What is the difference between a notary public and a justice of the peace?

One very common inquiry that we receive is what the difference between a notary public and a justice of the peace is. Although both of these functions are concerned with the witnessing of the signing of documents, they are in fact very different. To summarize the role and functions of a Justice of the Peace (“JP”) in New South Wales, basically it involves three functions. This involves witnessing the signing of a statutory declaration, witnessing the signing of an affidavit and certifying that a copy of an original document is a true copy.

JPs receive their commission from the Governor of New South Wale and are all volunteers. They cannot charge a fee for their services. When they examine a document, they need to make sure that it is complete and ensure that the person signing the document fully understands the purpose, effect and content of the document. They should also warn the person signing a statutory declaration that there are heavy criminal penalties for giving false statements in a statutory declaration. They must also confirm the identity of the person signing the document and physically see the person sign the document that is being signed. However, it is important to remember that the JP is not a lawyer and cannot provide legal advice or give you guidance on the content of the document.

How is this different to a notary public?

The most common role of a notary public is to authenticate and certify documents for use internationally. This is a strong contrast to the authentication provided by a Justice of the Peace because a JP’s certification can only be used in New South Wales. Notaries may issue notarial certificates of identity and other types of notarial certification which are often requested by overseas authorities in relation to documents produced or used in Australia. Foreign courts also often have requirements for the notarial certification of documents before they are accepted in an overseas court. Notaries also have a range of functions related to the shipping industry such a certifying a ships protest and a protesting a bill of exchange.

A notary public is appointed under the terms of the Public Notaries Act 1997 (NSW). Notaries may charge fees for their services. Notaries are also lawyers which have been in practice for a minimum of five years and are therefore usually very experienced in the practice of the law generally. If you are in need of a notarial service, please do not hesitate to contact us using the form at the top right of this page.

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