A Peace Commissioner is an honorary position in Ireland with special powers and whose role is to primarily taking statutory declarations, and witnessing signatures on documents required by various authorities. Peace Commissioners have the power to issue summons and warrants and to sign certificates and orders under various Acts of the Oireachtas.
The Courts of Justice Act 1924 gives Peace Commissioners the power to issue summons and warrants. The title, first proposed as "Parish Commissioner", replaced Justice of the Peace, which according to Dail Debates at the time of the Bill's discussion was considered 'Too British Sounding'.
Peace Commissioners are primarily used to issue summons and search warrants to the Gardaí (now less used as the constitutionality has been challenged), witness signatures on documents, take statutory declarations and sign certificates and orders. Peace commissioners cannot sign and authenticate Affidavits.
As of 2012 there were 5,733 serving Peace Commissioners operating throughout the state.
A Peace Commissioner should not sign any document that s/he has an "interest" in. The exact meaning of what constitutes an "interest" is a vexed one, but generally this means that a PC should not sign documents for members of his/her own family, and people who whom s/he works. The rationale behind this rule is that a Peace Commissioner is supposed to be an independent witness, and cannot be considered independent in the aforementioned circumstances.
There is no special application form. 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. Nominations are generally received from public representatives, and a Garda superintendent may sometimes request an appointment in his or her district as the need arises in the public interest. Persons seeking appointment to the Office of Peace Commissioner can apply to the Minister for Justice and Equality and should set out the reason for the application or nomination and provide some background information about the person proposed for appointment.
There is no qualifying examination, but appointees are required to be of good character and they are usually well established in the local community. People convicted of serious offences are considered unsuitable. Civil servants are usually only appointed where the performance of their official duties requires an appointment (i.e. ex-officio). Solicitors, people employed in legal offices, and members of the clergy are, as a matter of practice, not appointed because their occupation may cause a conflict of interest when exercising the duties of a peace commissioner. 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 because other factors, such as the need for appointments in particular areas, are taken into account.
Finding a Peace Commissioner
The Department of Justice and Equality maintains the Roll of Peace Commissioners, however this is not accessible online. The Department will usually provide the name and address of a Peace Commissioner on request. Local Garda stations, who use the services of a Peace Commissioner in the course of their duties are usually in a position to give you the name and address of a Peace Commissioner in a particular area.
It is often easier to find a Commissioner for Oaths. A Commissioner for Oaths can also sign Statutory Declarations, and can in addition sign Affidavits. Because a Commissioner for Oaths can charge they will have an incentive to advertise and are available in most towns nationwide. It is customary for Peace Commissioners to use the abbreviation PC after their name to make themselves known when requested by the Garda and members of the public to discharge their duties.
Costs and rates
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Peace Commissioners is an honorary role and there is no remuneration or financial compensation by way of fees or expenses for their services whatsoever. However, in practice many will ask for donations. There is debate in the legal community over this. It is true to say that many have town centre premises and the act of signing a document does carry a cost.
- The Courts of Justice Act 1924
- "The Courts of Justice Act, 1924". Irishstatutebook.ie. 1924-04-12. Retrieved 2013-07-27.
- Davin, William (2 February 1923). "Dáil Éireann debate - Friday, 2 Feb 1923 - District Justices (Temporary Provisions) Bill. - Second Reading". Oireachtasdebates.oireachtas.ie. Retrieved 7 November 2018.
- "Dáil Éireann - 24/May/2012 Written Answers - Ministerial Appointments". Oireachtasdebates.oireachtas.ie. 2012-05-24. Retrieved 2013-07-27.
- "The Department of Justice and Equality: Peace Commissioners". Justice.ie. Archived from the original on 19 November 2007.
- "So you want to become a peace commissioner?". Sunday Business Post. 20 February 2005. Archived from the original on 2 November 2005.