In order to understand the difference between a Justice of the Peace (“JP”) and a Notary Public it is first necessary to define them.

A JP is an independent and objective witness to documents that individuals use for official or legal purposes. The roles of JPs vary from state to state in Australia. A JP has two main functions which include:

  • Witnessing the signing of documents (for example statutory declarations and affidavits)
  • Certifying copies of documents.

A Notary Public is an a public officer which is appointed for life by a State or Territory Supreme Court, which are given statutory powers to administer oaths, witness documents and perform various other administrative functions which can be of a national or international nature. Generally a Notary Public is a practising solicitor or attorney.

The major difference between a JP and a Notary Public is that a JP is not permitted to witness documents which are for use in foreign countries. On the other hand, a Notary Public has the ability to witness documents that are for national and international purposes.

There are some differences between a JP in the United Kingdom (“UK”) and a JP in Australia. A JP in the UK is usually a lay person that has undertaken a training course who generally deals with minor criminal matters in the lower courts and sends serious criminal matters to a higher court (for example the Crown Court). A JP in the United States (“US”) sits on the lowest state courts and generally hears minor civil and criminal matters. They are also permitted to officiate weddings, deal with traffic offences and issue arrest warrants.

A Public Notary in the UK has the same functions as a Public Notary in Australia, with the ability to authorise and certify the legitimacy of documents for use in a foreign country.

A Public Notary in the US provides the similar services to a JP in Australia. However, they are both not permitted to witness documents which are going to be used in a foreign country.

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