Domestic Violence Act Public Hearings: Committee's draft report on deliberations with Departments

Women in The Presidency

10 November 2009
Chairperson: Ms H Malgas (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Parliamentary Research Unit briefed the Committee on the previous deliberations on the matter, and what was likely to be achieved at this meeting and in the following week. After the various departments had reported to the Committee what they were doing in terms of the Domestic Violence Act (DVA), the Committee had felt that they wished to hear again from them as sometimes the public submissions and reports from the departments differed. This meeting therefore attempted to isolate the common issues, and those of divergence.
Specific questions were therefore posed to the different departments.

In respect of the South Africa Police Service (SAPS) Members asked for clarity on why the police felt that amendments to the Act were needed, particularly around collection of personal property, and also interrogated issues around the behaviour of police at stations, whether anything could be done, whether there was follow up on implementation by the SAPS officials of their training, how people were being addressed, and what was being done in specific cases, including those where statistics had been manipulated. The Committee noted that it had great difficulty in working with aggregated data and requested that the Research Unit should be given disaggregated data.

A major area of concern around the courts, raised in questions put to the Department of Justice related to the lack of privacy for victims of abuse and domestic violence, who were to give evidence in public around domestic or sexual violence. Members enquired what provisions were in place for children, for separation o victims and offenders, CCTV systems and court buildings. The Department also expanded on the problems identified with dockets and integrated court management systems, and explained how the new systems should work.

The Department of Health received a number of questions from the Committee Researcher. It touched upon the integration of various models, both within the department, through communication between forensic departments and clinical departments, and referrals outside, or work done with or for other departments. It also indicated that it participated on inter-sectoral committees. The Department discussed the role and training of doctors and nurses, including collection of forensic data, and the counselling services that could be offered. It also touched on the Thuthuzela systems. Although Members said that they had understood what was being presented, they preferred to have a written responses.

The Acting Chairperson requested detailed responses in writing to the questions posed, and also asked that the Ministry for Women, Children and Persons with Disabilities also submit a response in writing to issues raised during the hearings and these question sessions. This would enable the Committee to address all the issues thoroughly, and to finalise its reports, which would also be a useful reference point for the departments. The database on outputs was also needed, and each Department was requested to give a breakdown in relation to domestic violence issues, and indicate whether there was compliance.


Meeting report

Ms H Malgas, Acting as Chairperson in the absence of the regular Chairperson, accepted apologies but stressed that these should be submitted to the Committee Secretary in writing twenty-four hours prior to the meeting.

Progress report on issues raised during public hearings on Domestic Violence Act (DVA): Parliamentary Research Unit briefing
Ms Kashifa Abrahams, Committee Researcher, explained that the purpose of her briefing was to synchronise issues arising from the public hearings on the Domestic Violence Act (DVA).

One of the key issues raised in the previous week was the main reason for having public hearings. The Portfolio Committee had decided that its focus theme for 2009 was violence, especially violence inflicted on women and children, youth and persons with disabilities. A non-government organisation (NGO) spoke to the issues around the DVA. A study ten years after the passing of the Act showed that there were huge concerns around its implementation, and that was the main reason for the request for public hearings, which would judge whether the DVA had impacted on the lives of those most affected by violence, and would tie in with the oversight of departments who had to implement the Act.

The objectives of the hearings were therefore to investigate the occurrence and extent of human rights atrocities, to establish whether the Act was working, whether it was being implemented properly, to identify the key challenges and concerns; and to make recommendations. The public hearings took place over two days. The Committees ensured fair representation of individuals, NGOs, issues, and geographic locations. Departments were invited to attend the public hearings and their presence was an indication to those making submissions that the Executive was concerned to understand what the challenges were.

The Committee had heard the responses of the departments to the public submissions. Members had in some cases suggested that they would like to hear again from the departments, as their responses and the submissions showed differing views and realities on the ground. 

She presented the document. Output 1 was a summary of key recommendations that the Committees had decided were important to follow through. Members should amend, correct, and add in items after deliberations. The final report would be compiled by the Committee Section and the Research Unit, and this would be a very lengthy document giving each and every submission, the key issues, the recommendations, and what the Committee had decided.

The importance of the Output 1, for next week, was to get the Committees to agree and adopt the way forward for the strategies and recommendations. This would facilitate the process of putting the strategic report on the ATC, so that next year there could be a debate in the House.

