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04 General Witnessing


Summary

JPs have authority to witness any lawful document that a Qld JP can sign. Unlawful documents will usually omit the Act under which they are attested and/or be improperly set out. In addition as a responsible adult, you can witness documents where a JP is not explicitly required if you so choose.

Certain documents are required by law to be witnessed by a JP to encourage the honesty of the signatory. Some documents require the signatory be placed under oath that the information given in the document is true and correct.

If you doubt your authority to witness a document then decline to do so. You may also refer the client to another JP who is more familiar with the type of document.

Process

Chapter 2 of the JP Handbook lists a detailed 14-step process for the general witnessing procedure. Here we show a more memorable summary of fewer steps. It is vital that you adopt a consistent procedure for every document. This will enable you in future to answer questions about the document with confidence.
  1. Scan the document to determine its type, be satisfied it is lawful and set out properly, and whether there are special witnessing requirements.
  2. If required, issue a warning, take an oath, affirmation or statutory declaration.
  3. Ask the person for proof of identify and check they are the person named in the document or have a power of attorney to sign for the person named.
  4. Ensure all dates in the document are the same as the date of signing and witnessing.
  5. Check all alterations and whiteout are initialled by the signatory and the JP. Spaces and omissions should be crossed out and initialled as well.
  6. Process relevant additional documents such as annexures, exhibits and attachments. All require a JP signature and some require special combinations of wording, JP name, title, seal and number, and maybe the signature of the signatory.
  7. Ensure the document is signed by the person in front of you. If signed already ask them to sign again.
  8. Sign the document, affix your seal and registration number nearby and provide your full name. If there is insufficient space for the seal, write your mark of office, for example "JP (Qual)" and registration number.
  9. Note the details of the document and the actions taken in your log book.

Notes

  • Have this checklist (or the longer one in Chapter 2 of the JP Handbook) with you as you witness the document.
  • Never witness a blank document and never complete the document yourself on behalf of the signatory.
  • The JP Handbook indicates that a JP should never witness a document signed by a friend or relative because of a possible accusation of bias.

People with Special Needs

The JP Handbook tells us that up to 19% of the Australian population suffer from form of disability varying from minor to major. In addition some clients are people from non-English speaking backgrounds. For more detail see People with Special Needs.

References

  • Chapter 2, JP Handbook
  • Chapters 26 and 27, JP Handbook
  • JP Bulletin Issue 4, August 2014, in Alerts and Information, Using the Seal of Office