COURT SERVICES JUSTICE AND CONSTITUTIONAL DEVELOPMENT PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE: BUDGET REVIEW 6 MAY 2008 Presentation by Adv S Jiyane, DDG Court Services
Scope of presentation • The Role of Court Services • The Branch Court Services • Linking Budget to Strategy • Intersectoral Alignment • JCPS Cluster Activities • Integration of systems across the IJS • Court Services’ Approach for 2008 • Achievements of 2007 • Priorities & Planning for 2008
The role of the Branch Court Services WHO ARE WE? • To assist the Department to deal with its objectives, the Branch Court Services was established to focus directly on those aspects relating directly to the courts. This came about after intense deliberation on how to focus attention on our core functions relating to the administration of justice through courts and the fragmented approach across various branches in the past. • The National Office based Court Services facilitates development of policy and guidelines whilst the implementation is dealt with at Regional level. Courts Services receives feedback in the form of performance reports from the regions (via amongst others the Court Performance Chief Directorate and the NOC (National Operations Centre)). • In brief our goal is to develop and facilitate the implementation of measures to support and assist the courts and to ensure their independence, impartiality, dignity, accessibility and effectiveness in accordance with the Constitution WHAT DO WE DO? Court Services’ core function can be viewed as: • The facilitation of the adjudication of criminal matters, the resolution of civil disputes, the addressing of family law related matters, improving the situation of vulnerable groups and the management of courts facilities; • The coordination and alignment of departmental strategies and programmes in relation to courts within the JCPS cluster; and • The monitoring and evaluation of the implementation of departmental policy in relation to courts.
Linking budget to strategy In line with the DOJCD goals of - 1. Ensuring access to justice for all 2. Enhancing Organizational Efficiencyand 3. Transforming Justice Court Services is dealing with its responsibilities and the funds allocated to it through the courts and the following Programmes at National Office: • Programme Coordination and Court Support Services • Court Performance • Vulnerable Groups/ Family Advocacy • Facility/Infrastructure Management • The Office of the CFO and DG will deal with the budget aspects in more detail as the Court Services budget also includes the budget to the Regions
Service Delivery Performance Improvement The budget and additional funds received enabled Court Services and the Department to deal with, amongst other things, the following – • Ensuring that there are sufficient appropriate court buildings, facilities and infrastructure that support access to justice • Support to vulnerable groups • Implementing an effective court management system, including case flow management and ensuring quality and cost-effective court services • Transforming and improving customer service in keeping with the principles of Batho Pele and promoting greater confidence in the criminal justice system
JCPS CLUSTER ACTIVITIES • DEVELOPMENT COMMITTEE • In addition to the activities mentioned, Court Services also participates in the JCPS cluster activities through both the Development and JOINTS Committees • In relation to the criminal justice system, the following main cluster priorities are receiving attention: • Continuation of the implementation of IJS programmes, predominantly in respect of modernising the justice system and improving the management of persons and cases through the justice system chain; • Improving the effectiveness of the Criminal Justice System, in part, through a review of the Criminal Justice System; • Reducing the backlog of cases pending trial and the related problem of awaiting trial detainees; • Dealing with sexual offences • The Development Committee has facilitated, in addition to national intersectoral engagement, the establishment of provincial and local committees
