Slight drop in criminal case finalisation

Home National Slight drop in criminal case finalisation

WINDHOEK – President Hage Geingob yesterday raised concern over the slow pace of finalising cases in Namibian courts, having hear that only 49 percent of cases heard in the magistrate’s courts between January and September 2018 were finalised.  

Backlogs of criminal cases remain one of the leading challenges facing the Namibian justice system.
Other challenges such as the insufficient number of courtrooms, an unresponsive case management system and shortage of digital court recording equipment are directly blamed for the backlog of criminal cases in mainly the lower courts.
Other constraining factors include inhibitive police investigations and the recurrent shortage of judicial officers, prosecutors and administrative support personnel. 

Geingob, who yesterday opened the 2019 legal year at the Supreme Court in Windhoek, said he is aware of the public’s frustration with aspects of the criminal justice system, such as the long-delays in the finalisation of cases in the lower courts.   

“This public frustration is attributed to the long delays between arrest, appointment of legal aid counsel, first appearance at court and the ultimate finalisation of criminal cases. Justice delayed is justice denied,” stated the head of state.
According to statistics released by the judiciary yesterday, the magistrate courts had a total number of 68 381 criminal cases brought forward between January and September in 2018 compared to 60 877 cases registered during the corresponding period in 2017.  

The statistics further show that during the same period, the total number of new cases stood at 13 045 compared to 2017 where the magistrate courts received 15 989 new cases on the court roll.

A record 81 426 cases were handled in 2018 between January and September when compared to 78 866 cases handled in 2017.When it comes to the finalisation of these cases, only 19 584 cases were finalised in 2018 between January and September, compared to 19 718 cases completed in 2017.

The finalisation rate indicates a slight drop during 2018, as it stood at 49 percent compared to 51 percent in 2017.
Geingob therefore urged all institutions involved in the criminal justice system to cooperate and coordinate their activities with the aim of ensuring that people are better served by the criminal justice system.  

“I understand that there is an issue of underfunding which causes these delays in resolving criminal dockets. I am aware that often times, judicial officers and prosecutors are faced with the choice of warehousing untried accused persons in custody or releasing them to the public, therefore, this is one of the main issues that need to be tackled.  This is an area which requires greater accountability. We cannot safeguard the lives of our most vulnerable citizens when we have criminals released back on the streets due to a backlog of cases,” he stated.

Moreover, the statistics from the magistrate courts as of January to December 2018 show that the number of civil summons issued stood at 18 001, while the number of criminal summons issued was 3 411. 

The number of warrants of arrests issued stood at 66 922, active maintenances recorded numbered 43 068 cases, while adoption cases registered stood at 90. The cases of temporary liquor application licence received stood at 1 474.
The number of permanent liquor applications received was 1 844, cases of estates registered were 2 082, cases of marriages solemnised were 8810, while 8 019 legal aid applications were received.
Interim protection orders granted stood at 1 520, while the cases pertaining to the final protection order granted were 1081.

Geingob said there are various ways in which service delivery can be improved. Hence, he called on all stakeholders involved to work together to find a solution for the sake of public safety.   

For the Supreme Court, statistics recorded for new appeals registered show 72 cases for the 2018 legal year compared to 81 in 2017, while 88 similar cases were recorded in 2016.

For appeals enrolled, a total number of 46 cases were registered, which is similar to the 46 registered in 2017, while 42 were enrolled in 2016.

Appeals judgments delivered stood at 37 cases in 2018, while in 2017 they were 45, compared to 38 in 2016. Cases that lapsed during 2018 were 29, compared to 20 in 2017.