Retired magistrates and prosecutors roped in to expedite unrest cases

17 July 2021 - 14:00
Justice minister Ronald Lamola has announced that retired magistrates and prosecutors will be brought back to deal with cases of looting and public violence.
Justice minister Ronald Lamola has announced that retired magistrates and prosecutors will be brought back to deal with cases of looting and public violence.
Image: Alaister Russell/The Sunday Times

Justice minister Ronald Lamola has gazetted new “court directions” to fast-track looting and public unrest cases.

In a statement on Saturday, Lamola said the directions will “provide for special measures for the processing of cases and accused persons through the magistrates' courts during adjusted alert 4 regulations”. He said the directions also provide for the use of technology in the courtrooms.

“The directions provide for, among other things, the postponement of cases through audiovisual links and the compilation of a priority roll at each court which will enable the courts to prioritise the hearing of priority cases which include gender-based violence and sexual offences, corruption cases, cases involving children and contravention of Covid-19 regulations,” said Lamola.

“It is important to highlight that the directions also include special measures that will apply in respect of cases that arise from public violence, public disorder and looting which were witnessed in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng and have spread to other parts of the country.”

Lamola said the “unrest cases” will be expedited.

“These measures include the compilation of a separate roll and designation of courts to ensure speedy trial of these cases, where it is expedient and necessary,” said Lamola.

“Where necessary, additional dedicated staff including from a pool of experienced retired magistrates and prosecutors, will be called upon in order to fast-track these cases where hundreds of arrests have already been effected.”

Lamola said the directions provide for the cases to be transferred when necessary for “safety and practical reasons”.

“The directions will enable our courts and the justice system to respond effectively and appropriately to deal with cases flowing from the recent unrest and public violence,” he said. “We are ensuring that nothing disrupts the processing of these matters and that the public can have trust in our criminal justice system.”

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