459. Deputy Cormac Devlin asked the Minister for Justice the current powers, duties and responsibilities of peace commissioners; the way the system has evolved; the current process including vetting aspects; the number that have been appointed in each of the years 2016 to 2020 and to date in 2021, in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [55633/21]
Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): As the Deputy may be aware, Peace Commissioners are appointed by the Minister for Justice under section 88 of the Courts of Justice Act 1924. A Peace Commissioner is an honorary appointment and those appointed receive no remuneration or compensation by way of fees or expenses for their services.
The powers and duties of Peace Commissioners consist primarily of:
- Taking statutory declarations
- Witnessing signatures on documents if required by various authorities
- Signing certificates and orders under various Acts
- The Courts of Justice Act 1924 also gives Peace Commissioners the power to issue summons and warrants but these powers are now rarely used.
An application for appointment may be made by a person on their own behalf or a nomination for appointment may be made by a third party in respect of a person considered suitable for appointment.
The appointment of a Peace Commissioner is entirely at the discretion of the Minister for Justice. The fact that an applicant or nominee may be suitable for appointment does not, in itself, provide any entitlement to appointment as a Peace Commissioner. This is because other factors, such as the need for appointments in particular areas, are taken into account.
There is no qualifying examination involved but appointees are required to be of good character and they are usually well established in the local community. Persons convicted of serious offences are considered unsuitable for appointment. To this end, a background check on nominees is carried out by An Garda Síochána.
Persons who are members of professions or employed in occupations which engage in legal work or related activities and members of the clergy are, as a matter of practice, not appointed because of their occupation. Civil servants are usually only appointed where the performance of their official duties requires an appointment (i.e. ex-officio).
An application for consideration to be appointed as a Peace Commissioner can be made at any time by contacting my office:
Office of the Minister for Justice
51 St. Stephen's Green
The Department of Justice maintains the Roll of Peace Commissioners. While every effort is made to keep the Roll up to date, the records do not always reflect the actual situation on the ground because the Department is reliant on the Peace Commissioners themselves and other interested parties to advise of changes in the personal circumstances of individual Peace Commissioners since their appointment. The Peace Commissioner Unit updates the Roll when advised of these changes, for example, resignation from Office. For that reason, the figures provided below in tabular format are subject to change from previous figures provided.