One re-offender is one too many - Ndebele

Monday, June 25, 2012

Cape Town - The Minister of Correctional Services Sbu Ndebele said it was regrettable that some of the prisoners that were pardoned in April had re-offended.

"What we can say is that one re-offender is one too many," said Ndebele during a briefing to media on work by the Justice and Crime Prevention Cluster.

"It's unfortunate that some of the offenders that benefited from the special remission did not use the second chance that they were afforded," he said.

It would be optimistic to believe that everyone who left prison would not re-offend, he said.

As of 20 June, two of the 71 re-offenders had been found guilty of crime, while 69 alleged re-offenders had been reported, he said.

He noted with concern that prisons were more than 34% over crowded.

The granting of remission of sentences to 40 365 prisoners of the country's more than 167 000 prisoners, would go some way to improve security of inmates and prison officials, and help prisons to focus more on rehabilitation.

All countries across the world, he said, had a system to grant special remission - either to address the conditions of rehabilitation or to mark a certain event in a country's history.

The Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development Jeff Radebe added that the 71 re-offenders made up 0.18% of the 40 365 that had been released in April.

Radebe also announced that his department would appoint a solicitor-general to head the State Legal Services.

The solicitor-general would take ultimate responsibility and accountability for the implementation of the civil litigation policy and strategy.

The new position would help facilitate improved co-ordination of the activities relating to litigation by and against the State through the State attorneys and other legal units in the department.

Added to this, the introduction of the Alternative Dispute Resolution Mechanism for civil cases would help reduce the backlog in the legal system.

Radebe said his department was working with the Department of Public Service and Administration to speed up the appointment of a solicitor-general, but that an acting solicitor-general would be appointed in the meantime.

He said new case flow management practices and guidelines adopted in the lower courts would help to speed up the resolution of cases.

The department met its target of reducing court cases on all court rolls to 34 926 backlog cases by the end of the last quarter.

He said during 2011/12, the courts had finalised 232% more cases involving rape, murder and assault than the previous year.

A total of 1 777 cases (up from 535 in 2010/11) comprising 2 152 counts of rape, murder and assault crimes were finalised with a conviction rate of 89%.

Detailing other cases, Radebe said:
* The 192 trial cases of organised crime included five racketeering convictions as well as 25 counts of money-laundering were finalised.
* The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) handed down seven prison sentences in the 66 environmental crimes cases it prosecuted.
* The NPA also participated in the multi-disciplinary project to address the plundering of rhinos and during the year 24 cases were finalised with convictions in 20 cases involving 28 accused - a conviction rate of 83%.

Radebe said the Asset Forfeiture Unit, in co-operation with the Hawks, was able to reclaim R131 million and pay this out to victims of crime and to the Criminal Assets Recovery Account - the largest amount ever reclaimed by the unit - while the unit also was able to freeze a further R540 million during the year.

Turning to detainees, he said the average length of time for those spent in remand detention had been reduced from 150 days in 2009/10 to 96 days in the last quarter of 2011/12.

Added to this, he said the percentage of those out on parole without parole violations, have increased from 72% in 2011 to 80% in the last quarter of this year.