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19. Managing challenging scenarios

Justice of the Peace Handbook

19.1 Using your influence appropriately as a JP

Members of the community generally hold JPs in esteem. As a JP you also have access to personal information. These factors may create a power imbalance between you and the people seeking your services.

Even though this power imbalance may not always be apparent to you, it is important that you recognise it may exist and take it into account in your interactions. It is important that you uphold high standards of integrity, accountability, and professionalism.

The appropriate and sensitive use of your influence as a JP does not come about purely as the result of good intentions. It requires diligence and practice and knowledge of the duties and boundaries of your role.

Considering your actions as a JP

Giving advice of any nature

It can be very tempting to give people advice, either because they ask for it, or because they appear to need it.

A simple rule of thumb is to provide an appropriate referral and leave it up to the person to decide whether they will follow up that referral.
Seeking donations It is not acceptable to ask or encourage people who use JP services to donate to a charity. This is like asking for payment which is a breach of the Honorary Justices Act 2014External Link .
Offering opinions or comment on personal information that arises as part of the witnessing process

You are entrusted with people’s personal details to undertake your role.

You must honour that information and demonstrate to the person that you will uphold their privacy and dignity.

Only matters pertinent to the witnessing process should be discussed with the person seeking the services.

19.2 Conflicts of interest

The management of risk associated with conflict of interest is fundamental to ensuring integrity and public trust in the JP. Conflict of interest should be avoided wherever possible or declared and managed appropriately.

A conflict of interest is where a JP has private interests that could improperly influence, or be seen to influence, their decisions or actions in the performance of their public duties. Conflicts may be actual, potential, or perceived:

Conflict of interest Explanation

There is a real conflict between a JP’s public duties and private interests.


A JP has private interests that could conflict with their public duties. For example, it is foreseeable that a conflict may arise in future and steps should be taken now to mitigate that future risk.


The public or a third party could form the view that a JP’s private interests could improperly influence their decisions or actions, now or in the future.

Private interest

Anything that can influence you. This may include:

  • direct interests: an employee’s own personal, family, professional or business interests.
  • indirect interests: the personal, family, professional or business interests of individuals or groups with whom the employee is, or was recently, closely associated.

19.3 Managing challenging behaviour

You have decided to serve the community, however, sometimes members of the community can be challenging to deal with. Keep in mind:

  • You are not always seeing people at their best. Many of the reasons behind people seeking out JP services involve stressful situations.
  • What you are seeing may be the result of underlying thoughts and feelings. People may express feelings such as fear, anger, loss, and frustration as behaviour that can be challenging. They may also have triggers you are not aware of causing them to behave the way they do.
  • It is often not about you. People who demonstrate challenging behaviour are often expressing their heightened stress or underlying emotions. Try not to take their behaviour personally.

19.4 How to say ‘no’

Many JPs report that they find it difficult when refusing requests for witnessing or certifying. Examples of such situations are when a person does not have enough identification or supporting documentation for the task or if you are unable to satisfy yourself of the authenticity of an original document. It may be that you have identified a conflict of interest.

You may offer a tactful explanation. You can explain to the person that what you can and cannot do as a JP and that you are legally obliged to meet certain requirements. It may help to let people know that a document that you complete incorrectly, or without authorisation may be considered invalid and may cause problems later. Similarly, you can explain that accepting a gift is a criminal offence for JPs and you are happy to provide your services for free.

You can empathise with the person’s situation and assist them by referring them to an organisation who may be able to help.

Reviewed 04 June 2023

Honorary Justices

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