NATIONAL IJS CASE BACKLOG REDUCTION STRATEGY PRESENTATION BY ADV P A du Rand, DOJCD: COURT SERVICES 28 MARCH 2007
INTRODUCTION • The number of outstanding cases in our courts at all levels are still very high. This impacts negatively on our Constitutional obligations for speedy justice (“Justice delayed is justice denied”). • The number of outstanding and backlog cases at the regional court level is currently the most problematic. • In addition to the numbers of cases, the case cycle time from start to finalization, in especially the regional and high courts, are too long. • To address these problems, various efforts are in progress contributing positively on them and on case backlog reduction, premised on the principle of integrated implementation of case flow management as part of the JCPS priorities in the government’s Programme of Action.
Current Backlog Project Project Objectives: • To achieve a reduction in all case backlogs at the various project sites and other courts in general and also the appeal backlogs during 2007 • To ensure that the inflow of new cases are balanced by matters concluded. • To have ensured greater court efficiency and effectiveness, including alternative methods of dealing with demand, across the greater IJS value chain. • The project is being dealt with as part of the holistic case flow management (CFM) processes through the inter-sectoral engagement with critical role players including the NPA, Judiciary and Legal Aid Board (LAB) and SAPS
CHALLENGES - BACKLOG OF CASES Factors that contribute to the backlog of cases are: • The high level of non-attendance of court proceedings by accused (average of 15 155 warrants of arrest per month) and witnesses. • Incomplete investigations/ lack of forensic analysis capacity causing unnecessary delays are furthermore detrimental to the backlog of cases. • Not enough court capacity to deal with all the incoming cases (lack of sufficient numbers of judges, magistrates and prosecutors and CFM skills) • The availability of legal representation on trial dates remains a challenge. • More counts and more accused per case. • The number and length of postponements have on average increased hence an increase of case cycle times
Addressing Case Backlogs • Under Case Flow Management (CFM), case backlog management is dealt with as a strategic intervention. To deal with this the following is being done: • Intersectoral engagement with critical role players including the NPA, judiciary and Legal Aid Board (LAB) • The National Case Flow Management Committee (which resorts under the JCPS Development Committee) meets monthly • CFM Performance & Planning Framework • CFM Guidelines implemented and enforced • Alignment with Criminal Justice Review • The e-Scheduler, a case management system, providing case management information to enhance case planning and scheduling is being rolled out to all district courts by the end of this financial year. Coupled to this is roll out of the Digital Recording system. • Creation of more capacity in the various criminal justice system departments has enabled the courts to deal more effectively with the workload. • More magistrates’ posts have been and are being created. • The SAPS are currently increasing capacity in their respective components. • The DOJ & CD is busy improving capacity at all courts by employing more personnel and providing IT infrastructure. • DPSA is also looking at addressing salary parity amongst legal staff across the CJS
Addressing Case Backlogs cont. • The judiciary was engaged to initiate a continuous roll system in their respective jurisdictions. • The NPA is monitoring in conjunction with the SAPS the quality of investigations (and time taken to conclude them) and evidence; and improving the management of witnesses. • The high influx of cases in our Lower Courts, especially in the District Courts, necessitates the consideration of alternative methods to reduce trial cases e.g. diversion. • Plea and sentence agreements or plea bargaining is being promoted. • Intersectoral Task Team led by the DOJCD/NPA identifies the main centres with trial ready backlog cases for urgent intervention through the establishment of amongst others, temporary backlog courts to solely focus on reducing the backlogs at those centres (regional court cases will be prioritised), other case backlog initiatives
BACKLOG REDUCTION SITES • It was decided that the INITIAL FOCUS in terms of backlog reduction would be the following 5 (five) regional court top backlog hotspot sites and interventions started there on 1 November 2006: • Pietermaritzburg Regional Courts in KZN (76% Backlog cases) • Port Elizabeth Regional Courts in Eastern Cape (61% Backlog cases) • Pretoria Regional Courts in Gauteng (58% Backlog cases) • Bellville Cluster in Western Cape (Regional Courts of both Bellville (39%) and Kuilsriver (53%) to be dealt with at Kuilsriver) • Protea Regional Courts in Gauteng (60% Backlog cases) – In view of accommodation constraints this site dealt with the backlogs through Saturday court sessions until 17 February 2007. A full time additional regional court is now dealing with those backlogs at Lenasia with effect from 1 March 2007.