Integration of Systems of the IJS departments • Through the Development Committee, the following Integration initiatives are continuing: • CAS and Workflow system of the Legal Aid Board (LAB) • An electronic notification is send from the CAS (SAPS) system to the Legal Aid Board System notifying them that an accuse require Legal Aid Assistance. On this trigger the Legal Aid Board will arrange for a Legal Aid Officer to take the necessary forms to be completed by the accused to the Police Station whom send the electronic notification/alert. • CAS and E-scheduler • This integration is to facilitate the electronic transfer of docket information (e.g. Particulars of Complainant, the Accused, the charge) from the CAS (SAPS) system to the E-Scheduler (Case Management Solution of DOJ&CD) • E-scheduler and Admission &Release (A&R) • This integration will facilitate the electronic transfer of postponement dates for people in prison from the E-Scheduler System to the A&R system of DCS • CAS and CRIMM Systems (SAPS) • This is to ensure that there is a link between the CAS system where the case registration particulars are stored and the Crimm System (CRIM) where the criminal history of an accused is stored. • Integration of the following solutions - • CRIM (SAPS) and Admission & Release (A&R) system of DCS • HANIS system (Home Affairs) with the IJS Systems • Access to AFIS (Automatic Fingerprint Identity System), NPIS (National Photographic System) and the Live Scan (digitized way of taking fingerprints i.s. o. using ink as is currently the case) will be available to all participating departments to do either fingerprint or mugshot verification
COURT SERVICES APPROACH FOR 2008 • Continuation of implementing the MTSF of the DOJCD • Business Unusual Activities – see annexure • Focus on specific high level activities (in conjunction with Regions) such as – • Family Advocacy, Maintenance and child justice aspects, ADR • Monitoring and improving Court performance – through finalisation of roll-out of e-scheduler (including scanning solution/ roll-out of backlog reduction project sites / finalisation of roll-out of digital recording services / improving transcription services • Facility management projects and RAMP • Improving budget expenditure and project management • More detail is contained in the following slides re Court Services’ activities
2007 Achievements and continuing priority activities 1. PRO-POOR COURT FACILITIES DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM • Court Services has continued to develop capacity at rural and previously disadvantaged areas. In this regard the following courts have been completed: • Daveyton • Randburg • Middledrift • Sekgosese • Pretoria North • Waterval • Motherwell • Madadeni -The following courts’ new constructions\additions\conversions will also be finalized during this financial year: • Tsakane Magistrate court • Mitchells Plain Magistrate court • Richmond Magistrate court • Augrabies Magistrate court • Transvaal Provincial Division (Polokwane Circuit Court) • Stanger Magistrate court • Colesberg Magistrate court • Kagiso Magistrate court • Ekangala Magistrate court
2007 Achievements and continuing priority activities • In addition the development process for the following facilities will start in the next 6 months: • Soweto Magistrate court (Prioritised) • Mamelodi Magistrate court • Ntuzuma Magistrate court • High court for Mpumalanga (Priority) • High court for Limpopo (Priority) • Judicial Training Institute Campus • A Central Archive System is also being addressed (The Tender for a service provider closed 1 February 2008 and evaluation and awarding is currently receiving attention. The tender will be for 6 months at 2 pilot sites (Pretoria and Krugersdorp) for proof of concept with roll out based on proof of concept)
2007/2008: FACILITIES MANAGEMENT EXPENDITURE WAS OCCURRED IN THE FOLLOWING REGARD IN ORDER TO IMPROVE THE CONDITIONS AND INFRASTRUCTURE AT SERVICE DELIVERY POINTS
FACILITIES MANAGEMENT cont. • Courts have been made available in the following urban development nodes: Mdantsane, Inanda, Khayelitsha, Mitchell’s Plain, Motherwell • A total of 282 courts are now registered on RAMP and are in various stages of execution: Status quo reports : 187 Planning to go out on tender : 8 Repair phase : 5 Maintenance (including the follow-ons) : 82 • Capital works: New facilities were completed in Motherwell, Sekgosese and Daveyton • Major extensions were completed in Theunissen and Ceres Projects where construction is in progress (multi year projects) include – new accommodation: • Tsakane Magistrate Court • Transvaal Provincial High Court Division (Polokwane Circuit Court) • Augrabies MO • Ekangala MO • Kagiso MO • Galeshewe MO Major extensions court buildings (multi year projects) include: • Stanger MO • Mitchells Plain MO • Richmond MO • Colesberg MO • Supreme Court of Appeal
FACILITIES MANAGEMENT cont. • 4 sites acquired for construction of new facilities for courts • Improvement of accessibility for people with disability • Completed = 10 • In construction = 86 • Planning = 366 • Re-demarcation of Magisterial Districts • As part of the review process meetings have been held with various role-players in each province to review those cross-border magisterial districts in order to agree in principle the way forward. The objective is to finalize the re-demarcation process during the 2007/08 financial year.
