Stepping down . . .
Retiring JP Kerry Jones talks to The Gisborne Herald’s Wynsley Wrigley about his 24-year-service to the court.
On Boxing Day 24 years ago, Kerry Jones began his life as a Justice of the Peace.
Nearly quarter of a century later Judge Warren Cathcart held a special sitting in Gisborne District Court to officially farewell the retiring JP.
Mr Jones says the highlight of his (voluntary) career as a JP was sitting on the largest deposition hearing in New Zealand judicial history back in 2004.
The week-long hearing involved 33 gang members facing charges of unlawful assembly and participating in an unlawful group after an incident outside the Wairoa courthouse in November 2003.
Deposition hearings were held to rule whether there was sufficient evidence to go to trial. There were 29 witnesses, 100 exhibits and daily bail decisions to be made.
Mr Jones ended his career as one of four judicial JPs in the region whose roles include court matters such as minor offences and some traffic cases, remands and bail hearings.
The remaining judicial JPs are Peter Williamson, Barry Atkinson and Aaron Snodgrass.
Mr Jones said he could hear bail applications every day of the week although the work load of judicial JPs has diminished significantly since the introduction of Community Magistrates 10 years ago.
Mr Jones said he shared the view of then Gisborne Law Society president Adam Simperingham that Gisborne needed resident community judges.
“I go with what Adam said. I have always said that judges, community magistrates and JPs should serve in the district, the community and among the people where they live.”
All of Gisborne’s community magistrates live outside of the district, most based in Hamilton.
There are 104 JPs in the Gisborne-Wairoa-East Coast region with most being ministerial JPs whose responsibilities include witnessing of documents, taking of declarations, swearing of affidavits and affirming of affirmations.
Mr Jones said that back in 1994, there was a fixed number of JPs with a stipulation that there be a JP within each five kilometre radius.
His timing was fortunate as when he approached MP Janet Mackey, who is also a JP, about becoming one, another was retiring.
Mr Jones effectively became the JP for the Te Hapara area.
He thanked JPs of the era — Harry Johansen, Brian Crawshaw, Callum Campbell, Trevor Parker and Barbara Fisher — for his training.
Mr Jones went on to train ministerial and judicial JPs including Rachael O’Grady of Kotemaori who became the first trainee in the country to get 100 percent in her judiciary exams.
She is now the president of the Royal New Zealand Federation of JPs, which represents 28 JP associations, with membership of around 6200.
Mr Jones also trialled and then introduced the service desk at the Gisborne courthouse, which made it easier for anyone seeking assistance from a JP.
“It has been a pleasure to serve the court,’’ said Mr Jones.
Lawyers Mark Sceats, Doug Rishworth and Mr Simperingham had provided a lot of help and support to JPs.
The court staff, manager Karauria Ruru and his predecessors, and judges had been brilliant, he said.
That also applied to the police “who do such a difficult job”.
Mr Jones said he was leaving the Gisborne Association of JPs in good hands.
He had no regrets after 24 years.
“Looking back, it has been a very rewarding experience, particularly with disposition hearings, including many involving charges of murder.
“There is a satisfaction in community volunteer work — because the job is not paid.
“But it’s time to step down.”
Serving as a judicial JP could involve being required to serve outside standard office hours.
“As they say, you need a good woman beside you.”
Mr Jones said he would not have lasted 24 years in the job without his wife Ronnie beside him.
MAKE YOUR VISIT TO A JP QUICK AND EASY
• Do not sign anything beforehand
• Take photo identification
• Remember to take the original as well as the copy to be certified
• Check that a NZ Justice of the Peace can complete your documentation
• There is no charge for JP services
GISBORNE JP SERVICE DESK
• No appointment is needed
• Based at Gisborne Courthouse on Tuesday from 9.30am to 11am; and Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday from 9am to 11am.
• HB Williams Memorial Library in the Tautoru Orion room on Thursday from 9am to 11am.