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JUSTICE AND CONSTITUTIONAL DEVELOPMENT PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
18 March 2005
JUSTICE BUDGET: INPUT BY UNITS OF THE NATIONAL PROSECUTING AUTHORITY;
JUDICIAL MATTERS AMENDMENT BILL: DELIBERATIONS
Chairperson: Mr F Chohan-Kota (ANC)
NPA Presentation to the Portfolio Committee: Budget Hearing (17-18 March 2005)
Judicial Matters Amendment Bill [B2 - 2005]
Judicial Matters Amendment Bill: working draft
The Units of the National Prosecuting Authority briefed the Committee on their work. The main concern of the NPA was the under-funding of its operations. The Committee was concerned about the poor working hour average of the High Courts.
Introduction and Overview
Adv Vusumzi Pikoli (National Director of Public Prosecutions) introduced his colleagues. Amongst them included Dr S Ramaite (Deputy National Director of Public Prosecutions: National Special Services), Adv M Mpshe (Acting Deputy National Director of Public Prosecutions: National Prosecution Services) acting on behalf of Adv J Henning who underwent surgery operation, Adv R de Kock (Director of Public Prosecutions: Western Cape), Mr C Jordaan (Special Director: Specialised Commercial Crime Unit), Adv T Majokweni (Special Director: Sexual Offences and Community Affairs Unit), Mr D Adam (Special Director: Witness Protection Unit), Adv J Ledwaba (Special Director of Operations: DSO), Mr C McAdam (Special Director: Priority Crime Litigation Unit), Ms M Sparg (CEO), Ms B Simelane (Deputy CEO), Mr B Graham (CFO), Ms K Pillay (Special Director and Advisor: Office of the NDPP), Ms L Davids (Special Director: Office of the NDPP), Ms D Mvelase (Executive Manager: Integrity Management Unit), Ms A Annedale (Manager Office of the Deputy National Director of Public Prosecutions: DSO); Mr K Jooste (IT Specialist).
He noted that as he had been in office for only seven weeks, the presentations would be made by the heads of the various programmes assisted by the Deputy National Directors. He noted that he had managed in this short space to visit eight of the provinces, with the exception of the Northern Cape, in order to familiarise himself with the NPA staff and understand their expectations. He said that as the prosecution unit of the NPA forms the basis of their core mandate, this had to be reflected throughout their operations. In sketching the importance of public interest litigation, he felt that for the public to be confident of the criminal justice system, the NPA would have to be more proactive in its approach.
Adv Pikoli stated that the Directors of Public Prosecutions had to be hands-on in their provinces and therefore he felt that they themselves should prosecute at least one or two cases per year, especially the so-called high profile cases. He expressed concern about the depletion of prosecution skills and experience in courts and felt that the Deputy Directors and Chief Directors should frequent their courts to reinforce morale whenever the necessity arose. It was through such actions that the public could really comprehend their seriousness in fighting crime while at the same time the morale of junior prosecutors would be boosted by seeing their seniors in action. He said that the NPA took a great interest in the economic growth of the country. Hence the necessity to align their vision with those of the Department and Government, as the whole, to create stable conditions that promoted domestic and foreign investment and thus ensured the creation of jobs. However, he noted that as they had not received the additional budget of R246 million requested over and above their baseline of R1.22 billion. Thus their operations would have a deficit of more than R2.28 million for this financial year.
The Chairperson requested the NDPP to convey the Committee’s best wishes to Adv Henning for his speedy recovery. She then asked if the NPA had also taken part in the Department of Justice’s right-sizing task team interactions with the National Treasury.
The National Director of Public Prosecutions responded that the NPA was not part of the official committee that dealt with the right-sizing of the budget. However they had since joined the processes that had been initiated by the Ministers of Justice, Public Service and Administration and National Treasury to look at the costing of justice and other personnel issues.
The Chairperson noted that it was imperative that the NPA formed part of that process. She said that as there were many problems facing the NPA with regard to the job evaluation process of their staff then the forum could be a meaningful platform to raise all those issues when it dealt with the personnel within the NPA.