2007 Achievements and continuing priority activities 2. COURT EFFICIENCY MEASURES AND ACTIVITIES • Resourcing and capacitation of courts to improve court management is continuing and includes, amongst others, • Incremental implementation of the model court organisation structure (as approved by the DG); • The upgrading of language services and the accommodation of foreign languages used in courts. (A proposal on Translation Services detailing the approach towards a full package language services for courts including foreign language is currently under consideration.) • Modernization of court systems (DCRS, etc) is continuing. Aspects that can be highlighted include – • Video Remand extension of project – sites identified for roll out – 47 courts and 36 prisons. Extended testing of full system currently being planned for PE. • E-scheduler roll out: The E-Scheduler is a web based system which allows for access by all court users (Judiciary, Prosecution and Court Support Services personnel) within the Department, based on a security policy of open and view access. The criminal module of the system is currently being operated at 468 lower courts throughout the country. The provincial break down is as follows: The following category and number of users have been given access to the e-scheduler: Judiciary 800 Prosecution 801 Court Support Services 3120 Total 4721
2007 Achievements and continuing priority activities • Converting e-scheduler to ICMS (integrated case management system) The user requirements within the various court types necessitated evolving the e-Scheduler into the Integrated Case Management System (ICMS) which provides for a common case registration and case management system relating to criminal and civil matters in the lower and high court environments together with the incorporation of a scanning module that provides for the electronic capturing, storage and retrieval of documents relating to cases. Currently the Integrated Case Management System is being developed and tested. • Digital Court Recording Systems being rolled out – with enhancements (headphones, CCTV connections, back up storage etc) and installations planned to cover all relevant courts by end of June 08 • The development of capacity to collect and analyze court information to monitor court performance for management decision support has been prioritised; the following can be mentioned in this regard – • Information management systems/tools has being sought in engagement with SITA (-contracted in Dec 07; business requirements given, prototype of the system to be demonstrated soon); backup plan is using djini as web based to collect data, • Video Conferencing solution in National Office and 9 regions – tendered process in Nov/Dec 08, evaluation done January 08, Submission/memo to DBAC in Feb 08, to DG as exceeded R2m for approval and DG approved on 10 March 08. • Customer Survey piloted and being rolled out • Review of data requirements and collection methods in respect of all courts being done • Designed excel based data collection tools for the case backlogs project and the Abalone cases – will be web based from April 08. • Case Backlog Management has been prioritized.
2007 Achievements and continuing priority activities 3. VICTIM SUPPORT & SPECIALISED SERVICES AND FAMILY ADVOCACY • Family Advocate Programmes have been prioritized (Capacitating and training of family advocacy services is receiving attention and training re mediation has been fast-tracked in conjunction with organized profession and service providers) • Victim support services have been prioritized (Aspects that have been receiving attention includes the following: Implementation plan and costing of Child Justice Bill; Implementation plans and costing of obligations in terms of Children’s Act, 2006; Development and implement plan and costing re Older Persons’ Act; Family law learnership manual finalised and disseminated for use in training re domestic violence; training of clerks scheduled; launch of magistracy guidelines on domestic violence is being planned; Facilitation of maintenance guidelines for the judiciary is receiving attention; Mainstreaming of sexual offences courts framework and roll out of Thuthuzela Care Centres is being attended to; Automated register for sex offenders being developed) • A Mental Health policy framework and protocols as it pertains to courts is receiving attention
Establishment of the remaining 200 Small Claims Court so that all magisterial are covered, is being fast tracked. The Department has developed a National Action Plan to Re – engineer Small Claims Court as part of its campaign to increase access to justice. As part of the re - engineering process a Project Office was established to address issues relating to training of Commissioners and court officials as well as ensuring that Small Claims Courts systems are accessible, inexpensive and understandable by all. Progress on the National Action Plan is monitored through the National Steering Committee chaired by the Deputy Minister which meets on a quarterly basis. • Designation and training re final 152 Equality courts are being attended to. These designations shall bring the total number of existing 218 Equality Courts to 366 Magisterial Districts as prescribed in terms of the Departments of Justice MTSF document. The proclamation of the Equality Act has been translated into the 11 official languages as prescribed in terms of section 31 of the Equality Act. • This year marks Ten years of the existence of the Domestic Violence Act 116 of 1998. The Overall Strategic objective for the Domestic Violence Programme is to strengthen the effectiveness of the Domestic Violence Act. This will be implemented through a series of review projects. These projects will lay a foundation for informing the development of a framework for the effective and coordinated implementation of actions aimed at improving victim friendly court support services.
