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June 4, 2012 / Man in the Mirror

FCSW Discussion Area: Justices of the Peace

by Pamela Cross – Monday, June 4, 2012, 08:13 AM

As many of you know, Justices of the Peace (JPs) are the people who preside over most bail hearings in Ontario criminal court. JPs are politically appointed by the provincial government. There is no requirement that they have legal training and, in fact, only about 10% of the province’s 345 full-time JPs have a law degree. 

Liberal backbencher David Orazietti has introduced a private member’s bill to require JPs who preside over legal cases, including bail hearings, to have a law degree and at least five years’ experience practising as a lawyer.

Much controversy surrounds this idea, with some people feeling that legal training will improve the quality of decisions made by JPs and others taking the position that it is important for JPs to bring more of a layperson perspective.

The outcome of this bill has significance for women who have experienced violence because the bail hearing that takes place if her partner is criminally charged, which is most often handled by a JP, is a critical stage in the proceedings. A bad decision with respect to bail can make the difference between the woman and her children being protected from ongoing violence by the abuser or being exposed to continued and often increased violence.

If you have thoughts about this Bill based on your experiences supporting women, please share them with the rest of us in the Miscellaneous section of the discussion area.


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