National Prosecuting Authority on the Medium Term Expenditure Framework Bid 2004/5
Ms M Sparg (CEO) took the Committee through the presentation. She noted that the presentation contained some of the bids that were presented to the National Treasury by the NPA in 2004/5 for the new cycle. She said that there were a number of priorities that had been identified by the NPA in its 2004/5 bid as requiring funding priority (see presentation).
The Chairperson asked what the implications of the non additional funding would be on the those projects which were refused additional funding.
Ms Sparg responded that unless the NPA were to do a reprioritisation within its current funding then it would not be able to fund such projects in 2005/6 financial year. She said that they would however give the Committee a detailed document explaining the bidding process and how they arrived at identifying these projects as requiring additional funding.
The Chairperson felt that the NPA should try to resolve this problem with the National Treasury since it did no party any service. If the National Treasury was concerned about the duplication between the allocation sought by the Department and that which is sought by the NPA then both the Department and the NPA should resolve this.
The Chairperson asked how many Sexual Offences Courts were envisaged in terms of the request.
Ms Sparg responded that the NPA expected to create 30 Sexual Offences Courts throughout the country.
Ms S Camerer (DA) asked how many Sexual Offences Courts were presently in existence.
Adv T Majokweni (Special Director: Sexual Offences and Community Affairs Unit) responded that there were 54 Sexual Offences Courts that were currently in existence and functional.
The Chairperson asked them to explain what they really fund in these specialised courts.
Adv Majokweni responded that in these specialised courts, the NPA funds the prosecutors, the training of the court personnel in its entirety, the refurbishing of the courts and the provision of the two circuit television and the television sets in both the adults and children waiting rooms. She noted that at times the NPA funded the intermediaries who serviced these courts and the victim assistants who assist and prepare the victims in giving their evidence.
The Chair asked what the Department funded in terms of its specialised courts budget allocation.
Adv Majokweni responded that the Department funded the infrastructure of these courts and building maintenance. However the responsibility to see to it that these courts were victim friendly rested with the NPA, which usually relied on donor funding as there were no funds voted for such.
Expenditure 2004/5 and Budget Overview 2005/6
Mr B Graham (CFO) took the Committee through the presentation. He gave the Committee a brief overview of the NPA current expenditure for 2004/5 and its budget for the financial year 2005/6.
National Prosecuting Services Presentation
Adv M Mpshe (Acting Deputy National Director of Public Prosecutions: NPS) took the Committee through the presentation. He noted that there were currently about 2 700 prosecutors in South Africa. Both the achievements and challenges of the NPA in the ordinary and specialised courts were outlined. He stated that financial constraints had impacted on their performance tremendously (see presentation).
The Chairperson noted that Saturday Courts were introduced as a special measure. It was important that the Department come up with long-term measures to address the problem of case back-log while analysing the effect of right sizing in the process. She asked the Committee to be provided with a quantified time cycle of the achievements made in courts. She was concerned that in 2004/05 the High Court managed to prosecute less than 1000 cases as the majority were simple referrals for sentences from Regional Courts.
Adv Mpshe replied that even though a case might be a referral from the Regional Court in terms of S52 of the Criminal Procedure Act for sentencing, judges in the High Court prefer in most cases to do a retrial before passing a sentence.
The Chairperson was of the view that if this was a prevalent practice then to save time and costs, prosecution should commence in the High Courts to avoid the matter being reopened afresh.
Adv Mpshe was concerned that such an approach might have an effect on increasing High Courts’ rolls. He said that the NPA had already tabled a memorandum with Parliament detailing measures aimed at addressing the same concerns raised by the Chairperson.
The Chairperson however contended that Judges’ hours had to be increased from 3h34 to ensure that they cover more cases and thus reduce the case backlog. The High Courts had no continuous roll as was the case in other Courts, then ghost rolls should be developed. This had proved to be effective in the Eastern Cape.
