forward to the electorate MP for final sign-off. That gives a level of comfort to list MPs, because the electorate MP has the responsibility to meet with the person to try not only to identify all the support and networks he or she is part of but also to attest to his or her suitability for this role. One comment I make as a
Māorimember of Parliament, in terms of us all looking to increase the levels of diversity of our JP community, is to ask whether we as
Māori MPs are able to nominate people from ethnic communities—migrant communities. I put that on the table.
I certainly agree with the intentions of the three key areas of the bill, which are around improving the training prior to confirmation of a JP; having disciplinary mechanisms that provide, if you like, a grade 1 and 2 disciplinary procedure; and also the issue of retirement. The status “JP (retired)” will be very significant for a number of people within our own communities who have given long service to the community, who have held the role of JP, and who are now retired but still have a standing within the community. I think that that will be great recognition for them.
Probably the last part of my contribution is about intent. One of the things we know at this point in time is that in terms of
Māori representation we are averaging only about 10 percent, but we have peaks and troughs in terms of nominations. So I encourage all electorate members of Parliament to increase their nominations coming through, so that we can increase the number of
Māori JPs in our communities and provide greater accessibility to our people. That is really important.
Without saying too much more—as much has been said—I certainly support the intent of the bill and support the three key areas, with a high emphasis on the training aspect, which I think will better gear our JPs to respond to more diverse communities. In terms of going forward, the bill is well overdue—50 years overdue. I certainly support the bill.