Government to strengthen ICD

Friday, November 13, 2009

Cape Town - The government plans to introduce reforms to strengthen the Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD), the body tasked to look into police abuses, the Secretary of Police Jennifer Irish-Qhobosheane said on Friday.

Irish-Quobosheane, who was briefing the media on the progress made by the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster, said the department hoped to introduce the new reforms next year.

She said the ICD had done "significant work" in investigating the shooting of civilians, adding that the head of the directorate's position would be upgraded so that it carried the necessary authority, while separate legislation would be introduced to strengthen the directorate.

Responding to questions from journalists concerned about the shooting of innocent civilians by police, Irish-Quobosheane said the ICD's Annual Report released in September, showed that this was not a recent trend, but rather something which had emerged in the last three years.

The report attributed the increase in such cases to a lack of proper training and to police becoming "jumpy" because they were under fire from criminals, she said.

Irish-Quobosheane, a former criminologist and crime researcher who has worked for the South African Institute of International Affairs and Business Against Crime, took up her position as secretary of police in September.

The secretary is tasked with advising the Minister of Police Nathi Mthethwa on police policy issues, providing civilians with oversight and developing strategic partnerships.

Briefing the media on the current review of the criminal justice system, the Minister of Justice Jeff Radebe said an additional 24 680 police officers would be recruited which would boost the number of police to 204 860 over the next three years.

Radebe added that the country's forensic science laboratories were given an extra R150 million and would get a further R50 million a year in the 2011 to 2012 financial year.

The state also added an extra 83 prosecutors since April to move the total number of prosecutors to 2 571.

A total of 45 backlog courts had also been established in a bid to reduce the backlog of cases, such that by the end of August a total of 10 799 cases had been finalised at an average of 10.8 cases per court a month.

The number of awaiting trial detainees was reduced by 1 802 between April and July, bringing the total number still awaiting trial down to 46 745.

Radebe said the government was also investigating how it could strengthen community safety forums to go beyond the current "neighbourhood watch" model of securing communities to instead look at how government and community stakeholders could work together to fight crime.