Minister Lamola issues directions to handle KZN and Gauteng public violence cases
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JUSTICE and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola has published new court directions that will provide for special measures in the processing of cases and the accused in magistrate’s courts during the alert level 4 regulations.
The directions provide for the postponement of cases through audio-visual links and the compilation of a priority roll at each court to enable the courts to prioritise the hearing of those cases.
“Audio-visual links may be used in any proceedings where the presiding officer deems it appropriate and if to do it will prevent unreasonable delay, save costs or be convenient and make it unnecessary for the person to appear in person in the court-room,” reads the gazette.
These measures include the compilation of a separate roll and designation of court to ensure speedy trial of these cases, where it is expedient and necessary.
“A priority roll must be compiled in respect of each court under the direction of the presiding officer of the court concerned and the National Prosecuting Authority, in consultation with Legal Aid South Africa.”
The directions also include special measures that will apply to cases that arose from the public violence, public disorder and mass looting in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, and spread to some other parts of the country.
“A court dedicated for the trial of case on a separate roll may be established where this is necessary and expedient. Cases on a separate roll may, for reasons of safety or practicality, be tried at a place of sitting outside the district or sub-district in which the offence is alleged to have been committed,” reads the directions.
It also said appropriate measures should be considered for expeditious hearing of cases on a separate roll, including the allocation of dedicated judicial officers and court personnel with the requisite qualifications and skills.
“The National Prosecuting Authority may, where the accused is charged with a less serious offence in respect of which an admission of guilt is permissible and justified, fix an appropriate amount as an admission of guilt in respect of the accused person concerned.”
Lamola said where necessary, additional dedicated staff, including from a pool of experienced retired magistrates and prosecutors, would be called upon to fast-track the cases where hundreds of arrests have already been effected.
He also said the directions allowed for cases to be transferred should it be necessary for safety and practical reasons.
“These directions will enable our courts and the justice system to respond effectively and appropriately to deal with cases flowing from the recent unrest and public violence.
“We are ensuring that nothing disrupts the processing of these matters and that the public can have trust and confidence in our criminal justice system,” Lamola said.
He also said the department was facilitating several interventions to ensure that the judiciary and courts were adequately supported.
“The department will also co-ordinate support measures across the criminal justice value chain, through its Integrated Criminal Justice System,” Lamola said.