Ms Abrahams summarised the Committees’ role in terms of oversight. She also summarised the key outcomes of the public hearings. There had been 40 written submissions, and 28 oral submissions of which seven were made by individuals. There were particular issues that related to the South African Police Service (SAPS), such as issues of protection orders and vehicles. Court issues included the need for adequate training, specialised courts, the importance of providing support to victims and the courts’ understanding of what the Act entailed, and to what extent issues of psychological and emotional abuse were taken seriously. Housing and shelters were also discussed. In terms of the Department of Social Development (DSD), issues around the Victim Empowerment Programme (VEP) and psycho-social services were raised. It was also imperative to look at the role of the Department of Health in rendering rehabilitation through a range of other health care professionals, such as psychologists and occupational therapists. Social security and the grants were another issue. There was also the point of the involvement of the faith-based sector, as there had been allegations that women approaching their faith organisations were not getting support.

Discussion
Ms P Duncan (DA) asked, when it came to the oversight role and outcomes, what would be included about budgets of the departments, as she thought it would be useful for them each to indicate the allocations for covering domestic violence. She said that the fact that the Act was not yet costed was also a major factor under outcomes. She felt that there was still some confusion on the Departmental presentations, and this needed to be made clearer. She asked the Chairperson if she could also indicate some more points that needed to be added in, which she would e-mail to Ms Abrahams.

Mr L Khoarai (ANC) thought the main emphasis should be whether there was any visible impact since the Act was put into operation.

Ms Crystal Levendale, Gender Researcher: Parliamentary Research Unit, responded that from the submissions it was clear there was a problem. When drafting the final report, Ms Abrahams would highlight those issues and summarise the findings. This was also an opportunity for members to report and make additions where necessary to highlight the impact of the Act thus far.

The Acting Chairperson said that the Act was cross-cutting. It was necessary to look both at the budgets and integrated approach, to be able to follow up what the departments were doing, and which should be the lead department. There was confusion last week as to whether the Department of Social Development or SAPS were running the VEP.  She asked for clarification on the approach. She also noted that the Department of Education (DoE) had not been present, although she believed it should have been included. The question was how to bring them in, and whether this must be done through their own Portfolio Committees.

Ms Abrahams responded that she and Ms Levendale had put together a document that spelt out all the issues and concerns around each department, and looked at some of the cross cutting issues. One of these was the need for coordination, integration, resources and training, and the Members must ensure that this was not lost in the process. The document would form a consolidated reminder for the departments of the issues.

Ms Duncan followed up on who should decide which department should take the lead on a particular Act when implementing it.

Ms Abrahams said that legislation was introduced by the Executive, and whoever introduced it took the lead role. One of the gaps around the DVA was the failure to legislate for the intersectoral mechanism. Advocate Shireen Said, Chief Director, Department of Justice, had mentioned that both the  Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Act, as well as the Children's Act and the Child Justice Act all had a provision that spoke to intersectoral coordination. Under the Children’s Act, although DSD was the lead department, the Department of Justice (DOJ) must play a role when it came to guardianship. DoE would be involved with Early Childhood Development. A mechanism legislating how that integration needed to happen was included. The lack of such mechanism in the DVA made it challenging for particular departments to try to assess their roles.

In respect of the costing, she noted that the Children’s Act called the coordination the National Policy Framework. It was costed. Integration bore costs that were not factored into the DVA.

Ms Levendale added that NGOs had stated that things were falling through the cracks because there was no such policy framework for domestic violence. That was also a specific recommendation to be taken forward.

Mr Gary Rhoda, Researcher, Parliamentary Research Officer, added that many of the problems related to interpretation of the roles of each of the departments. Last week the Department of Police mentioned that it wished to include an amendment allowing for search and entry of the domestic premises. However, the Criminal Procedure Act already said that if a police officer had a reasonable belief of the commission of a crime, then he or she could get a search warrant, or could, if under the reasonable belief that a crime was taking place, enter the premises and arrest a suspect. The role and the interpretation of the role in the circumstances would determine which department should be taking the lead at any one time.

The Acting Chairperson summarised what was important for the Researchers to know. Amendments were proposed by certain NGOs and also by  the DoJ, and the Committee must try to capture those amendments for next week. She noted that the lack of coordination and a defined intersectoral approach should be included as one  of the findings and the Committees would need to consider how that could be factored in when drafting amendments.

She also noted that in the case of those individuals who, having made their submissions, were referred to Departments, it was important to follow up and get a report on what was happening to their cases from the departments concerned.
 
Ms Abrahams spoke about the document of 2 November. There was still a need to get something in writing from the Ministry, as well as from the Department of Human Settlements (DHS). Other documents had been received from the Research Unit regarding individual submissions. Important statistics were received from DSD setting out numbers of social workers, and social auxiliary workers, and DSD was speaking to students. There was a critical shortage of social workers.

