Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola has gazetted new court directions to expedite the prosecution of various criminal cases as well as those related to the recent wave of violence and looting that affected parts of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.
The gazetted directions provide for special measures for the processing of cases and accused persons through the magistrates’ courts during the adjusted alert level 4 regulations.
The directions, amongst others, provide for the postponement of cases through audiovisual links and the compilation of a priority roll at each court to enable them to prioritise the hearing of priority cases.
The cases included gender-based violence and sexual offences, corruption cases as well as cases involving children and the contravention of Covid-19 regulations.
“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 in a statement issued by his department on Saturday.
The minister’s spokesperson, Chrispin Phiri, said the directions also took into account special measures that would apply in connection with cases of public unrest, which include the compilation of a separate roll and designation of court to ensure the speedy trial of these cases where it is expedient and necessary.
“Where necessary, additional dedicated staff including from a pool of experienced retired magistrates and prosecutors will be called upon in order to fast track these cases where hundreds of arrests have already been effected,” he said.
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Since the start of the violence in KZN and Gauteng, 212 people have lost their lives with more than 2,550 people arrested. Police are also investigating 131 cases of murder and have opened inquest dockets in respect of 81 deaths.
Phiri said the directions also allow for cases to be transferred should it be necessary for safety and practical reasons.
“The department is facilitating several interventions to ensure that the judiciary and our courts are adequately supported. The department will also coordinate support measures across the criminal justice value chain, through its Integrated Criminal Justice System”.
Compiled by Thapelo Lekabe.