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Justice minister amends court restrictions

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Access will be denied to anyone who has been in contact with any person infected with Covid-19, or has been exposed to a person from a high-risk country.

JUSTICE and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola has amended the number of people who are allowed access into court buildings and justice service points as from March 30, for the duration of the national state of disaster. 

Only litigants, accused persons, witnesses, family members, members of the media and people who may be needed to provide support, such as those accompanying children, victims of domestic violence or sexual abuse and disabled people, will be allowed to enter courtrooms.

Any person entering a court building or justice service point is required to fill in a form, disclosing their name, contact details and travel history. 

Access will be denied to anyone who has been in contact with any person infected with Covid-19, or has been exposed to a person from a high-risk country.

If a person ticks the box to indicate that they are exhibiting any symptoms such as a fever, dry cough, tiredness, or is awaiting any coronavirus test results, he or she may be taken to a separate designated area, where head office will be informed and access will be denied. 

Persons who entered the country a week before, during or after the declaration of the national state of disaster will not be allowed to enter the court, unless they are screened and are compelled to attend to an urgent matter. 

Social distancing must be observed and the number of persons in an enclosed room must be limited, where seating is arranged at least one metre apart. 

Only urgent and essential matters will be heard during the lockdown period. 

Foreign language interpreters must be sourced from the same province where a case is being heard while audio-visual interpretation must be used in cases where locally-based foreign language interpreters are not available.

All postponements for accused persons in custody must be made via audio-visual remand centres at Correctional Services centres. 

No awaiting trial detainees held at correctional facilities will be brought to any court, unless for a first appearance, a bail application or where special arrangements have been made.  

All matters involving children detained at child and youth care centres must be remanded in absentia.

An accused person who has been charged for a petty offence must be released and warned to appear in court at a later date. 

Police officers and prosecutors were instructed where possible to fix bail and where necessary release an accused person on a warning. 

All criminal cases where accused persons are not incarcerated must be issued with summons to return to court after the lockdown. 

Legal practitioners who need to attend to urgent matters or ongoing cases in another province are required to obtain a permit from the provincial director of the relevant provincial legal council, authorising them permission to travel.

Magistrates, judges and sheriffs will be allowed to commute during the lockdown period to perform urgent and essential services, upon proof of appointment to such office.