2007-10-25 : 'Most lower court cases don't enter court'

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2007-10-25 : 'Most lower court cases don't enter court'

Postby GOSA » Tue, 2007-12-11 07:29

http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?set_id=1 ... 529C886381

'Most lower court cases don't enter court'

October 25 2007 at 02:04PM


By Angela Quintal

Justice director-general Menzi Simelane dropped a bombshell in Parliament on Wednesday, saying almost 70 percent of cases in the country's lower courts were removed from the court roll without proceeding to trial for a variety of reasons.

At the end of March 2007, a total of 1 055 971 cases were enrolled in the country's magistrate's courts, of which 720 354 (68.2 percent) were withdrawn, he told the National Assembly's justice committee.

These included cases withdrawn, transferred and struck from the roll and warrants issued due to failure of accused to attend court sessions.

"There's a problem in the system, you can't have almost two-thirds of cases withdrawn" Simelane told MPs, adding that reasons for this state of affairs formed part of a wide-ranging review of the criminal justice system.

He was briefing the committee on the department's annual report, in which the performance of the courts again came under the spotlight.

Sometimes the withdrawals related to insufficient evidence and there being no prospects for a successful conviction, or because it was a first appearance and the matter was postponed for further investigation, Simelane said.

This also led to several people suing for wrongful arrest.

Committee chair ANC MP Yunus Carrim and ACDP MP Steve Swart asked for a detailed breakdown, so that the committee could understand.

"It's of great concern to us that such a high number are removed from the roll. How many of these cases are re-enrolled," Swart asked.

DA MP Tertius Delport said his dilemma was that it was the department of safety and security that should explain why cases were not ready for trial because of shoddy police work or because witness statements were missing, and not its justice counterpart.

"You can speak to the general public about the disillusionment, about how matters reported to the police are being dealt with. (But) We are now going to climb into the department of justice, because the real culprit is not before us."

ANC MP Imam Gassan Solomon said it was a "very old problem" and that a co-ordinated plan was supposed to have been put in place in 2002 to deal with the issue.

Carrim said if necessary the committee could hold a joint meeting with its safety and security counterpart and call the relevant directors-general before it.

Meanwhile, Carrim said in a statement that the committee had also noted reports in the media about the loss of files in the Johannesburg High Court.

"The committee recognises that this problem exists in other courts as well.

There are many causes of this, and the problem will not be resolved immediately. But there has to be definable progress. The committee is committed to seeing this happen," he said.

Referring to an article in the Star which highlighted the problems in the Johannesburg High Court, he said the department of justice had agreed to act on the matter immediately.

"The committee requested the department to facilitate a meeting between the Johannesburg Attorneys Association and the relevant officials of the Johannesburg High and magistrate's courts within the next 21 days.

"The committee will monitor progress regularly."

This article was originally published on page 12 of Cape Argus on October 25, 2007
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