2007 Achievements and continuing priority activities • The issue of children awaiting trial: • ThePollsmoor issues were referred to and addressed at the Western Cape Provincial Child Justice Forum meetings. • The Department of Correctional Services has initiated a process together with the Departments of Social Development, DoJCD, the NPA and the Legal Aid Board, which has resulted in the re-assessments of children awaiting trial in detention in general country-wide under lead of DCS and DSD; and local Case Review Teams, under the lead of the DPP in each province. The numbers have decreased further during 2007. During the past 5 years, for example, focused attention to this matter, has resulted in the numbers of children awaiting trial in and sentenced to correctional facilities, decreasing by 50%. For the upcoming year, emphasis has been placed on removing more children from Correctional and other facilities by having many of them re-assessed to ensure correct placement that has been one of the factors in the high numbers of children awaiting trial. • Maintenance: • The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development introduced Operation Isondlo as a strategy aimed at improving the Maintenance System. The purpose and objective of the project is to change the negative public perception about the maintenance system by introducing interventions to address the problems that have been plaguing the system’s ineffectiveness. • The CEFTU (Central Electronic Funds Transfer Unit) was established during March 2006, to process all maintenance EFT payments from a central point. The CEFTU started of in April 2006 paying 255 maintenance beneficiaries. As the project proved more and more successful the number of payments increased from month to month and in November 2006, the CEFTU was paying 6 275 beneficiaries in respect of 24 offices country wide. In April 2007, the CEFTU paid 21 238 maintenance beneficiaries at 118 offices. During September 2007, 35 124 beneficiaries in respect of 198 offices were paid. The project has grown and during February 2008, 49 919 beneficiaries were paid R 25, 862 million at 237 offices. Paying maintenance by Electronic Funds Transfer is essentially an easy process and enhances the service delivery of the Department. • JDAS developed and rolled out • Sexual Offence courts: The Department has facilitated the development of a national implementation/operational plan that aims to strengthen the operation of the existing 52 Dedicated Sexual Offences Court and 31 Regional Courts presiding over sexual related matters
Child Justice issues: • Awaiting the finalisation of the Child Justice Bill, the Departments have gone ahead with practical steps to improve the lives of children going through the Criminal Justice System. Of great significance is the emphasis placed on developing a coherent and integrated information management system through the Integrated Justice System. This system, which process has commenced last year is based on the United Nations Indicators for Juvenile Justice contextualized for the South African context will enable better planning, resource allocation, monitoring and co-ordination. • Finalisation of Foster Care applications: 58 959 children were placed in foster care during January to December 2007, which is an increase from 35 409 children placed during 2006/07. The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development is currently developing its own Foster Care policy and strategy during 2008/09 and will provide input into the intersectoral Foster Care Strategy being developed under the lead of the Department of Social Development. • Progress made on training of Children’s Court Clerks: The Department in conjunction with Justice College, trained approximately Children’s Court Clerks in all 9 provinces for the implementation of the Children’s Act, 2005 (Act No 38 of 2005). For purposes of extra training in all provinces in preparation for when the rest of the Children’s Act, 2005 and the Children’s Amendment Bill, 2006, implementation plans are in process of drafting and consultation with the provinces and are foreseen to be submitted to the Minister for Justice and Constitutional Development during June 2008. • The Department has prioritized the planning for the implementation of the Children’s Act, 2005, especially relating to the protection and care of children through children’s court processes. Furthermore the Department is working in collaboration with the Department of Social Development to ensure an integrated and uniform approach to the Children’s Act and to improve general service delivery in the children’s courts.
