A recent introduction in Queensland Parliament allows specifically selected and trained Justice of the Peace (Qualified) to sit as adjudicator as make orders in relation to minor civil dispute matters in the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) up to $5,000.00.
The pilot program, which has been enacted under the auspices of the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (Justices of the Peace) Amendment Bill 2013 is anticipated to run for six months, and been implemented to streamline the QCAT process by reducing the costs for parties involved, the timeframes for finalizing matters, and assist with managing the present backlog in files. The move will also allow the present QCAT judicial members to focus on the more complex matters which come before the QCAT.
The types of matters that Justice of the Peace (Qualified) will be dealing with include residential tenancy matters, consumer disputes and minor debts/damages claims.
However, there are strong criticisms of the program, and Ian Brown, Vice President of the Queensland Law Society has voiced his concerns, stating that:
“… . a newly admitted solicitor and an unqualified JP could essentially be sitting making determinations about matters which could in fact, be over a range of issues and they would be in our view, issues which could significantly impact on individuals rights.”
The Queensland Law Society has also made comment that although the JP (Qual.) will be dealing with ‘minor civil disputes’, these matters are by no means straightforward and still involve some legal complexity.
Although it seems undesirable that justices of the peace are able to exercise significant powers in the QCAT, even though they have no formal legal qualifications nor any practical legal experience, Jarrod Bleijie, the Queensland Attorney-General has confirmed that participants of the program will have access to professional and legal support during the process, and the program may very well speed up the QCAT process and provide more Queenslander’s with access to cost effective justice.
If you have a minor debt, small claims matter or legal dispute which you need assistance with, please contact Affinity Lawyers on 5563 8970 today to schedule an initial consultation with one of our friendly solicitors on the Gold Coast.