Mr Magwanishe (ANC) was also concerned at the poor High Court average. The hours had increased from 3h25 in 2001/02, 3h28 in 2002/03, 3h29 in 2003/04 and 3h30 in 3h34. He asked this matter to be addressed, as it did not positively contribute to the creation of jobs.
The National Director of Public Prosecutions noted that the NPA would definitely look at the matter and try to balance it with prevalent practices that were applied by Judges in High Courts.
The Chairperson noted that the Committee would not approve any proposal that Regional Courts should be given concurrent jurisdiction with the High Court. Such a proposal could only be considered after it had been proved that having instituted cases also at the High Court level, the problem of case backlogs still remained prevalent.
Ms Camerer (DA) asked for the target rate set for the finalisation of cases in the High Court and for the categorisation of these 1, 022 Minimum Sentence cases that were referred to the High Court in 2004/05.
Adv Mpshe responded that they would provide the Committee with the relevant documentation. However all the Minimum Sentence cases that had been referred to the High Court related to serious matters and the minimum sentence to be imposed fell beyond the jurisdiction of the Regional Courts.
The Chairperson asked how they assessed the percentage in the so-called prevalent offences and main crime categories.
Adv Mpshe responded that the percentage in each category related to the number of dockets taken to Court by the NPA.
Ms Camerer (DA) asked what was the number of cases withdrawn in the normal courts, as the conviction rate did not bear the total number of cases reported in 2004/05.
Adv Mpshe responded that the reason there was a very high rate of case withdrawal in the past was due to the nature and quality of case investigation at SAPS level. However after the problem had been identified and resolved by the NPA and SAPS, this resulted in an increased number of cases going on trial. They would provide the Committee with figures on the matter in due course.
Ms Camerer (DA) asked what led to an increase in normal courts out-standing rolls and what implications such would have on their performance.
Adv Mpshe responded that the reason for the large number of outstanding cases in their courts’ rolls was due to financial constraints experienced by the NPA when it come to court services. This would indeed have a negative impact on their performance. However they had put in place a number of measures to address this problem to ensure court services was in proper order.
The Chairperson thanked the NDPP team for the presentation. She noted that Members would awaited a response on those concerns that had been raised during the deliberations. She added that they appreciated the work that had been done by the NPA in its endeavour to create a just and peaceful society where everyone could live in freedom and security.
Judicial Matters Amendment Bill: Working Draft
Adv L Basset (Department Legal Drafter) noted that he would only briefed the Committee as to the changes that had been effected as the result of the previous meeting and thus not through the whole of the Bill.
Adv Basset noted that the word "finalisation" had been substituted by "disposal" to bring this provision in line with the provisions of the Magistrates’ Court Act.
Clause 1: Amendment of S9 of Act 32 of 1944
Adv Basset noted that since the Magistrates’ Court Act presently did not empower the Minister to make regulations then the change had to be effected in S9(7)d) and (e) to make it clear that s/he could not prescribe as was initially proposed.
The Chairperson asked if this would mean that in every case the Minister would have to gazette such.
Adv Basset responded that the Minister could develop a uniform determination setting out hourly rates for each category of the magistrates.
The Chairperson proposed that the word "in the opinion of the Minister" be inserted in order to cater for those cases where the unfitness was still under investigation.
Adv Basset noted they would consider the proposal.
The Chairperson felt that since the Minister was not prevented from consulting the Chief Justice whenever it was necessary then it should not be required that s/he does so in each and every case as contemplated in S9(7)(e)(ii).
Adv Basset noted that they would consider the proposal made by the Chairperson accordingly.
Clause 19: Short tittle and commencement
Adv Basset noted that new subclauses had been inserted to this Clause. The aim was to ensure that each Clause would be able to come into operation at an appropriate moment.
The Chairperson thanked Adv Basset for his co-operation and thus noted that the Committee would try to finalise the Bill as soon as Members returned from recess.
The meeting was adjourned.
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