The Acting Chairperson thanked the Researchers and Coordinators for the excellent work done so far.

The Acting Chairperson noted that the Ministry on Women, Children and Persons with Disabilities and the DHS needed to submit a written report on the questions that all departments had been asked, within six days.

Discussion
Ms Duncan asked all departments to give a breakdown of the budgets, if possible by the following week.. She indicated that this was crucial, because the Deputy President had been asked whether government had a database on the outcomes of the programmes within the various departments. At present there was not one, and she asked that all departments provide a breakdown of which programmes focused on the Domestic Violence Act and outcomes, the budget and the outcomes, positive or negative. That would enable the Committees to scrutinise the issues more carefully.  and there were none. She asked departments to make use of the opportunity to give the portfolio committee a breakdown of specifically which programmes within the departments were focussed on that, together with the budget allocated for that, figures and the outcome, whether it was positive or negative. That would give the portfolio committee an opportunity to scrutinise the budgets far better.

Questions posed to SAPS
Mr D Worth (DA, Free State) asked if the department could supply statistics with regard to domestic violence. The SAPS dealt with a number of cases, but he wanted to know whether domestic violence fell into its own category, or was included with, for instance, assault figures, so the Committee could track the numbers of cases reported, and the cost. If amendments to the DVA were done, it was likely that more attention would have to be devoted to it.

Ms Duncan asked if the document now presented was a new one.

Supt M van Rooyen, Legal Official: SAPS, clarified that it was the same document that had not been available in hard copy the previous week.

The Acting Chairperson commented that SAPS had been raised often during the public hearings, including complaints that they had not arranged for medical treatment or advised people of their rights to lay a charge against the perpetrator. There were often problems with the issue of the forms to be completed by a registered medical practitioner.

The Acting Chairperson asked SAPS to elaborate on their comment in the previous week that Section 7(2)(b) of the DVA should be amended, to allow police to accompany the complainant to his or her home and recover belongings. She noted that in many cases the magistrates’ orders in fact specified what the complainant was allowed to remove from the shared residence. She also asked what the other legislation said about access to the home.

Ms Mbali Mncadi, Director: Children, Youth, Gender Based Violence and Victim Empowerment, SAPS, responded that SAPS did capture data relating to domestic violence related crimes, but that could only be made available with the permission of the Minister. The only statistics that were public were those that appeared in the Annual Report.

Supt van Rooyen responded to the comment on the proposed amendment of Section 7(2)(b). She said that there were problems around personal properly, since the nature of personal property should be specified. Clothing was obviously personal property. However, disputes arose around such things as jewellery, family heirlooms, and these would need either to be specified more clearly in the Act, or be included in terms in the Order. SAPS members found themselves in a difficult situation when arriving at the scene, as emotional people were involved in a volatile situation that could easily erupt into further violence over the issue of personal property.

Supt van Rooyen added that Mr Rhoda was correct and the Criminal Procedure Act did provide that the police may in certain circumstances enter into a property to search, and to arrest a person. Section 20(6) of the Criminal Procedure Act (CPA) said the police may only enter a property to interrogate and to obtain a statement – but not to arrest, and not to search. However, the permission of the occupier was needed before this could happen. It must be remembered that the occupier was most often the perpetrator of the domestic violence, who would be unwilling to allow the police into the house to see that he had assaulted his wife. That was where it was suggested that the SAPS needed to be able to enter to check whether the victim was all right, and whether there was evidence of an assault. They did not wish to arrest or search, other than as detailed already.

The Acting Chairperson said that the Committee would look into this issue.

Ms I Ditshetelo (UCDP) referred to the powers of the police and to protection orders. She asked what happened if the violence started on a weekend, and the victim approached a police station. There had been complaints that people were turned away. She asked whether the SAPS was doing any follow ups to ensure that those who had been trained were acting correctly. She also asked where the domestic violence registers were accessible.

Ms P Petersen-Maduna asked about the relationship between the SAPS and DSD, and also related complaints lodged about the behaviour of SAPS officials at police stations. She also noted that during the public hearings there was a submission from a person in a wheelchair who had not been assisted by the SAPS to collect her belongings. She noted that promises were made by departments, but often little was being done. The Committee must push harder to ensure that the departments were working. She also noted that there had been suggestions for victim's advocates to be available at police stations.

Supt van Rooyen noted that if SAPS members did not inform the victim of their rights around medical treatment and laying a criminal charge, this would be regarded as non-compliance. If it was reported it would be investigated and dealt with effectively. The most senior member on duty at the station at the time should, if informed about this, deal with it and would also counsel the victims on their rights. There were effective measures to deal with non-compliance. The Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD) was the only body, independent from the police service, which could condone non-compliance with the Act.

