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Letter - Renunciation of justice as a consequence of missing dockets

2021-03-19  Staff Reporter

Letter - Renunciation of justice as a consequence of missing dockets
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The Namibian legal system dictates that where there is an issue of injustice, the law must be in consultation for the injustice to be redressed. 

We further understand that where there is a flaw in the law, it calls on all juristic persons, legal practitioners, legal scholars and the society at large to bring proposals forth for an amendment or change in the law to redress the existing mischief.

However, there exists an elephant in the room which does not require a change in the law but an improved administration from the necessary stakeholders and such has long been ignored as society tends to turns a blind eye to it and that is the issue which pertains to missing dockets. 

A docket is a document containing all proceedings of a criminal case ranging from but not limited to statements, affidavits and all relevant information about a case on the court roll. 

Have you ever wondered what happens to a case when a docket goes missing? How secure is the filing system in place where criminal dockets are concerned? And why do dockets tend to go missing, if the filing system in place is so secure? This discussion highlights the status quo of dockets going missing in Namibia. 

About six to seven years ago Namibia witnessed the gruesome killing of a 40-year-old woman who was stabbed to death by a male friend at a bar. 

The culprit was arrested shortly after the incident and regardless of the seriousness of the matter, the accused was later granted bail while awaiting trial. 

However, a year later since the occurrence of the incident, the matter was struck off the roll due to the docket having gone missing.

In 2016, a gender-based violence case was opened against a football coach by his wife for continuously assaulting her. 

This was one of many cases opened against the culprit where the docket has gone missing since the year 1988. In addition to that, the victim filed for a divorce which the culprit refused to sign. In April the same year, the GBV case that was opened against the culprit was withdrawn on the basis of a missing docket. 

Very recently, in 2020, an assault case was opened by a Katutura resident against a constituency councillor, after the particular resident was punched in her face and a gun pointed at her. 

This case was delayed for trial because it was reported that the docket could not be found.

Each of these incidences makes an important contribution to our understanding of how the justice system fails to address the issue of missing dockets and how perpetrators can easily go free. 

As highlighted earlier, the docket holds very crucial information pertaining to a case, hence it is practically impossible for any case to proceed in court in absentia of the docket. 

The sentiments expressed above embody the view that cases get struck off the roll due to the unavailability of affidavits, statements and the necessary information initially collected to contribute to the prosecution of the matter contained in a docket.

Dockets mainly go missing for reasons such as officials being paid by culprits to get rid of them or the misplacement of dockets by those with access.

Understanding that what is needed from the docket is the information in it, the recommendation is for the necessary stakeholders to ensure that for every case being opened, there is a duplicate folder that can always serve as backup in case a docket goes missing. 

Additionally, with the approaching 4th industrial revolution, there must be a consideration placed on digitalizing all dockets for easy retrieval in case of vis major circumstances. 

We so submit.

2021-03-19  Staff Reporter

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