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JPs enhance skills in decision- making and judgment writing

Wednesday 13 March 2024 | Written by Melina Etches | Published in Court, Local, National


JPs enhance skills in decision- making and judgment writing
The two-week long Justices of the Peace workshop focused on decision-making and judgment writing opened on Monday morning. Minister for Justice Vaine “Mac” Mokoroa and Tui Dewes, the New Zealand High Commissioner to the Cook Islands, opened the seminar. NZHC/24031215

Justices of the Peace (JPs) practicing in Cook Islands Court are undertaking training in a workshop focused on decision-making and judgment writing.

Of the 40 JPs in the Cook Islands, the seven “sitting JPs” who preside in court, and five that are “Bench 3JP sitting” are part of this workshop.

The New Zealand High Commissioner to the Cook Islands, Tui Dewes, had the honour of opening the two-week-long seminar on Monday morning at The Edgewater Resort, alongside the Minister for Justice, Vaine “Mac” Mokoroa.

The seminar is supported by the New Zealand Government through the Pacific Justice Sector programme and is being facilitated by senior JP Tangi Taoro as well as Pacific Justice Sector’s John Adams, a retired New Zealand Family Court Judge, Tina Pope, and Delwyn Te Moni.

In his opening speech, Minister Mokoroa said: “We are united by a shared dedication to the principles of justice, equity, and the unwavering commitment to serve our community with integrity and wisdom.”

He said the role of Justices of the Peace extends beyond the solemn undertaking of oaths or the affirmation of statutory declarations.

“We are, in essence, the custodians of the public’s trust and the arbiters of justice at the grassroots level.

“The decisions we render touch lives, shape futures, and uphold the rule of law in the most tangible ways.

“It is a sacred trust, one that demands of us not only a thorough understanding of the law but also an unwavering commitment to fairness, compassion, and the highest ethical standards.”

The Cook Islands has its unique blend of customary laws and legal traditions, presenting a distinct set of challenges and responsibilities.

“Our role in this beautiful tapestry of islands is to ensure that justice is not only done but is seen to be done, balancing the letter of the law with the spirit of our customs and the needs of our communities,” Mokoroa said.

He added that this training will enhance capabilities, enrich understanding, and strengthen the JPs’ resolve to serve our communities with even greater competence and confidence.

Mokoroa reminded the participants of the profound impact their decisions can have on the lives of those they serve.

“Let us strive to be not just arbiters of the law but also beacons of justice, fairness, and compassion in our communities.”

Mii Kairangi Jacob-Makimare from Aitutaki was appointed a JP on August 30, 2022, alongside Angeline Tuara and Paul Turepu, both from Rarotonga. 

Jacob-Makimare said having retired judge Adams as a facilitator has heightened her appreciation of the law.

She said that DUI (driving under the influence) cases are one of the challenging types they face in Aitutaki since they lack a counselling authority. 

“Ideally, it would be good if we had support services on our island to help these people,” said Jacob-Makimare.

She added that it’s important for JPs to be well-informed and have the necessary tools to perform their duties effectively.

Senior JP Taoro expressed their gratitude for the opportunity to participate in the workshop. 

“We have a good number of JPs, this programme will build up their confidence and understanding of what is required in their roles, building up their skills and capacity.”

According to Taoro, Members of Parliament in the Cook Islands typically nominate JPs. These recommendations are then submitted to Cabinet and ultimately to the King’s Representative for approval.

However, she noted that those genuinely interested can also apply directly to the Ministry of Justice. 

The Cook Islands’ “sitting JPs” are Georgina Williams, John Whitta, Tangianau Taoro, Nadine Newnham, Vania Kenning-Tangaroa, Moyra McBirney, and Janet Maki (both in Aitutaki).

The JPs who are part of the “Bench 3JP sitting” are Mii Kairangi Jacob-Makimare, Paul Turepu, Angeline Tuara, Ngatokorua "Nga" Mataio, and Simiona Teiotu.

Aotearoa New Zealand is proud to fund the workshop through its Pacific Justice Sector Programme. Their support has also extended to: case and court performance management, a revised bench book, scholarships for Court staff to pursue the USP’s Certificate of Justice and Diploma of Justice and training for newly appointed JPs in the northern Pa Enua

The programme is also assisting with the development of a Land Commissioner’s Bench Book, a new Code of Civil Procedure, and a study tour for land registry staff to visit the Māori Land Court.