She added that the J88 Department of Justice form would be handed by the police to the medical practitioner to be completed. Once completed, it should be included in the police docket for investigation purposes, as evidence of injuries sustained by the victim. There were different forms; including one that was almost a checklist that the police member must complete. Every time a SAPS official assisted a victim of domestic violence he or she must indicate whether the victim was informed of the right to lay a criminal complaint.

She clarified, in answer to the statistics questions, that there was no single offence of “domestic violence”. Instead, certain forms of conduct constituted domestic violence when it was committed between two parties in a domestic relationship. However, if a husband beat his wife that would be logged as a domestic violence assault, not a common assault, and here the SAPS would bear the added responsibility to inform the victim of her rights to also apply for a protection order.

Another 508 form dealt with that interaction between the member and the victim that needed to be recorded on the form.

The Domestic Violence Register must be kept at every police station. It was created in terms of the Domestic Violence National Instruction and was approved by the National Commissioner, and tabled in Parliament after the enactment of the Act. Under Section 18 of the DVA, the National Commissioner had to issue national instructions, which must be submitted to Parliament for approval. This was done in 2000, in compliance with the Act. The National Instructions were clear instructions to every police official in the service. The Domestic Violence Register must be completed every time a complaint of domestic violence was reported to the police.

She noted that the Auditor-General was busy with the performance audit of the service delivery at police stations and 10111 centres, and had identified domestic violence record keeping as one of the key areas to focus on. She stressed that this was an independent body checking on the police.

Supt van Rooyen noted that for victims assaulted on weekends, there were two different aspects. The one dealt with arrest in terms of the DVA. A police official may have discretionary power to arrest a person or perpetrator for common assault, even if it was not committed in the presence of a SAPS official. If a husband beat his wife, and the police were called to the scene after the assault took place, the police were empowered to arrest the perpetrator, without a warrant, for assault. In terms of the DVA, a magistrate must also be available after hours to issue interim protection orders. A victim would be able to complete an application form and the magistrate would determine whether the victim would suffer undue hardship if the protection order was not issued immediately. This meant that a protection order could be issued at any time, day or night.

Ms Mncadi responded to complaints about the quality of service to victims and people being sent back and generally being treated in a humiliating and demeaning manner. SAPS officials were trained in terms of the VEP. The Victim’s Charter emphasised that victims must be treated with respect and their dignity preserved. SAPS and other relevant officials must provide information and practical assistance and enable the victim to provide information by way of a statement. Training, specifically for the SAPS, included communication skills. The way people were addressed depended on how available they would be to reply, but they were encouraged to be more forthcoming with information to assist with the case. There should not be any judgmental behaviour, the body language should be affirming as opposed to intimidating, and the officials should try to get people to relax. Treating clients badly constituted misconduct, and was a offence for which disciplinary steps could be taken.  Site managers had oversight, and if they found that the SAPS staff were not aware of certain issues, then they must train them. Non-compliance that arose not through lack of knowledge, but through bad attitudes, would give rise to disciplinary steps. SAPS had a policy of treating everyone with respect and insisting upon quality service, through local service delivery agents. People should complain directly to the on site manager where there were problems, and she noted that Members should encourage their constituents to lodge complaints where necessary.

Sending people back without even registering a statement was not acceptable. Sometimes, however, the victim would be so traumatised that she would be unable to make a statement, and in this case might be asked to return at a later stage to verify whatever details could be taken down. SAPS officials could also visit the victim at home to take the statement.

She added that the performance assessments to assess the competence of people in applying their training lay in the hands of the supervisors.

She also noted that SAPS and DSD had a good relationship. Both took part in the Victim Empowerment Management Team at national and provincial levels and the National Child Protection Committee. They also worked together on the Interdepartmental Committee on Gender Based Violence.

Ms Mncadi noted that she would consider and revert to the Committee on the suggestion of victim advocates. There was, already, a volunteer system as an extension of the VEP and this provided counselling and practical assistance to victims.

Mr T Mashamaite (ANC, Limpopo) said the issue of domestic violence was a very serious matter, but the police were reluctant to release statistics. The Committees could not discuss something without full information. He asked why SAPS could not update the Committee on such serious issues.

Mr Mashamaite noted that he had read in the media recently that there were a number of police stations where some of the crimes were not registered, and where records were being destroyed in bulk so that the statistics were doctored. He asked if the SAPS was trying to present a better picture of the policing.

