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Parliament committee slams justice department over state of Palm Ridge court

Magistrates and prosecutors say unavailability of working recording machines presents big challenge

28 January 2022 - 16:08
The portfolio committee on justice and constitutional development is not happy about unserviced recording machines at the Palm Ridge magistrate's court. Stock photo.
The portfolio committee on justice and constitutional development is not happy about unserviced recording machines at the Palm Ridge magistrate's court. Stock photo.
Image: 123RF/STOCKSTUDIO44

It is unacceptable that the justice department has allowed contracts for the maintenance and servicing of court recording transcription machines and closed-circuit TVs (CCTVs) to expire, forcing courts to postpone cases.

Bulelani Magwanishe, chairperson of parliament’s portfolio committee on justice and correctional services, made this remark during an oversight visit to the Palm Ridge magistrate’s court in Gauteng on Thursday.

The committee heard from magistrates and prosecutors that the unavailability of working recording machines presented a big challenge.

They said this could lead to a crisis in cases where matters are taken on review or appeal, and court recordings are required.

The committee also heard that without CCTV, child rape cases cannot be heard, as this means children cannot testify, forcing cases to be postponed.

The committee said because of these challenges, and the Covid-19 pandemic, the court has more than 400 matters that are older than six months.

Magwanishe said it was unacceptable that court operations were disrupted by such a simple matter.

“We are very worried about the issue of the court recording machines. How did it happen that a contract [for servicing and maintenance] came to an end with no plans in place?”

The committee discovered structural defects in the court building, including cracks on walls, leaking roofs and broken lifts.

It learnt that the court also has a serious shortage of administration staff and, in some instances, court interpreters must double as clerks.

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