Justices of the Peace in Singapore
In 2020, 64 Justices of the Peace (JP) were appointed in a ceremony officiated by the Presiding Judge of the State Courts in Singapore.
The concept of having JPs originated from English legal tradition which dates back to mediaeval times when knights and members of the gentry were commissioned to keep the King’s Peace. They were unpaid volunteers with specific but limited police powers that allowed them to imprison a suspect of a crime and issue warrants of arrest as well as hear minor civil and criminal cases such as cases of property infringement, theft, riots and other misdemeanour cases.
In colonial Singapore, the first JPs were appointed in the early 1800s. They were prominent men and community leaders trusted by the government, and for the most part, helped to relieve the backlog of cases to be heard before the courts. This article serves as a broad overview of what a JP does in Singapore and what the role of a JP entails.
In this article, we will cover:
Who is a Justice of the Peace?
A JP in Singapore is someone who has made significant contributions to their respective professions, the public service, social services or the community at large. In Singapore, JPs derive their powers from statutes. They are appointed by the President of the Republic of Singapore under section 11(1) of the State Courts Act (SCA). To qualify for appointment as a JP, you must meet the following criteria:
- Be at least 21 years old;
- Have good character; and
- Be able to read or write in one of the four official languages in Singapore.
They must also refrain from any activity that could give rise to the appearance of bias or conflict of interest, and must be impartial and independent when exercising their functions.
Do note that falsely representing oneself to be a JP is a criminal offence in Singapore. If convicted, you will be jailed for up to 2 years and/or fined under section 170 of the Penal Code.
How is a Justice of the Peace Appointed?
As mentioned above, a JP is appointed by the President of the Republic of Singapore under section 11(1) of the SCA. The procedure for appointing a new JP includes them having to take the oath of office and allegiance as set out in the Schedule of the SCA before exercising the functions of his office.
Each appointment term lasts for 5 years and includes the possibility of re-appointment. While there does not appear to be a statutorily specified cap on the number of re-appointments, there is currently a JP, Mdm Lim Moh Tin Rosemary, who is serving her 3rd term.
In recognition of their contributions, a JP may use the title “JP (Retired)” when they retire from their appointment.
Do note that the President may revoke the appointment of any JP.
What Does a Justice of the Peace Do?
JPs can act as Visiting Justices of our prisons, Court Volunteer Mediators in the State Courts, marriage solemnisers appointed through the Registry of Marriages, or even as a witness of character under several statutes. JPs may also perform the duties of the Magistrate conferred on them by any written law.
Beyond these, JPs are also involved in various settings across different industries. Examples of their powers and capacities include, but are not limited to, the following:
- JPs can administer an oath for any statutory declaration filed, or used in any proceedings, under the Trade Marks Act or Trade Marks Rules if it is made in Singapore, for any legal proceedings. Examples include an application to register a certification mark, or an amendment of regulations governing the use of such mark.
- JPs may, under the Societies Act, enter or authorise any police officer to enter any place if they reasonably believe that a meeting of an unlawful society is being held there. They can cause anyone in the house to be arrested, and seize all relevant items which they have reasonable cause to believe are connected to any unlawful society. Examples include accounts, books, documents, or even arms (weapons).
- JPs may also lay a complaint of any offence punishable under the Children and Young Persons Act in court. Examples of possible offences include sexual exploitation, or the unlawful transfer of possession, custody, or control of a child or young person.
- JPs (as Visiting Justices) may also, in accordance with the Prisons Act, and upon receiving a report of an aggravated prison offence (e.g., attempt to escape, aggravated or repeated assault of another prisoner, willful destruction of prison property, etc.), investigate the charge and punish the prisoner after due inquiry has been conducted and they are found guilty of an offence. Examples of the punishment that can be meted out include confinement in a punishment cell for up to 30 days, and corporal punishment of up to 24 strokes of the cane, and/or forfeiture of remission.
Are There Any Fees Payable to a Justice of the Peace?
In the common context of solemnising marriages in the Registry of Marriages, most solemnisers are likely to have a full-time job on the weekdays as they carry out their duties as an act of civil service. Therefore, they are likely to be unpaid workers, and it is common courtesy to offer them a monetary token of appreciation for their service after the solemnisation. The recommended amount is typically S$100. You can also offer to provide for their transportation to and from the wedding venue as a gesture of goodwill.
How Do I Find a Justice of the Peace in Singapore?
You can refer to the website here which contains a list of the Justices of the Peace in Singapore. You can contact them by either sending an email or by phone call.
What is the Difference Between a Justice of the Peace, Commissioner of Oaths and Notary Public?
These roles may be occasionally confused with one another given their similarities in functions. To summarise, here are the various characteristics that entail each of their roles:
|Justice of the Peace||Commissioner of Oaths (CFO)||Notary Public|
JPs continue to play a pivotal role in upholding justice, and are likely to do so in the future as part of this enduring tradition. You should engage the services of the JPs if they suit your needs. Note that while JPs can be lawyers, not all JPs are lawyers – should you require assistance or advice with a legal matter, you should engage a lawyer instead.
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