BACLOG REDUCTION SITES • PRINCIPLES • Additional courts to be set up with additional assistance from retired/ ex-magistrates (not district court magistrates) • Additional prosecutors, legal aid representatives, court clerks, interpreters • Use un-utilised accommodation optimally – need such info • Deal with backlogs, not new cases • Continuous roll and LIMIT partly-heards • Monitor stats daily, consider interventions • Specific long outstanding cases should be targeted in each office….could establish add courts in DC and RC if required for such cases • Case Flow Management to be implemented nationally and efficiency enhanced
The 5 backlog reduction sites • The 5 backlog sites’ courts started on 1 November 2006 as envisaged. Intersectoral engagement continued in the past months with various meetings and discussions with the various role players to smooth out problems and ensure that the backlog courts operated as best as possible. • The statistics indicate the project is ahead of schedule in terms of cases finalized against envisaged finalization when we started. The backlog sites closed on 15 December in general and started again on 15 January 2007 and all are in operation. • Some other findings: • STATS: E-scheduler to provide daily info: Need to revisit capturing, template and analysis.
Performance at the 5 sites • At 22 March 2007: Cases finalised: now 450 Total disposed of more than 935
Findings IN GENERAL • The number of cases finalized at each sites is very encouraging. • Additional legal aid representatives is a key success factor. • All sites work on a continuous roll. • Certain sites such as Bellville are making very good use of plea bargaining to finalise old cases. HOWEVER: • Hours generally not good, number of cases per crt finalised could improve • Too many warrants of arrest. • Partly-heard matters: The principle is that these courts should work on a continuous roll. That was what all the Regional Court presidents and other role players agreed to. Too many partly-heard matters. • Withdrawn matters: Only trial ready backlog cases should be dealt with. • ACTION PROPOSED: Intersectoral high level Task Team to visit all these sites and in-depth discussions with role-players to improve functioning and rectify shortcomings.
Other Initiatives • In addition to continuing with the various backlog sites, the following initiatives identified as part of the original backlog project scope are continuously being promoted country-wide at all courts: • Provincial Development Committees and CFM Committees to monitor backlog and assist with the backlog projects • Fast-tracking the execution of warrants of arrest. • Increasing the number of reception and or bail courts where possible and where required. • Improving witness preparation and getting them to court. In this regard witness fees is a challenge as witnesses are not willing to come to court for the current prescribed witness fees per day. This is receiving attention. • Fast-tracking DSD reports. • Fast-tracking forensic analysis. • Identifying training needs for prosecutors, the judiciary and training court managers and admin staff on court operations management.
NEXT BACKLOG REDUCTION SITES • Additional sites to these 5 sites that have since come into operation (mostly from March 2007) after having been identified on statistics and request from the Regional Court Presidents in terms of backlog hotspot areas in December 2006 and January 2007, are the following: • 1 additional court at Bellville (dealing with commercial crime backlogs) • 1 additional court at Paarl, but sitting at Somerset West in view of accommodation challenges at Paarl • 1 additional court at Khayalitsha • 1 additional court at Atlantis • 1 additional court at Durban dealing with commercial crime backlogs • 1 additional court at Port Shepstone, but sitting at Ezingolweni in view of accommodation challenges at Port Shepstone (it is envisaged that the additional court will from April rotate between Ezingolweni and Tuton (2 weeks each per month in order to deal with access to justice for the witnesses in an improved manner) • 1 additional court at Kokstad • 1 additional court at Middelburg • There are thus currently 20 additional courts in operation on the backlog project.
Further sites • Additional backlog sites (also after having been identified on statistics and request from the Regional Court Presidents in terms of backlog hotspot areas in December 2006 and January 2007) that are currently been readied to start possibly from April 2007 are the following: • 1 additional court for Tembisa • 1 additional court for Randburg • 1 additional court for Evander/Secunda (still only in planning stage) • 1 additional court for Mtata
WAY FORWARD • IDENTIFY URGENTLY: • NATIONAL HOTSPOTS – regional and district courts • Unused accommodation • Long cases • Pool of persons that can be used • Quick wins • Revisit definition backlogs • Improve functioning of current courts • Improve performance at all courts
Appeal backlog cont. • In the interim, arrangements have been made for 2 special TPD Appeal courts with acting judges (comprising of senior advocates from Pretoria and Johannesburg) to sit pro bono every Monday in Pretoria with effect from 26 March 2007. The reason for that date is that the setting up of such an appeal roll requires time and requires various processes including the drafting of heads of argument etc from NPA and LAB side. Furthermore the court rules requires cases to be set down following a specific process which takes time. The first special courts sat on Monday 26 March 2007. • Thereafter there will be two additional (special) courts sitting every Monday henceforth (in addition to the 6 permanent courts) and two special courts sitting almost every day of the April and June recesses. Until the end of the second term, 213 appeals on 34 rolls have already been enrolled (this excludes the June recess).
LONGER TERM CASE BACKLOG REDUCTION INITIATIVES • Reducing case backlogs by capacitating all courts with the required personnel and equipment in a phased manner over the MTEF period • Continuing with current initiatives relating to improved case flow management across the IJS; • continuing with the IJS Review; END RESULT: This will lead to improved court efficiency, enhance economic growth, create a climate of social stability and improve confidence in the rule of law