Cape Town - Witnesses giving evidence via video conferences and electronic dockets are part of a proposal to modernise the criminal justice system, says Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng.
He was speaking at the launch of the Western Cape Provincial Efficiency Enhancement Committee at the Western Cape High Court on Wednesday.
The committee aims to improve case-flow management and avoid delays within the criminal justice system.
Methods included the introduction of an electronic docket and appeal filing system to combat delays caused by lost records and dockets.
Justice Mogoeng said that in other countries, video conferencing was used to hear trials and evidence while witnesses were out of the city or country.
Lots of time and money was wasted by transporting witnesses to the nearest court and even transporting convicted criminals to far-off places for new cases.
Justice Mogoeng, provincial High Court Judge President John Hlophe and Judges Nathan Erasmus and Steven Majiedt were part of the panel that launched the committee on Wednesday.
Justice Mogoeng said the problem in the criminal justice system was that stakeholders, including the National Prosecuting Authority, the police and the departments of social development and correctional services operated in silence.
The committee would allow the parties to have a round-table discussion on their shortcomings and work on a way forward.
“There will be constant monitoring of what each of us has done; frankly to tell each other where we have failed.
“The police, for example need to enhance their investigative skills and finalise investigations before accused are brought to court, to avoid delays.”
The NPA had to improve the performance of its prosecutors, which had “somewhat declined”.
Asked about provincial backlogs, Judge Hlophe said there was no backlog in the Western Cape High Court. He added there was no shortage of judges in the local division, but said the challenge arose when 16 part-heard matters were running simultaneously.
Justice Mogoeng said case backlogs were a problem nationwide due to courtroom space and the number of judicial officers. Ideally no more than six months should elapse from the time a case went on to the roll to the time it was finalised, but the judiciary strove to complete cases within a year.