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Justice minister visits NC courts


One of the challenges noted was that some communities still have to travel long distances to access judicial services.

The Minister of Justice, Advocate Michael Masutha. Picture: Soraya Crowie

A SHORTAGE of staff and the geographical composition of the Northern Cape are some of the challenges which hamper the Department of Justice in rendering services to some communities in the Province.

This was highlighted by the Minister of Justice, Michael Masutha, after he visited and assessed the functioning of the Kimberley and Galeshewe Sexual Offences courts on Friday.

Masutha said that the two courts are among 75 Sexual Offences courts around the country that aim to ensure a victim-centred approach to prosecution that minimises secondary victimisation of complainants.

He said that one of the challenges noted was that some communities still have to travel long distances to access judicial services.

“Geographically the Northern Cape is dispersed when it comes to settlement. It does not matter how many facilities are in various areas, there are still people who have to travel long distances to access these services. The state also has to send officials to these areas in order to render these services and the travelling costs to reach the communities also have to be carried by the state.”

Masutha said that another challenge is that some services cannot be rendered due to a shortage of staff.

“Another challenge is that we have facilities that are not in use due to a shortage of Legal Aid and prosecution staff. We have seen an influx of cases being referred from Galeshewe to the Kimberley court due to the problem.

“These cases should have been handled at theGaleshewe court and not concluded at theKimberley court. We will, in the next week, consult with both Legal Aid and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) on how we can address the matter. We need the Galeshewe court to be fully functional in order to bring relief to the Kimberley court.”

He said that the reaction period for sexual offences also needs to be urgently addressed in order to secure successful prosecutions.

“We have got a challenge with the Thuthuzela centres in some areas, as it came to our attention that some centres are only open for certain hours. We know that when it comes to cases of sexual violence, the window period of 72 hours is vital.

“We are able to prevent unwanted pregnancies, take swabs to get successful convictions and also prevent sexual transmitted diseases within those 72 hours.

“However, we have heard of some centres that are only operating during certain hours and incidents may occur after the closure of these centres.

“If a person is sexually assaulted on a Friday and is only seen on a Monday, where does that leave the window period?

“The availability of doctors and nurses to collect evidence from the centres is also a challenge which requires urgent attention.”

Masutha urged victims of sexual assault to report the matter urgently.

“We know that sexual offences are an invasion of the survivor’s privacy. We, however, urge survivors not to take their time when reporting these cases in order to have a successful prosecution. Each person who is found guilty of such an offence must be brought to book.”