Justices of the Peace (JPs) have been a part of QCAT since a trial was implemented in Brisbane, Ipswich, Maroochydore, Southport and Townsville in June 2013.
A panel of two JPs, one of whom must be legally qualified, constitute the tribunal to resolve some minor civil disputes (MCDs) valued up to $5,000, including:
- non-urgent residential tenancy disputes;
- minor debt matters;
- consumer and trader disputes;
- dividing fence matters; and
- property damage disputes.
JPs have brought a wealth of knowledge and experience to resolve these MCDs. The initiative recognises the significant voluntary contribution of JPs in Queensland and provides access to swift and fair justice by reducing costs associated with MCDs and allowing QCAT adjudicators, and magistrates to focus on more complex matters.
Ongoing research shows user satisfaction for MCDs heard by a JP panel is comparable to overall user satisfaction in the MCD jurisdiction.
In 2016-17, the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2009 was amended to enable JPs to hear MCDs on a permanent basis. Work is underway to embed the use of JPs in to business as usual operations in QCAT, and JPs will continue to hear MCDs in the five locations.
Due to the social distancing imperatives resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, and to ensure the health and safety of QCAT JPs and the parties appearing in matters, the Justice of the Peace Initiative is currently in abeyance.