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Low rate of case finalisation a concern

2019-05-10  Maria Amakali

Low rate of case finalisation a concern

WINDHOEK - The Ministry of Justice and the Office of the Judiciary are worried at the pace at which cases are being finalised in the lower courts. 

For the period of January to September 2018, the magistrates’ courts completed only 49 percent of the cases on their court rolls.  “As the statistics depict, we still have a lot to do in order to improve the state of affairs at the magistracy level. The state of affairs at the magistracy level has become a source for concern to the ministry and judiciary itself,” said Sakeus Shanghala, Minister of Justice. 

Shanghala made these remarks while motivating the N$368 million budget for the Office of the Judiciary recently in parliament. By the end of 2018, there were 35 magistrates’ courts across the 14 regions, which consist of regional courts, district courts, and 37 periodical courts. 

He explained that since the lower courts have the most direct contact with the public, enormous difficulties are being experienced with the finalisation of cases by those courts.

Shanghala attributed the low case finalisation to the shortage of courtrooms; withdrawal of lawyers due to misunderstandings with clients; incessant postponements occasioned by the dismissal of lawyers by accused persons and very few guilty pleas by accused persons. 

Furthermore, he cited the long waiting period to complete psychiatric evaluation of accused persons’ fitness to stand trial due to inadequate facilities at the psychiatric ward.

Some of the measures being taken to improve the performance of the magistrates’ courts include the acquisition of ready to use structures to complement the existing courtrooms; investigating the feasibility of weekend and night courts in the busiest districts; recruitment of additional magistrates and support staff; ongoing training of magistrates in technical fields of law and specialised areas such as organised crime and wildlife protection and redeploying experienced magistrates who are capable of dealing with high case volume to busiest towns. 

2019-05-10  Maria Amakali

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