Mediation services and restorative justice programs are being promoted to strengthen social cohesion with emphasis on building family unity in the fight against crime. Aspects that have received attention and are continuing to receive attention includes the following: • Court services is in discussions with relevant service providers to bring in expertise from credible service providers for training on mediation services and restorative justice • Restorative Justice and ADR policy/strategy and implementation aspects is being approached intersectorally and a Project manager was appointed • Restorative justice Guidelines and common standards workshops to be held in next few months • Restorative Justice elements have been incorporated into several pieces of legislation such as the Child Justice Bill; the Traditional Courts Bill. In addition research and study tours have been undertaken to ensure greater access to justice though resolving disputes through non-litigious methods that include civil matters. It has been noted that especially in family matters the adversarial methods of resolving disputes exacerbate acrimony in the family structure. This compounds the psychological impact on children especially in the dissolution of the marriage. In dealing with maintenance there is an inevitable link of dealing with mediation, although it is not really recognized as mediation as such. The Johannesburg Family Court at 15 Market Street and Pretoria Magistrate Court have been identified as pilot sites as they are centrally located. Once fully operational, it is anticipated that high volumes of maintenance cases will be reduced and turn around time in finalising family law matters will improve. • Parental rights and responsibilities awareness raising sessions planned and information manual being developed. • Diversion: The numbers of children being diverted from the Criminal Justice System during the past 5 years, have also increased every year and the latest statistics received from the National Prosecution Authority, indicate that 19 066 children were diverted from the Criminal Justice System, during April 2007 to March 2008. In addition, The Legal Aid Board has appointed Children’s Units to legally represent children in conflict with the law and appearing in courts; and the numbers of children assisted in this regard, increase by 20% every year
Office of the Chief Family Advocate • The Family Advocate: • Persons can be appointed as family advocates if they are persons qualified to be admitted to practice as advocates in terms of the Admission of Advocates Act 74 of 1964 and if they are in the public service, appointed as such by the Minister or if they are out of the Public Service, appointed in writing by the Minister or an authorised person for the duration of a specific action or application ito section 2 of Act 24 of 1987- the Mediation in Certain Divorce Matters Act, 1987 • The Family Counselor: • Persons who are suitably qualified or experienced can be appointed by the Minister to assist the Family Advovcate with an inquiry in terms of applicable law [section 3(1) Act 24/1987]
VARIOUS PIECES OF LEGISLATION PROVIDES THEIR MANDATE (which has been extended from just dealing with divorce issues) 1. NATURAL FATHERS OF CHILDREN BORN OUT OF WEDLOCK ACT 86 / 1997 • Access, custody and / or guardianship application by natural father • Where application for adoption has been made in terms of Child Care Act • Court shall request report of Family Advocate. 2. RECOGNITION OF CUSTOMARY MARRIAGES ACT 120/1998 • Section 8 (3) makes application of Act 24 / 1987 to the dissolution of a customary marriage. 3. DIVORCE COURTS AMENDMENT ACT 65 / 1997 • Extension of operation to entire national territory of the Republic. 4. DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ACT 116 OF 1998 as amended by Judicial Matters Second Amendment Act 2005. 5.The MAINTENANCE ACT 99 OF 1998 as amended by the Judicial Matters Second Amendment Act. 6. The HAGUE CONVENTION ON THE CIVIL ASPECTS OF INTERNATION CHILD ABDUCTION ACT 72 / 1996. Continue......
ACHIEVEMENTS TO DATE • Execution of RSA obligations in accordance with international child abduction laws • Increased accessibility to Family Advocate services in newly established service delivery points/ satellite and periodical offices • Increased service to courts (all levels including circuits) – also re maintenance etc • Family Counsellor component helps improve quality of services , readily available as expert witnesses, more court-oriented/focused reports • Family Law assistant/paralegal component assist F.A. with public queries, perusal of pleadings, mediation in certain cases • Average enquiry cycle time of four months attained • IT connectivity facilitate research and court preparation – and lead to improved quality of reports • Mediation as ADR mechanism still provided on ad hoc basis
COURT PERFORMANCE • PERFORMANCE OF THE HIGH COURTS (Apr 07 – March 08): NEW CASES
COURT PERFORMANCE • PERFORMANCE OF THE HIGH COURTS (Apr 07 – March 08): Finalised cases • The High Courts had a decrease in both trial and minimum sentence matters. During the previous financial year, 2006/2007, an average of 2,88 cases were finalized per court whilst in the current financial year only 2,37 cases were finalized on average per court. It took in 2007/2008 financial year, on average, 33 days longer to finalize trial matters; measured from date of first appearance in the High Court until sentence is passed, compared to the previous financial year when it took on average 165 days.
COURT PERFORMANCE cont. • PERFORMANCE OF THE HIGH COURTS (Apr 07 – March 08): Hours / Conviction Rate • The average court hours declined from 3:20 in the previous financial year to 3:16 in the current financial year. Although more high courts were in session in relation to the previous year, an increase from 833 to 893 courts, and the number of court days have also increased from 8272 to 8464 the court hours only increased marginally from 27 664:51 to 27 777:31, it resulted in a drop of four minutes in the average hours.
