Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola says his department has commenced with the process of establishing 100 Sexual Offences courts countrywide.
JUSTICE and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola says his department has commenced with the process of establishing 100 Sexual Offences courts countrywide.
Lamola said this in response to parliamentary questions from ANC MP Wilma Newhoudt-Druchen, who asked how far along the process was of dedicating 100 Sexual Offences courts in order to improve adjudication in cases of sexual offences.
In May, the minister announced that the department would continue to roll out Sexual Offences courts as part of the fight against gender-based violence and femicide.
“In the current financial year, a total of 100 Sexual Offences courts will be dedicated in terms of Section 55A of the Sexual Offences Act to improve the adjudication of sexual offences matters,” he said when delivering his budget speech in Parliament.
In terms of the law, the minister is required to designate any division of the high court or any magistrate’s court where the sexual offences courts should be established in consultation with the Chief Justice and the National Director of Public Prosecutions.
In his response, Lamola said the plan was to commence with the establishment of Sexual Offences courts at regional divisions where the need for them was dire.
He also said he had commenced with the designation of the nine regional courts established for each of the nine regional divisions.
“The minister has also approved the national guidelines for the establishment of Sexual Offences courts. These guidelines were developed with the participation of the judiciary and civil society organisations, among others.”
Lamola added that he had further consulted with Acting Chief Justice Raymond Zondo and the National Director of Public Prosecutions, Shamila Batohi, as required by the law.
Zondo is required to consult with the relevant justice president, who must also consult with the relevant regional court president.
“With this multi-stakeholder consultation process, it is therefore anticipated that the designation process may be finalised in the last quarter of this financial year,” Lamola said.
He said he was now waiting for the letter of concurrence for designation of the Sexual Offences courts from Zondo.
“I have been advised that department has already resourced 40 of the 100 courts in line with the regulations relating to Sexual Offences courts, which encapsulate the catalogue of victim support services intended to eradicate secondary victimisation from the court system.
“I might, at this point, also indicate this service catalogue has been improved further to offer special services for persons with disabilities and older persons, which include ad hoc sign language interpretation services, a safe place at the court for the guide dog, disability-accessible information material, as well as court accompaniment services volunteered by court supporters drawn from civil society organisations.”
However, Lamola said the law did not preclude any court from dealing with sexual offences matters on the basis that it was not an established Sexual Offences court.
He said the department remained committed to the urgent introduction of the new breed of Sexual Offences courts, particularly in previously disadvantaged communities where sex crimes were reportedly at a high peak.
“The recent announcement made by the minister of police of the steep rise of reported sex crimes is indeed appalling and perturbing. It is for this reason that the department has ensured service continuity by the Ministerial Committee on the Adjudication of Sexual Offences Matters courts while the process of the designation of the nine regional courts is undertaken,” Lamola said.
– Political Bureau