Court backlog minus 18 000 cases - Radebe

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Cape Town - A project by the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development to tackle the backlog of court cases resulted in the finalisation of 18 271 cases between November 2006 and December 2009, Minister Jeff Radebe said on Thursday.

Briefing the media in Parliament, the justice minister said there were currently 45 backlog courts in operation countrywide.

During this year, the project would be rolled out to more regional courts as well as a number of district courts in all provinces, he said.

While police were currently increasing the number and quality of detectives in their service, which would result in more trial-ready cases, Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo was also looking at ways to modernise court operations in such a way that cases could be expedited, said Radebe.

He pointed to a judges' conference in July where it was mooted that presiding officers of courts must be in control of their court, and not be held at the mercy of the accused or state, so that dates aren't pushed back and cases delayed unnecessarily.

Added to this, the National Director of Public Prosecutions Menzi Simelane had also recently issued a directive to all prosecutors that they must be in court prosecuting cases, said Radebe.

He said consultations on Section 49 of the Criminal Procedure Act have been concluded and the matter will go to the cabinet for a decision soon.

Section 49 says police are allowed to use lethal force only if their lives or those of innocent bystanders are in danger.

The regulations for the licensing of liquor trading places would also be tightened to reduce substance abuse, which remains a major factor in the perpetration of crimes such as murder, assault and rape, Radebe said.

The department, the minister said, was still working on finalising the Criminal Justice Review which aims to revamp the country's justice system.

The department would reveal more details of the review in the near future, said Radebe, adding that "but I can indicate to you that it is time for action, not a time for research and policy".

The government would also establish a border management agency this year, after the cabinet last year took a decision that the defence force would take over responsibility of securing borders from the police.

Deputy Minister of Defence Thabang Makwetla said the aim was to deploy four defence force units comprising 100 soldiers each to the Zimbabwean and Mozambican borders.