Legal updates and commentary
The following is a link to the Custos Rotulorum Act 2011, signed by the Governot General on August 29, 2011. I am trying to ascretain the date on which the 2011 Act was gazetted.
Section 6 (a) stipulates that a Custos must be a Justice of the Peace.
You will see that the new Act repairs the previous ommission in the Ministry Paper Numbered 2, Appendix I, approved by Parliament on the 5th day of July, 1959 and gazetted on the 5th day of February, 1963 and which made no mention of such a requirement.
A Lay Magistrate pointed out to me, however, that by convention, Custodes have always been Justices of the Peace. Indeed, it would seem to be a serious anomaly that the Custos could be held to be the ” Chief Magistrate of the parish” and not be a J.P.
According to Kings House, “ it is his (or her) duty to prepare a roster of the Justices of the Peace within the parish so that there are sufficient JPs at each meeting of the Petty Sessions Court and in the various districts to carry out the work.”
Section 4 (1) states that a Custos shall be appointed by the Governor General acting on the advice of the Prime Minister.
According to section 4 (2), a Custos shall, before assuming office, take and subscribe before the Governor General
(a) the Oath of Allegiance referred to in section 7 of the Oaths Act, and
(b) the Official Oath referred to in section 8 of the Oaths Act.
So much for the formalities. Kings House is now trying to resolve the messy and unfortunate situation involving Sally Porteous of Manchester after Lay Magistrates walked out of a scheduled meeting and announced their refusal to work with her. The installation ceremony had to be postponed for this to happen.
I make no comment on Ms. Porteous’s appointment and whether it should go ahead. One thing is clear, however. It should never have come to this. We are far too prone to dismiss people’s concerns as partisan or unimportant. Former politicians have been appointed Custodes and Governors General before. The fact that concerns were being raised about Ms. Porteous’s appointment should have alerted Kings House months before that trouble was brewing, and that speedy intervention was needed to prevent what we now see, an untidy, messy and unfortunate situation which is embarassing to all concerned. The ill will was allowed to build, fueled by disregard of publicly expressed concerns. Why is it that we can teach our children to “attack the problem, not the person” rules of the peace process, how to understand conflict and how to communicate effectively and yet not practice it ourselves. I’ve got it – let’s send our leaders to do a course with PALS (Peace & Love in Schools)! They clearly need a refresher course.