Supt van Rooyen responded that the SAPS had considered the allegations of rigging of crime statistics to be so serious that the Station Commissioner was dismissed, as manipulation of statistics would not be tolerated. She noted that the length of time taken to release the statistics did not imply an opportunity to manipulate them. It took time to ensure the integrity, check and recheck, and this was a lengthy period, taking into consideration that there about 1 200 police stations and some were still using manual systems.

The Acting Chairperson pointed out that there were statistics in the report, relating to domestic violence incidents reported, the figures relating to children, and instances where the stations did not comply. The report did say it was aggregated data. The Committee was, however,  looking for disaggregated data. She noted that the Domestic Violence Register did not make provision for the member to record age, gender, disability or the location of the victim. She noted the comment that only the Minister could release certain statistics, but noted that the National Commissioner had signed the report. She requested that the Researchers be provided with disaggregated data.

Ms Mncadi said that the statistics were not prepared in a disaggregated way. She asked that this matter stand over for a full answer later. The Minister released statistics, the National Commissioner prepared the annual reports for the Minister to consider and then he was the one that released them.

The Acting Chairperson noted that the Committee needed the disaggregated data and if systems were not in place then there would have to be an introduction of new systems.

Mr Worth wished to determine the time the police spent on these problems and the magnitude of them. He also asked for clarity, in an instance where a husband beat his wife, whether this would be recorded both as an assault, and then separately on the Domestic Violence Register as a domestic assault.

Ms Mncadi responded that domestic violence was registered first on the SAP508 form, before going to the criminal administration system. If was registered there first as domestic violence, and then into the crime category of assault.

Mr Rhoda asked the Department of Police to explain its comment on the lack of a specific charge with regard to domestic violence, and asked about Section 116.

Supt van Rooyen responded that the DVA did create new offences. Insofar as the contravention of a protection order was concerned, that was a statutory offence registered on the criminal administration system, but the offence was not “domestic violence”, but the “contravention of protection order”. There was a wide misconception that a person could be charged with “the offence of domestic violence”. This was not correct. Contravention of a protection order was a form of contempt of court and was a statutory offence, but domestic violence was not an offence. If a person failed to pay a mortgage on his home loan, and his wife suffered, although there was economic abuse, there was no offence that may be reported to the police.

Questions posed to the Department of Justice
The Acting Chairperson said it was of deep concern to the Committee that the specialised courts had to be mainstreamed, and there was no privacy when it came to domestic violence. It was traumatic for victims to give details of what happened in open court. There was also a need for a more integrated approach, as DSD and Health did not have psychologists, but when DoJ needed a psychologist it would seem that one could be made available, at huge expense. She asked the Department to speak to that.

Ms Corla Kok, Director: Child Justice & Family Law, DoJ, said the Department agreed that the court system needed to be changed. There were indeed challenges arising out of the history. New pieces of legislation had recently been put on the table, and new policies were drafted as to how to change the adversarial system to a more therapeutic and restorative approach. DoJ was trying to address the issues, not only in relation to the DVA, but to all vulnerable groups.

DoJ had working relationships with other government departments on a national as well as provincial level, such as the National Child Care Protection Committee, chaired by DSD, which looked a the practical challenges and did peer review, and tried to institute this also at a provincial level. She agreed that there was a need to strengthen relationships with Civil Society and with Members of Parliament to isolate those challenges needing a more holistic approach.

DoJ had a very good relationship with the magistracy and the Lower Court Management Committee of the Judiciary, was chaired by the Chief Magistrate of Pretoria, which had sub-committees of magistrates looking at certain issues such as Family and Child Law. It also worked very closely with the Sexual Offences and Community Affairs (SOCA) Unit of the National Prosecuting Authority.

At court level the Case Flow Management Committee was chaired by the magistrates themselves. They prioritised domestic violence cases. They would ensure that the number of courts allocated to deal with these cases was directly aligned to the case numbers, and the Department played a supporting role

Ms Kok noted that if a child was involved in any case, the court must be held in closed session, since the interests of the child were paramount. If the child was attending with his or her mother or relative or guardian, then the court would be cleared of anyone not directly involved in the case. An adult could also ask for a closed session, and the Magistrate would make a ruling whether the interests of holding the open court prevailed over the interests of privacy in that particular case. If the complainant was not happy with that ruling, she could ask the Court Manager to help with an appeal against it.

Many of the old court buildings still did not have separate waiting facilities for victims of sexual offences, or domestic violence. The Department had drawn a Court Model Blueprint, as to how the court should ideally be structured to meet all Constitutional rights. Khayelitsha had a beautiful court building built according to that model. There should be separate waiting rooms for respondents and complainants, with child friendly space.

