Judges Remuneration Structure, Rules for Promotion of Access to Information Act, Amendments to High Court & Magistrate Court Rules: Approval, Criminal Procedure Amendment Bill: NCOP amendments

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Justice and Correctional Services

18 November 2008
Chairperson: Mr J Jeffery (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee considered and approved the total remuneration structure for Constitutional Court judges and other judges. In addition, Members accepted the Rules of Procedure for Application to Court in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act. Although the Rules were accepted, the Report noted that Members had not been happy with the procedure and advised that the Rules Board should in future consult various stakeholders earlier during the process and reach consensus with the Minister of Justice before formally submitting the Rules to the Minister for approval.

Members then approved the amended Rules relating to the High Court and Magistrate’s Court procedures, but noted in their Report that the Judicial Matters Amendment Bill was being processed by Parliament at this stage, and, once passed, this may well necessitate further amendments to the Rules.

Members considered the NCOP’s proposed amendments to the Criminal Procedure Amendment Bill. Some were some technical amendments, correcting references and spelling, but the most significant amendment related to expungement of criminal records, where the NCOP had proposed, in respect of Clause 3, that the Director-General should refer a matter to the Minister if the former believed that an expungement could bring the administration of justice into disrepute. Members believed that this gave too much discretion to the Director General and could result in unnecessary delays, and commented that they could not conceive of a situation where this could bring the administration of justice into disrepute. It was decided to reject this amendment, but accept the remainder; namely the correction of the spelling error in the long title, the correction of a reference to Section 271B(2)(a) on page 7, and the correction, on line 42 of page 7, of a reference to “271B(2)(b) or section”.

Meeting report

Determination of Total Remuneration Structure of Constitutional Court Judges and Judges
The Chairperson recalled that the Committee had previously approved the total remuneration structure for Constitutional Court judges and other judges, and that a proclamation had been issued by the President to give effect to this. Subsequent to the issuing of that proclamation, however, further representations were made by the Minister of Justice to the President, to amend that notice. As a result of that process, the President had issued a new proclamation which set out a new remuneration structure. Elements of the new remuneration structure comprised of a cash annual salary component representing 72,24% and a non-cash component of 27,76%.

Members unanimously approved the determination of the total remuneration structure.

Rules of Procedure for Application to Court in Terms of the Access to Information Act
Adv C Johnson (ANC) noted that the Rules of Procedure framed under the Access to Information Act had to be approved. Whilst the Members had decided to approve the Rules, the Committee wished to express its dissatisfaction about the consultation process that was followed by the Rules Board for the Courts of Law (the Rules Board). In view of that, it strongly advised that the Rules Board should in future consult various stakeholders earlier during the process and reach consensus with the Minister of Justice before formally submitting the Rules to the Minister for approval.

Members adopted the Report and the Rules without dissent.

Amendments to the Rules in the High Court and Magistrate’s Courts
Adv Johnson noted that the Committee had already decided to endorse the Rules. The Committee nevertheless regretted the delay in the finalisation of the Rules that had arisen through the consultation process that was followed.

Adv Johnson suggested that a final paragraph be inserted into the Report that read: “The Portfolio Committee wishes to note that the Judicial Matters Amendment Bill is being processed by Parliament and it will be passed in due course, and this may necessitate further amendments to the Rules in future”.

Members supported the recommendation as well as the Report.

Members therefore approved the Rules

Criminal Procedure Amendment Bill: Amendments proposed by the NCOP
The Chairperson tabled the amendments that were proposed by the NCOP in relation to the Criminal Procedure Amendment Bill. He explained that there were some technical amendments, correcting references and spelling, but the most significant amendment related to expungement of criminal records. . The NCOP had proposed a provision in Clause 3 that allowed the Director-General to refer a matter to the Minister if he or she believed that an expungement could bring the administration of justice into disrepute.

Mr J Sibanyoni (ANC) disagreed with this suggestion, as he felt that it gave the Director General too much discretion and could result in unnecessary delays. He favoured a situation where expungement would take place automatically if certain factors existed.

Mr Jeffery and Mr J Van der Merwe (IFP) did not fully comprehend the proposal. The latter argued that he could not envisage a situation where the expungement of a criminal record could bring the administration of justice into disrepute.

Mr Jeffery sensed that the Committee was teetering towards rejecting the provision. He added that the proposed amendments would be finalised later in the day.

When the meeting reconvened later in the day, Members again considered the proposal in Clause 3. They confirmed that they wished to reject this proposed amendment, although they would accept the remainder of the amendments proposed, namely the correction of the spelling error in the long title, the correction of a reference to Section 271B(2)(a) on page 7, and the correction, on line 42 of page 7, of a reference to “271B(2)(b) or section”.

The Bill was therefore adopted with these latter amendments as proposed by the NCOP,  but without the proposed changes to Clause 3.

The meeting was adjourned.

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