COURT PERFORMANCE cont. • PERFORMANCE OF THE HIGH COURTS (Apr 07 – March 08): Outstanding Cases • The outstanding rolls in the High Courts increased from a National total of 1139 cases at the end of March 2007 to a total of 1325 cases at the end of March 2008. A total number of 217 cases have been on the High Court rolls for a longer period than twelve months which means that 15% of cases are older than 12 months. • APPEAL BACKLOGS: • The Appeal Backlog project in the Transvaal Provincial Division showed the following progress since November 2006 till the end of December 2007: • Since 26 March 2007, till the end of Dec 2007, 593 additional appeals were enrolled via the TPD Special Appeal Court sessions. Of this number, 526 (88.7%) were finalised (58 (9%) were struck of the roll; 27 (4.6%) were withdrawn; 39 (6.6%) judgments were reserved; 93 (15.7 %) succeeded; whilst 297 (51%) failed). • The total of 526 appeals that were finalised between March 2007 and December 2007 comprises almost two thirds of the normal outstanding appeals at the Director of Public Prosecutions office. • A major contribution to the success was the members of the Bar Society, only Senior Consultus, who accepted pro bono appointments as acting Judges in these cases. • It is expected that the number of appeals might increase rapidly towards the end of the year as a result of the increase in the jurisdiction of the Regional Courts (minimum sentences now being dealt at their level).
COURT PERFORMANCE cont. • PERFORMANCE OF THE LOWER COURTS (Apr 07 – March 08): NEW CASES When the District and Regional Courts are analyzed separately, we find that re the District courts, that fewer cases have been enrolled in all four reporting periods and this could be ascribed to the increased trend of courts to enroll cases earmarked for the Regional courts directly in that forum. The total number of new cases enrolled by the Regional courts has thus reflected for all four reporting periods an increased inflow of new cases.
COURT PERFORMANCE cont. • PERFORMANCE OF THE LOWER COURTS (Apr 07 – March 08): FINALISATION RATE • The Lower courts finalized a total of 386 715 cases during 2007/2008 financial year. Compared to the 2006/2007 financial year (376 640), a total of 10 075 more cases were finalized during the current financial year. This increased finalization rate could be ascribed to a focussed approach on alternative dispute resolution methods in an effort to reduce trial cases. • The Lower courts have finalised on average 73 607 verdict cases per quarter during the 2007/2008 financial year and an average of 83 039 cases per quarter were finalised during 2006/2007 financial year. It is evident that ADR methods have successfully managed to reduce trial cases as a total of 9 433 fewer trial cases are on average dealt with by the courts. • The District courts have finalized a total of 259 589 cases with a verdict during 2007/2008. Compared to the total of 295 329 finalized during 2006/2007, a reduction of 12.1% is noted. ADR methods are more likely to be applied to less serious cases hence the reduced finalization rate of trial cases in the District Courts. • The Regional courts have finalized a total of 34 837 cases with a verdict during 2007/2008. Compared to the total of 36 834 cases finalized during 2006/2007, a reduction of 5.4% is noted. The recent audit on outstanding cases has shown that Regional court cases have more counts and more accused per case.
COURT PERFORMANCE cont. • The number of plea and sentence agreements in terms of Section 105A of Act 51 of 1997, has increased from 1081 agreements in 2006/2007 to 1250 agreements in 2007/2008. This represents an improvement of 14% during 2007/2008. The total of 1250 agreements comprised 4785 counts. • More cases have also been diverted during this financial year. At the March 2008, a total of 46 822 cases have been diverted which constitutes a 5.3% improvement from the total of 44483 diverted during previous financial year. Since the beginning of 2007/2008 financial year, adult and juvenile diversions were separately recorded. A total of 27 756 cases with adult offenders were diverted which represents 59.3% of the total of 46 822 cases diverted. A total of 19 066 cases with juvenile offenders were diverted representing 40.7% of the total diverted cases
COURT PERFORMANCE cont. • PERFORMANCE OF THE LOWER COURTS (Apr 07 – March 08):
COURT PERFORMANCE cont. • PERFORMANCE OF THE LOWER COURTS (Apr 07 – March 08): CONVICTION RATE • The Lower courts have maintained a high conviction rate during this financial year. The District courts have exceeded their target of 85% with 2.4% by maintaining a conviction rate of 87.4%. The Regional courts have also exceeded their target of 70% by achieving a conviction rate of 72.3%.