Ms Kok agreed that the lack of psychiatrists and psychologists in the country was a major challenge. The Department was working on a new structure for witness fees for psychologists and psychiatrists, and other expert witnesses, because those specialised persons were expensive. Only people who were really passionate about their work would help. The Department had discussions with DoH on health needs. The Child Justice Act also put responsibility on the DoJ and the Cluster to ensure that persons were available who would be able to assess age, look at the mental capacity of children, as well as having psychologists and psychiatrists available, so there was a need to ensure that the fees were up to standard. That document was in draft form at the national department, and DoJ was asking for assistance from the relevant bodies.

Mr Worth asked whether it was possible to separate complainant and respondent in any way where the victim did not wish to face the perpetrator in court, and whether any courts did have such provisions.

Ms Kok responded that the Children's Act provided that when a child under 18 years old needed to testify the magistrate could also make an order that he or she testify in terms of the intermediary system. This was a system whereby the suspect and the child were not in the same room. The two rooms were linked by Closed Circuit TV cameras. An intermediary would interpret the questions of the Court for the child, and would convey the child’s answer back. This meant that the child was not directly exposed to the adversarial system. That was particularly important when dealing with Sexual Offences Act matters. There were about 91 intermediaries appointed on contract by DOJ, and there were also pools of intermediaries available from DSD, NGOs and various service providers. Not all courts were linked with CCTV systems, but there were plans in place to do so. In terms of the Sexual Offences Act, an adult was permitted to testify in the same way if she had the mental capacity of one under 18, in which case the magistrate would make a ruling. The goal was to try to make the service available to more victims and witnesses. However, there were challenges around resources. For this reason children and the most vulnerable were prioritised.

In addition, she noted that the Legal Aid Board or private legal representative could always apply to the court for permission not to testify in open court, and this was the point of the move towards a more restorative and therapeutic approach.

Ms Ditshetelo enquired about the findings and assessments made. She also wanted to hear about the quality of record keeping and the complaints of incomplete court records. She asked who was responsible for the inadequate court records management system, including the system operating between the court, the police station and the sheriff, and why there were few records kept of any breaches of this system.

The Acting Chairperson asked how, in respect of case management, the Legal Board was factored in.

Ms Kok responded that the findings and assessments of the process for record keeping arose because many pieces of legislation were implemented at once. Over 700 pieces of legislation were implemented by DoJ since 1994, much relating directly to the courts. This entailed significant extra work. DoJ was addressing this by looking into the manual systems, ensuring that court documents and court records were filed correctly and not mislaid, and was also moving towards an automated Integrated Court Case Management System, which would be run as a pilot next year. Under this system, the clerk would fill out the first form, which would be stored on computer, and printed and made available to the complainant. This information could then be electronically transmitted to the SAPS or DSD or Department of Health, for them to deal with their relevant issues. At this point there was a concentration on integrating with SAPS. However, the intention was to have a central hub that could be accessed by all. However, not all departments IT systems were linked, and perhaps the Integrated Justice System Board should make a presentation on it.

Ms Kok confirmed that the Legal Aid Board (LAB) was represented on all committees, and she suggested that the parliamentary Committees may wish the LAB to give a presentation on its work. For a long time, LAB had been unable to give much attention to civil work because of the lack of resources, but as it did obtain further funding, it would be able to tackle these issues. It was already giving attention to children's matters because of the Children's Act coming into operation.

The Acting Chairperson noted that the Child Justice Act (CJA) would come into effect on 1 April 2010. She asked whether a copy of the final regulations on children in need of care and protection was sent to the DSD.

Ms Kok confirmed that the CJA would come fully into effect on 1 April 2010. The DoJ was far advanced in the planning and preparation for implementation. CJA covered children in conflict with the law. The Department would try to ensure that any children coming into conflict with the law would be referred directly to the DSD for assistance and would be dealt with through diversion systems.  She was not sure who was the lead department for the implementation of the Children's Act. DoJ had to work closely together with other departments to ensure that the children were supported through the court systems as well. She noted that DoJ had drawn a final set of regulations for the Children's Act in terms of Chapter 4 and other chapters. The two Ministers had indicated they wanted to meet with one another to discuss the way forward. The main issues were budgets and resources.

The Acting Chairperson enquired about DOJ’s relationship with SAPS, pointing out that the SAPS had said that they never had meetings with the magistrates.

