Justices of the peace warned against making illegal seals
St James Custos Bishop Conrad Pitkin has warned justices of the peace (JPs) in the western parish about manufacturing and using seals that are not issued by the Ministry of Justice, saying it is bringing their office into disrepute.
Pitkin’s warning comes against the background of reports that, over the years, the justice ministry has seized several illegal seals that were used to conduct official business.
“I would like for you to encourage others to refrain from bringing the office into disarray. Justices of the peace are not authorised to make, repair or use seals that are not provided by the Ministry of Justice,” said Pitkin at last Thursday’s annual general meeting of the St James chapter of the Lay Magistrate Association of Jamaica.
“Over the past three years, I have come across a number of seals that were made by justices of the peace in St James and those seals are not on record at the ministry, hence they are in my office because there is nowhere to send them,” said Pitkin.
“Those seals are illegal and they should not have been in the system in the first place; and so we asked you to carry the message to the JPs that they can get into difficulty by using those seals to authenticate documents,” added Pitkin.
Reverend Hartley Perrin, the custos of Westmoreland, and his Hanover counterpart, Dr David Stair, said they were shocked at the news that illegal JP seals were being manufactured and used in St James.
“I have not received any such report here in Westmoreland, but that practice sends a signal to indicate the urgent need for the Ministry of Justice to come out with the new seal that they have been promising us,” Perrin told The Gleaner.
“The newly commissioned JPs would have got the new seal as justices of the peace of Jamaica, but the older ones are still functioning with the old seal. The quicker we can have one seal across the system, it will allow for less corruption,” said Perrin.
Like Perrin, Stair said he has had no report of seals being manufactured and used in Hanover, albeit noting that he knows of persons buying stamps and using them.
“I know a lot of them are buying stamps, but I have pointed out that stamps are just a matter of convenience and are not a legal instrument. It’s been done because you can’t seal pictures, you have to just write the information on it and that’s quite legal,” said Stair.
As it relates to affluent communities having many JPs and middle-and low-income communities having only a few, all three custos argued that while their mission is to get as many JPs as possible in each community, they don’t control the process.
“Before my time, I could say there might have been some issues where certain people were favoured, such as friends, relatives, and church brothers and sisters, but I don’t subscribe to that,” Stair told The Gleaner. “What I try to do is to get coverage across the parish.”
According to Perrin, in Westmoreland they don’t face the issue of inner-city communities like in Kingston and Montego Bay. He said when persons apply, they are vetted by the police and they have to pass a panel headed by the chief parish judge to be considered.
As it relates to St James, Pitkin said there are no such issues as just last year, he commissioned a number of persons in the Green Pond and Salt Spring areas, as he wants to ensure that the parish has good representation.
“If you tell me that deep rural St James needs more justices of the peace, I will agree with you and I am making every effort in telling people that I want more JP in those areas,” said Pitkin. “I am looking in Maroon Town and also penetrating the Adelphi areas in ensuring that I find suitable persons to become JPs.”