18 Dec 2013 14:40pm
WINDHOEK, 18 DEC (NAMPA) - There is an urgent need for an improvement in the administration of justice in lower courts, and this can be done by increasing the number of judicial officers.
This was the view of Swapo-Party Regional Councillor for the Okatana Constituency Rosalia Shilenga on Wednesday during discussions on the Magistrates Amendment Bill in the National Council (NC).
The NC has been sitting since Monday, and will end this years sittings on Friday this week.
Other Bills which were referred to it by the National Assembly (NA) and being discussed during this period are the High Court Amendment Bill; Communal Land Reform Amendment Bill; and the Agricultural (Commercial) Land Amendment Bill.
The Magistrates Amendment Bill will provide for the recognition of an association of magistrates, and specify qualifications for appointment as members of the Magistrates Commission.
The Bill will also allow the Minister of Justice to withdraw members of the Magistrates Commission, create temporary posts and recognise qualifications in law by notice in the Government Gazette.
Under the Magistrates Amendment Bill, the presiding officer at a disciplinary investigation will be empowered to issue warrants of arrest.
Increasing the number of judicial officers could lead to shortening the trial durations, reducing the costs of trials as well as reducing the duration of pre-trial detention, she argued.
Shilenga thus welcomed the proviso given in the Amendment Bill that each Magistrates Court shall have an assistant magistrate to assist in the absence of the magistrate.
This, she said, will contribute to easing the postponement of cases, granting of unopposed bail, withdrawing of cases upon the request of the prosecution as well as reducing the huge backlog of criminal cases.
In my opinion, it would be a great idea if courts reduced the length of prosecution because this is not only time-consuming, but also quite costly, she stated.
The length of prosecution is particularly costly to the accused, Shilenga explained, as this person has to pay huge amounts of money which they sometimes cannot afford - to settle the accounts of defence lawyers in terms of accommodation, transportation and food.
Lawyers have to be flown in from different places - if say the client he/she represents lives in a different region - and this costs a lot of money, the Okatana Constituency regional councillor stressed.
Shilenga indicated that she thus believes having enough magistrates will reduce the number of cases being postponed, and will at the same time speed up the trial processes, contributing to having an effective administration of justice as well as an effective remedy for both the accused persons and the complainants.