Ms Kok said DoJ's relationship with the police at national and provincial levels was very good. Specific committees looked at specific areas of interest and had discussions on a regular basis. Matters of concern were taken up at the highest level. The Developments Committee of the JCS Cluster sat on a monthly basis and Deputy Directors General of the various departments discussed how to make the programme of action work, the challenges and achievements. DoJ chaired that committee. Similar committees existed at provincial level and reported to the national committee. However, she confirmed that communication at local level needed to be strengthened. The DoJ tried to address it in terms of the Case Flow Management Committees, and by asking court managers to establish working relationships with station commanders. There was very good cooperation in certain areas, such as Bellville.

She added that DoJ also had specific committees at national and provincial levels to deal with specific issues. It was agreed that domestic violence had to be given specific focus. DoJ established a domestic violence task team to look at all the issues emanating from these hearings, as well as others identified by the DoJ itself, to come up with plans to address them, including implementation plans. The task team would report to the  Development Committee, VEP and the Ministry of Women, Children and People with Disabilities.

She noted that the Department also had good relationships with the Lower Court Management Committee of the Judiciary, where participants influenced one another in respect of findings, complaints received, and challenges faced.

Ms Ditshetelo asked for clarity on whether the task team was already working.

Ms Kok replied that 80% of the recommendations and challenges arose in operational areas – such as the case docket system not working, or systems between the police and the sheriffs not working. DoJ had already held meetings with the police and the Board of Sheriffs to address some of these challenges. However, DoJ had only recently started to work on policy recommendations, which would need to look at the legislative needs, the policy needs, the gaps, and how to address this under the approved staff establishment.

The Acting Chairperson noted that IT systems were not speaking to each other.

Questions to the Department of Health (DOH)
Ms Abrahams said it would be important to reiterate what the challenges were in terms of implementing the DVA. Last week a doctor had indicated that the DVA was not clear as to what doctors or the Department should or could do.

She asked what the challenges were, from a health perspective, around the J88 forms, and whether private and public health institutions were included.

She noted that a presentation had been received from the Red Cross Children's Hospital about children under the age of fourteen. She noted that there was a Constitutional obligation to report on matters involving children under 18 and for this reason the Department of Health (DOH) should have statistics, so she asked where those were, what hotspots had been identified, and what the key issues were.

She also enquired about the Department’s role in the VEP, and its key constraints and challenges in this regard. The DoH had occupational therapists, nurses, and psychologists, and there was a need to find out how many of those people would assist in terms of providing psycho-social intervention, how links would be established with the DoH on the DVA, and how the referral system worked if a child in need of care and protection, or an abused woman, entered hospital. Although there had been numerous submissions from individuals indicating the issues, none of the individual submissions had stated whether the persons were referred for mental health assessment or counselling, whether they were given medication or what health interventions were made. The issues of scarce skills impacted on service delivery. For this reason, she suggested that it would be important for the Committee to hear what the Department was doing to retain staff needed for psychosocial interventions. She was aware that DSD and DoH had been involved in initiatives around lay counsellors, but she wanted to know whether they were earmarked only for very specific health issues, such as Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission, or also covered issues around domestic violence.

The Acting Chairperson said it was important for the DoH to give those answers in writing.

An official from the Department of Health noted that the Department had joint discussions with DSD and DoJ regarding the lack of psychologists, and all departments worked on domestic violence issues in an integrated way. The Minister of Health had a constitutional duty to protect the rights of the population and promote health within the confines of the law, and was also obliged by the Health Act to protect and promote access to health services. Last week a doctor had alluded to the fact that the DVA contained no specific provisions including the DOH, but DOH, as part of its public duty, made sure that it did work in an integrated way.

In regard to VEP, the official said that DoH was part of the Interdepartmental Committee on VEP. DoH had  developed a Five Step Action Plan of implementation of the services for victims of crime. It was working closely with DSD, DoJ, SAPS and other departments, led by DSD, through the VEP.

DOH also adopted an integrated approach under the Sexual Offences Act. Here, the Department was engaged, through the DOJ, on a regulatory response to develop policies and action plans to address domestic violence. If had also developed a National Sexual Assault Policy, as well as National Management Guidelines on Sexual Assault in 2005, which were currently being amended in line with the Criminal Law Amendment Act.

An internal integrated model that the Department used related to Forensic Clinical Medicine. The DoH would analyse the forensic evidence that would support prosecution of perpetrators. The Five Model approach linked forensic medicine and emergency services through the prevention programme.

The representative referred to questions around the role of community health workers. They were in a programme addressing HIV/AIDS and Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission and other issues, but an integrated response would enable DoH to tap into the resources on the ground for issues related to violence, and domestic violence in particular.