COURT PERFORMANCE cont. • PERFORMANCE OF THE LOWER COURTS (Apr 07 – March 08): COURT HOURS
COURT PERFORMANCE cont. • PERFORMANCE OF THE LOWER COURTS (Apr 07 – March 08): • SOR = Struck of roll; Transf = Transferred to other/high courts; W/A = Warrant of Arrest; W/D = Withdrawn (There is currently an average of 15990 warrants issued per month in the Lower Courts.)
COURT PERFORMANCE cont. The Lower Courts have managed a marginal reduction in the number of cases withdrawn. At the end of March 2008, 46.7% (305 814) of the total of 654 969 cases removed from the roll comprised cases withdrawn. Although the Lower courts withdrew slightly fewer cases than in the previous financial year (305 948), the total number of cases withdrawn represents a higher percentage of the total cases removed from the roll. • The Nov 07 audit conducted on the reasons for the high withdrawals has shown that the main reasons why prosecutors are withdrawing cases are: • On request of the complainant; • No prima facie case • Witnesses absent or not properly subpoenaed; and • Statements outstanding and witnesses not traced.
COURT PERFORMANCE cont. • NATIONAL BACKLOG PROJECT (Regional courts) • The following progress has been made in the Lower Courts since November 2006 till the end of March 2008. The Project started in November 2006. At that point in time there was 47 343 cases outstanding in the regional courts of which 20 452 (43%) cases were outstanding for longer than 6 months. At the end of March 2008 the number of outstanding cases has increased to 49 195 cases, of which 16 862 (34%) were outstanding for longer than 9 months. • There are currently 27 sites in operation, and more such sites are currently under consideration to deal with the large number of outstanding cases and in particular the backlog cases in the regional courts. The project is still necessary and has largely been very successful. • Contract appointments have been extended for the next 3 months. • The backlog courts have sat on average 3h27 minutes per day since 1 Nov 2006 till the end of March 2008. They have received 5343 cases in total and finalized 4243 cases as follows: • Guilty: 3250 (78,5%) (of which 218 were as a result of plea bargains) • Not guilty: 889 • Diversions: 32 • Admission of Guilt: 72 • Cases removed through re-screening and withdrawals were 1873. They also transferred cases to high courts for sentencing: 294 cases. • This brings the total number of cases permanently removed from the regional court rolls as a result of the backlog courts till the end of March 2008 to 6410 (comprising 4243 cases finalized + 1873 withdrawn + 294 transferred).
COURT PERFORMANCE cont. FACTORS IMPACTING ON PERFORMANCE • Electricity load shedding has major implications for all courts and will increase the number of outstanding cases and backlog cases as court time can not be utilised optimally. • Case Flow Management factors that were mentioned by Cluster Heads in their performance reports, include: • Legal Aid Attorney unavailable or requested postponements to allow himself to prepare his defence; • Attorneys arrived late and at times they do not come at all ; • Defective recording machines, air conditioners - due to extreme temperatures the magistrates are refusing to work after 12h00. The court manager is aware of this. • Constant adjournments for other quasi judicial duties - only 1 magistrate doing civil and other duties. • Prisoners arrive late • Court roll collapsed as witnesses were not warned • Renovations at court buildings; • Magistrate on suspension; • Prosecutor's post vacant - poor roll planning; • Roll collapse because of absence of witnesses; • LAB available only on certain days of the week; • Interpreters refuse to travel to and from periodical court seats outside official work hours.
Court Demographics Jurisdiction of 23 of these Branch Courts will be re-designated as full self- standing courts by the Minister very shortly. There are on average per month approximately 1559 courts in operation (69 High Courts; and 1490 Lower Courts)
Court Demographics cont. • There are also approximately 348 regional courts housed at these various main court seats/ branch or periodical courts. • There were 1830 permanent magistrates for the above courts as well as a fluctuating number of acting magistrates
CONCLUSION • Court Services will continue during 2008 to address the following challenges: • Aligning the court structure with the Constitution and ensuring compliance and compatibility with judgments and International Instruments • Improving Case Flow Management and reducing case backlogs • Extending access to justice and simultaneously transforming services to previously disadvantaged communities and vulnerable groups, particularly regarding maintenance • Extending family advocacy services • Increasing capacity among Justice personnel in order to effect service delivery excellence, in line with the principles of Batho Pele • Improving the facilities and infrastructure of the courts, especially the lower courts, which at many places still leaves much to be desired • Changing how courts operate and the mindset of court personnel