PRESENTATION TO THE PORTFOLIO AND SELECT COMMITTEES ON WOMEN, CHILDREN AND PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES:IMPLEMENTATION OF THE UNITED NATIONS CONVENTION ON THE RIGHTS OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITIESDEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE AND CONSTITUTIONAL DEVELOPMENT21 AUGUST 2012
Contents • The Convention and the Constitution of the RSA, 1996; • Relevant legislation; • Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster approach; • Access to Criminal Justice System: • Infrastructure; • Interpreters; • Intermediaries. • Issues relating to bail; • Issues relating to the length of time which cases take to be finalised; • Service Delivery; • Complaints relating to the Prosecution, the Judiciary and Legal Aid SA; • Employment opportunities for people with disabilities; • Addressing discrimination and negative attitudes; • Budget allocations; • Closure.
The Convention and the Constitution of the RSA, 1996: • The Convention and the Constitution of the RSA, 1996, elevate the rights of Disabled Persons in every sense of the word; and imposes obligations on us as Government to ensure the realisation of the same rights as any other person in South Africa, which include the rights to service delivery, education, etc.
Relevant legislation: • The following legislation specifically provides protection for the disabled: • The Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act, 2000: • All courts have been designated as Equality Courts. • These include cases brought before Equality Courts because of discrimination on the basis of disability. • The Criminal Law Amendment (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Act, 2007: • Established the National Register for Sex Offenders to protect mentally disabled persons by requiring the registration of the details of offenders convicted of sexual offences perpetrated against these victims; and • Persons with disabilities, may also access the intermediary services in terms of section 170A of the Criminal Procedure Act, 1977. • The Children’s Act, 2005 (Act No 38 of 2005): • All Magistrates’ Courts are Children’s Courts; • Specific protective provisions regarding children with disabilities; • Children may be brought to children’s courts for possible inquiries and orders into whether they are children in need of care and protection.
Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster approach • Collaborative approach and working closer together with all relevant Government Departments, including Social Development, Health, NPA, SAPS, Education and Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities, are crucial. • Department is at present implementing and monitoring impact of legislation and policies in a collaborative approach as follows: • Consultative Forum on People with Disabilities, chaired by Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities (DWCPD’s): • Inputting into first Country Report, co-ordinated by the DWCPD’s. • Intersectoral Steering Committee on Sexual Offences, chaired by the National Department of Justice and Constitutional Development: • National Policy Framework on Sexual Offences, includes promoting rights of victims of sexual offences with disabilities. • National Child Care and Protection Forum, under chair of the National Department of Social Development: • Includes issues relating to the promotion and protection of the rights of children with disabilities. • National Children’s Act Working Group, chaired by DoJ&CD and consisting of various JCPS Cluster representatives, including the Judiciary, Family Advocates, Legal Aid SA and Justice College.
Access to Criminal Justice System • Infrastructure: • All new courts built as from 2009/10 financial year, are equipped with 1 court-room which is fully equipped and accessible for disabled magistrates and the public. • In new courts, lifts are also being built in, which are voice-activated. This is being done in conjunction with the Department of Public Works. • In older courts, which were built before 2009/10, ramps are being added to make courts wheel-chair accessible. This is the first phase of making courts accessible. • Annexure A to this report indicates where ramps have been built and where they are still being built. • In the second phase, older courts will be provided with lifts, as funds become available.
Access to Criminal Justice System • Interpreters: • The availability of relevant Sign-language interpreters, has been identified as a challenge. • The Department is working on a partnership with DeafSA, to develop relevant partnerships in this regard. This project is at a documenting stage. • Timeline: This project is proposed to start within the next financial year, 2013/14. • The Department is also in the process of initiating a project of identifying persons with Matric in communities, to put them through a course at Justice College to learn and understand local versions of sign language, so that they can be utilised in courts where necessary. • Timeline: This project is at a conceptualisation stage and is proposed to start in 2013/14. • These timelines indicate our plans for these projects, but will depend on whether the market gives us the response or not, which we are expecting.
Access to Criminal Justice System • Intermediaries: • Section 170A of the Criminal Procedure Act, 1977, as well as the Children’s Courts Chapter in the Children’s Act, 2005, provide that Magistrates may appoint intermediaries when it is in the best interests of victims of sexual offences or children in need of care and protection, which include persons with disabilities. • Training programs are being presented for intermediaries in conjunction with Justice College. • Intermediaries have also been trained by the Institute for Child Witness, University of Port Elizabeth.
Issues relating to bail: • In terms of the Criminal Procedure Act, 1977, the granting of bail, is the responsibility of the Magistracy/ Judiciary presiding over a case. • If the victim or the victim’s family, has information or concerns about the safety of a victim if an alleged offender should be released on bail, that should be communicated to the court or the relevant prosecutor who will place it before the Magistrate for consideration. • The court will explain the bail conditions to the accused, which could include that if an alleged offender breaks these conditions, such as contacting the victim, then the alleged offender can be arrested again. The victim or family of the victim can get clarity about the bail conditions from the police or prosecutor.