Another integrated model related to the general health services. A question was asked about the role of mental health. Here, a family healthcare approach was used, and this also addressed the norms and standards that talked specifically to domestic violence within the primary health care approach. Programmes such as Mental Health and Substance Abuse, Maternal Child and Women's Health, the Gender Focal Point, Nutrition, HIV/AIDS, TB and all other programmes that women presented to Health Services fell under this programme. It therefore became an entry point to identification of the incidences of domestic violence. Sometimes these issues would become apparent through careful questioning on other health challenges of patients.

in regard to referral, DoH worked within an integrated model with other departments, and enabled DoH to ensure that medical and nursing staff were properly trained to collect reliable data or reliable evidence for prosecution. The Department referred patients with problems of domestic violence to SAPS, VEP or the prosecution services.

The DoH outlined the anti-rape strategy, run through the Thuthuzela Care Centres. These used forensic  clinical medicine personnel who could respond positively and were trained to be  sensitive to the needs of victims of gender based violence and domestic violence. The mechanism channelled the victims in a more sensitive way. A victim could present herself at different levels. This could include SAPS offices, or the health services, so the psychosocial support provided by DoH was a cross cutting role. It was recognised by all that if the environment was sensitive to the needs of the victim then it was likely that secondary victimisation would be averted.

DOH stressed that if there was no psychologist or health provider available immediately, the National Sexual Assault policy and the Management Guidelines did provide for relevant training to be conducted in a continuous process, and there was a training manual on Caring for Survivors of Sexual Assault and Rape. That  programme was delivered to health workers at primary health care facilities, and those other centres that were primarily responsible for providing health and access to victims of domestic violence.

There was also a dedicated Clinical Forensic Medicines Unit within the DoH, but it was currently focussing at Thuthuzela models. There was a plan to upscale that programme. The dedicated Clinical Forensic Medicines personnel were not only to be found at Thuthuzela Care models. The Health system was extended to forensic nurses as well as doctors. When a victim presented at a health care facility, nurses could, because of their training, provide a comprehensive response and be sensitive to the victims of domestic violence. The need for psychologist or psychiatrist services would be identified through screening. The psychological response of an abused victim was a natural process at the site of the incident, but, through proper assessment and identification, the acute stress reaction often slowed with the passage of time. It took four to six weeks for an abused victim to show indications of disorder, and at this point the intervention could progress to a secondary, specialist point, where the victim would be referred to a psychologist because of presenting post traumatic stress disorder or depression. The clinical support phase would be handled by DoH, and the psychosocial support would be handled usually by DSD, SAPS or DOJ.

Ms Ditshetelo said these answers were not very clear. She would have liked to get a clear breakdown on each question asked, and to establish the real relationships between departments.

The Acting Chairperson said that the report by DoH would need to be redone. She did not agree that the DoH was not involved in the DVA. Even if this was not stated in terms, health must be an integral part of the process. Members would also need to know the numbers, particularly in relation to the scarce skills. The J88 came from the department's doctors, although the police handed over to the person. She asked that the full figures should be sent to the Committee Secretary within six days.

The Department of Health confirmed that there were meetings between the various departments, as highlighted by them in their presentations. However, DoH would confirm its answers in writing.

The Acting Chairperson also said that a report would be needed from the Ministry for Women, Children and People with Disabilities. Part of its duty was monitoring and evaluation, and it must work on cross-cutting issues. Issues of  domestic violence and its effect went to  the heart of this Department’s work. It should be monitoring and doing follow ups on what DoJ and DoH said. The issue of compliance was important. Domestic  violence was a concern of society as a whole and could not be tolerated. She pointed out that there had been no proper consultation with this Ministry as yet, so it was necessary to make amendments and to have responses within the next six days.

Ms Abrahams said that apparently a memo was received on 26 October.

She noted that the engagements were very helpful. They helped to indicate specific issues needing to be followed through.

Another issue that was important, but had not yet been dealt with, was the complaints issue and processes, particularly in connection with DoJ and SAPS.

She pointed out that some individuals had pointed out abuses rendered by health care professionals, which also amounted to secondary abuse, and suggested that it would be important to get something in writing as to what could be done in these instances.

The Acting Chairperson reiterated that responses must be sent in within six days.

The Acting Chairperson referred to the database on outputs requested at the beginning at the meeting. Outputs were the responsibility of the Heads of Department. The outcomes or impact of the outputs were the responsibility of the Executive authority, the Minister. She requested a breakdown from all departments on outcomes of the domestic violence work, and whether there was compliance.

The meeting was adjourned. 

 

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