4. JPs in the community

Justice of the Peace Handbook

Volunteers, including JPs, carry out a variety of tasks in the Victorian justice system that strengthen and sustain our communities. As a JP, you will deal with matters of great importance to people’s lives. Some of the documents you witness will have financial implications for the people involved or may be used in court proceedings. You have the authority to witness enduring powers of attorney documents and documents appointing medical treatment decision makers that influence people’s quality of life when they can no longer manage their affairs.

Your role is to be an independent and objective witness to documents used for official or legal purposes, such as:

  • attesting the execution of a document
  • taking an affidavit for use in court
  • witnessing a statutory declaration
  • certifying a true copy of an original document or a person’s identity.

Your services will be in significant demand in the community. You are appointed to serve all members of the community. It is important that you endeavour to perform the role for all community members and are not limited to specific language, ethnic, religious, or cultural groups, your employees or associates, or organisations you belong to.

As a person appointed to public office, the public, institutions, and the court will rely upon your word. You must always perform your duties honestly, truthfully, and conscientiously and take care to act fairly, independently, and impartially, minimising conflicts of interest.

Your personal contact details must be provided to the HJSS, however only your name, phone number and suburb or town will be publicly available.

All other personal details (such as your street address) are kept confidential. The department provides the names and contact phone numbers of JPs to members of the public seeking to locate a JP including via the department’s web site at www.justice.vic.gov.au/justices.

We will not provide your home address to members of the public without your consent, unless required or permitted by law to do so.

4.1 The Oath of Office

After appointment by the Governor in Council and before performing any of the functions of a JP, you will take the oath or affirmation of office before a magistrate. The oath or affirmation commits you to high standards of integrity and discretion.

In taking the oath or affirmation, you promise to:

“…at all times discharge the duties of my office according to law and to the best of my knowledge and ability without fear, favour or affection.”3

4.2 Limits of your role as a JP

4.2.1 No requirement to copy or read a document

You are generally not required to read, take notes of, or copy the documents you witness. You are asked to attest to the fact that a person signed the documents, as required, in your presence. You are not required to attest to the truth or legality of the documents.

In some specific circumstances, such as when a person is vision impaired or has limited literacy, you may read the contents of an affidavit4 or statutory declaration5 and acknowledge you have done so in writing when you witness the document.

4.2.2 Limits on interstate functions

The functions of a JP vary in each state and territory of Australia. As a JP, you can witness interstate and international documents if certain legislation or the document expressly allows a Victorian JP (or a JP from any state or territory of Australia) to do so.

JPs are appointed under different legislation in each state and territory. If you move interstate and would like to be a JP in that state, you can enquire at the JP office of that state. To be a JP in Victoria, you must ordinarily live in Victoria, so you will also need to resign from the Victorian office of JP if you move interstate.

You are allowed to act as a JP when outside Victoria if the document you are witnessing or the duty you are fulfilling is prescribed by Victorian law or permitted by the document. Please check if you are authorised to witness Commonwealth forms or documents from other states. This is usually indicated on the document in question.

4.3 Code of Conduct

The community perceives JPs as people of trust and honour and expects that you will:

  • respect, observe and adhere to the highest standards of integrity and professionalism, and
  • ensure an independent, fair, and impartial service for all Victorians.

As a JP, you are bound by the Honorary Justices Code of Conduct. This outlines the behaviour expected of honorary justices.6 It is important that you understand and comply with all aspects of the Code. If you seriously or repeatedly breach the Code, you may be removed as an honorary justice.7

4.4 Upholding privacy and confidentiality

As a JP, you have access to personal information. When handling this information, you are bound by the Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014. This Act establishes guidelines for the collection and disclosure of personal information.8

In accordance with this Act, you must ensure that any documents you see are kept private except to those persons or parties who have the authority to access such documents. Generally, it is unlawful to collect or record any personal information unless:

  • the person has consented to have that information recorded and held by you
  • the collection is required under law (this is rare, and you would be informed beforehand).

You do not need to keep originals or copies of documents to protect yourself in any future dispute. You are not liable for anything done or omitted to be done in good faith or in the reasonable belief that an act or omission was in the exercise of a power or the discharge of a duty as a JP.

