Justices of the Peace for the Falkland Islands

What is a Justice of the Peace?

The office of Justice of the Peace or JP has existed for hundreds of years. People holding the office perform an essential public service by dispensing justice within the criminal justice system and hearing a range of non-criminal cases.

The summary court is the first tier within the Falkland Islands' justice system. It comprises :

  • The Adult Court – for criminal cases involving people over 18.
  • The Youth Court – for cases involving young people aged from 10-17.
  • The Family Proceedings Court – where some family disputes are settled.
  • The hearing of employment matters - for individuals asserting their rights relating to their employment

Defendants who are found guilty in the summary court can appeal against the verdict or sentence to a more senior court. The prosecution has a more limited right to appeal, but only if the Justices have made an error of law. In practice, very few decisions are ever appealed.

Individual Justices do not hear cases on their own. They usually sit as one of a bench of three JPs, together with a qualified Legal Adviser who is there to advise on points of law and procedure.

The Falkland Islands currently has 11 active Justices of the Peace who sit regularly with their Legal Adviser to dispense justice in all manner of cases before the court. Below is some explanation of the categories of cases that they regularly deal with.

If you are interested in the work of the JPs please see the more detailed guidance at the bottom of this page. If you would like to become a JP please contact the court.

 

Criminal Cases

Everyone charged with a criminal offence is presumed innocent unless proved guilty, and is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time. JPs, just like other judges, have to make sure this happens in their courts.

All criminal cases start in the summary court. JPs will decide whether they feel they have sufficient sentencing powers to deal with the matter or if it ought to be dealt with by a court with greater sentencing powers.  The Justices may also decide that a matter should be dealt with by the Magistrate's Court because the defendant has other matters before the Magistrate's Court, or there is a co-accused already before the Magistrate's Court, or because the case may involve complex points of law, or because the matter is of particular public interest, or for any other reason that is in the interests of justice.

For those crimes JPs deal with, they set the timetable for hearings, decide bail, hear the evidence, decide whether the accused is guilty or innocent and, if guilty, decide on the most appropriate sentence.

Sentencing

When sentencing, JPs consider the details of the offending and any aggravating and mitigating factors. They then decide which sentence has the greatest chance of rehabilitating the offender, punishing them and preventing them from committing further offences.

Youth Courts

Most criminal cases involving young people aged 10 to 17 are dealt with in the Youth Court. The main aim of the Youth Court is to prevent offending and re-offending by young people.

Family Proceedings Courts

Some JPs are specially trained to deal with family cases. These are usually either when a young person is at risk of serious harm, or when there is a family dispute concerning children, often when parents have split up.

Licensing Courts

Justices are responsible for granting or refusing licences to people who want to sell alcohol to the public. This includes extending licensing hours for special events and hearing applications for occasional licences.

Collecting fines

Summary courts deal with people who fail to pay their fines and other financial penalties when they have been imposed by the Justices.

  

Serving as a Justice of the Peace: A detailed guide to becoming a JP