Issues relating to the length of time which cases take to be finalised: • The length of time which a case takes to be finalised, depends upon the whole value-chain of the JCPS Cluster, starting with the SAPS, DoJ&CD (Registrar, Court Clerks), the NPA, the Judiciary, legal representation, social workers if reports are required by courts, the Department of Health if forensic reports are required for evidence in courts, the availability of witnesses and the availability of interprets, especially sign language interpreters in these cases. • The JCPS Cluster is committed to fast-tracking cases involving vulnerable witnesses, including those with disabilities, and therefore victims and their families are encouraged to speak to the relevant prosecutors in this regard. • The Judiciary are also in charge of case flow management in courts and cases involving vulnerable witnesses are prioritised.
Service Delivery: • The Department’s Strategy prioritises the improvement of service delivery, specifically for the most vulnerable, in terms of Maintenance and Master’s Services. • The Department has recently published it’s Service Delivery Charter with Minimum Norms and Standards and is at present, rolling out training, starting with the Maintenance Courts. • Service delivery and complaints regarding these, are monitored and analysed, to be able to identify areas where improvements are required. This is reported to and monitored by the Department’s Executive Committee. • Individual complaints regarding service delivery in the Department, are regarded as very serious and anyone with complaints, can approach the following for an investigation and assistance: • The local Court Manager; • The Area Court Manager; • The Regional Head of the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development in each province; or • The National Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, where a Service Delivery Unit has been established in the Office of the Director-General, if complaints cannot be resolved at court or Regional Office level. • The specific number to contact in this regard, is: 012 315 1191.
Complaints relating to the Prosecution, the Judiciary and Legal Aid SA • Complaints regarding the prosecution, can be referred to: • The Director of Public Prosecutions in the province; or • The National Director of Public Prosecutions. • Complaints regarding Magistrates, can be referred to: • The Chief Magistrate of the District Court; • The Regional Court President of the Regional Court; or • The Magistrates’ Commission. • Complaints regarding the Judiciary, can be referred to: • The Judge President of the High Court concerned; or • The Judicial Service Commission. • Complaints can also be referred to Legal Aid South Africa, for legal advice and/or legal representation where indigent persons, qualify for such.
Employment opportunities for persons with disabilities • Employment opportunities for persons with Disabilities: • The Department stands at 1,09% with regard to the employment of people with disabilities. • The target is 2%. • Mechanisms put in place to reach the 2% target: • The Department has started with the development of a database of organisations working with People with Disabilities with the aim of forwarding advertisements to them; • A Circular has been issued alerting officials that all vacant posts in the Department should be filled, by preference, if possible, with People with Disabilities and those at Senior Management level, also by Women (Circular 54 of 2012); • The Department is in the process of translating some of the Departmental policies into Braille, which is targeted for publication by 2013/14. • The best option for the Department is to partner with NGO’s responsible specifically for disabled persons, such as DeafSA. • The Department will also use the media to try and attract Disabled Persons to apply for vacant positions, especially for office-bound posts. • The Department’s advertisements are disabled-friendly, but it ahs been found that disabled people either do not apply or do not say that they are disabled.
Employment opportunities, continued: • Regarding assistive devices for employees with disabilities, the Departmental policy caters for that provision, within reasonable expectations. • The Department has for example, acquired software to assist a partially sighted official, with his computer. • In another example, a sight-impaired State Attorney has been provided with a personal secretary to assist her.
Addressing discrimination and negative attitudes • Awareness-raising in communities about the rights of persons with disabilities, as well as the responsibilities of specific members of the community and JCPS Cluster, is being prioritised through Izimbizo’s, media campaigns, publication of pamphlets etc. • Recently, the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development has published and distributed Information Booklets in braille on the rights of Children in terms of the Children’s Act, 2005; the Domestic Violence Act, 1998 and braille booklet on how to claim maintenance in terms of the Maintenance Act, 1998, is in the process of being finalised and distributed. • The South African Judicial Education Institute and Justice College, have also been requested to include the challenges faced by persons with disabilities, into their Social Context courses.
Budget allocations • Budgets for the provision of services for disabled persons, are allocated throughout the Department’s budget as a rule. • However, specific budgets have been set aside for the building of ramps in each financial year. R10 million has been set aside for this purpose. • Budgets for the development of Braille booklets have also been set aside in the Court Services and Human Resources Branches. • Budgets for assistive devices for disabled employees, are included in each Branch’s Human Resources’ budget allocations.
Closure • The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development as well as the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster, regard the promotion and protection of disabled persons’ rights as a priority. • Thank you.