A breach of the Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014 can lead to substantial penalties.

4.4.1 Media inquiries

You should not provide any documents or information obtained as a JP, including identification information, to the media or to other members of the public. This includes making a presentation to the community or to professional and educational groups. Please refer any enquiries from the media to the department.

4.5 Fees, gratuities, patronages, or rewards

It is an offence for a JP to demand, take or accept from any person any fee, gratuity, patronage, or reward for carrying out the duties of a JP.9 The penalty for this offence includes imprisonment of up to 12 months and includes cash, gifts (even if of no monetary value) and free or discounted goods or services.

It does not matter if the fee, gratuity, patronage, or reward is paid to another person or whether you benefit personally. Even a requirement or request to donate to charity is illegal.10 Please contact us for advice if you are unsure.

4.6 Use of JP title

You may use the title 'Justice of the Peace' and include the letters JP after your name.11 You cannot use your title to advertise or advance, or appear to advertise or advance, your business or personal interests, and to do so is an offence.12

Prohibited use of your title may include using the title on stationery, such as business cards and letterheads, in advertisements or business signage and on websites promoting your business.

4.7 Availability and absences

As a JP, you must be reasonably active and available in the performance of your duties.13 If you need to take a leave of absence from your role as a JP of more than a month, let us know. If you will be absent for more than twelve months, we can discuss whether it is appropriate for you to continue in the role of JP.

4.8 Where to deliver JP services

For your own safety, we recommend that you do not conduct JP duties in private locations, for example, your own home or the home of the person requiring your services. Consider the use of public venues such as a signing station, your local community centre, council chambers or a library.

A person’s documents and dealings with a JP are confidential, so ensure that the location allows privacy.

4.9 Notifying the department of a change of circumstances

You must notify the department, either by letter or email, of the following changes in your circumstances, within 21 days of the change of circumstances occurring:

  • changes of name, residential address or contact details
  • ceasing to be an Australian citizen
  • ceasing to ordinarily reside in Victoria
  • insolvency under administration (bankruptcy)
  • being charged with a criminal offence that is punishable by imprisonment of 6 months or more
  • losing the physical or mental capacity to fulfil the duties of office14
  • any other prescribed change of circumstances.
Note: If you are charged with a criminal offence, you should let us know in writing. It may be appropriate in some circumstances to refrain from undertaking JP duties until the matter is resolved.

4.10 Resignation

You may resign as a JP by sending written notice to the Governor of Victoria.15 Alternatively, you may provide written notice to HJSS via email. If you are incapacitated, your power of attorney may write a letter of resignation on your behalf.

Once you cease to be a JP, you remain bound to adhere to the principles of privacy and confidentiality about any matters you have dealt with in your capacity as a JP.

After resigning you may apply to the department for permission to use the title ‘JP (retired)’ after your name.16 If you are under 75 when you cease to hold office, you must have performed 20 years of service as a JP or as a BJ to retain the title. If you are over 75 or you cease to hold office because of ill health, you must have performed 10 years of service.

You will not receive permission to use the title “JP (retired)” if you were removed from office because of misconduct, bankruptcy or if the Secretary of the department considers that you are not a fit and proper person to use the title.


[3] Schedule 1, Honorary Justices Regulations 2014

[4] Section 28, Oaths and Affirmations Act 2018

[5] Section 35, Oaths and Affirmations Act 2018

[6] Section 25, Honorary Justices Act 2014; regulation 13 and schedule 2, Honorary Justices Regulations 2014

[7] Section 33(a), Honorary Justices Act 2014

[8] Section 13(1)(g), Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014

[9] Section 46(1), Honorary Justices Act 2014

[10] Section 46(1), Honorary Justices Act 2014

[11] Section 39, Honorary Justices Act 2014

[12] Clause 14, Honorary Justices Code of Conduct; Section 44, Honorary Justices Act 2014

[13] Section 24(1), Honorary Justices Act 2014

[14] Section 22(1), Honorary Justices Act 2014

[15] Section 20(a), Honorary Justices Act 2014

[16] Section 40, Honorary Justices Act 2014