Section 76: Signing functions
417.This section sets out who, in future, will be able to carry out the signing functions which can currently be undertaken by people on the supplemental list under sections 15(8) and (9) of the 1975 Act.
418.Subsection (1) makes it clear that no person who is a member of a local authority, a member of the Scottish Parliament, a member of the House of Commons or a member of the House of Lords can sit on the bench as a JP. JPs who become members of these bodies can still, however, exercise the signing functions set out at subsection (6). In addition, any member of a local authority can exercise the signing functions set out at subsection (6), regardless of whether or not they are a JP.
419.Subsection (6) defines what is meant by "signing functions". The definition is the same as that currently used in section 15(9) of the 1975 Act, and limits the range of documents which can be signed. For example, local authority members will be able to countersign written declarations that somebody has lost their insurance policy, or that they wish to change their name. They are also able to confirm facts within their own knowledge – for example by signing passport applications and shotgun licensing applications for people whom they know. However unlike “full” justices of the peace under the 1975 Act, or any justice of the peace under the current Act, people who can only undertake “signing functions” cannot sign affidavits (since these record oral statements) or warrants.
420.These sections are different in their effect from the provisions of the 1975 Act which related to signing functions. Under sections 15(8) and (9) of the 1975 Act, anybody placed on the supplemental list could undertake signing functions, but no other functions, by virtue of their office. Under section 15(1) of the 1975 Act, all JPs are currently placed on the supplemental list once they reach the age of 70. Under section 12 of the 1975 Act, as amended by the Bail, Judicial Appointments etc (Scotland) Act 2000, councillors are not able to hold office as full justices, but can be entered onto the supplemental list. Under section 11(1) of the 1975 Act, local authorities are currently allowed to nominate up to one quarter of their councillors to be entered onto the supplemental list.
421.Under the provisions of this Act, there will not be a supplemental list. JPs who have reached the age of 70 will not therefore have signing functions. Under subsections (2) and (3), all councillors will automatically have signing functions by virtue of their office, which will allow them to sign the range of documents set out in subsection (6). If a person were appointed as a JP after this section's provisions had come into force, therefore, and then became a councillor, they would remain as a JP at least until the end of their five year term of appointment, but would only be able to undertake signing functions. In addition, the bar on councillors sitting on the bench as justices will be extended to MPs, MSPs and members of the House of Lords.
422.The provisions at subsections (3) and (4) make it clear that forms (such as statutory declarations regarding lost insurance policies) which specify a “JP” as a possible signatory, can also be signed by a stipendiary magistrate or local authority member, if they are exercising signing functions.
423.Subsection (5) provides that JPs and councillors cannot charge a fee for exercising signing functions.