13/11/2013 – ACDP welcomes re-establishment of special courts

ACDP Parliament
Speech on the Judicial Matters Second Amendment Bill
Steve Swart, ACDP MP

ACDP welcomes re-establishment of special courts

“Speaker/ Chairperson,

The Judicial Matters Amendment Bill provides the legislative framework for the re-establishment of the specially designated Sexual Offences Courts. These courts were first introduced as a pilot project in Wynberg to improve the conviction rates for sexual offences cases and proved to be a great success. These Sexual Offences Courts have since dealt with mixed court rolls, although giving priority to sexual offences cases. The demise of the Sexual Offences Courts was widely criticised due to the negative impact it had on conviction rates for sexual offences. One of the reasons given was the resistance from key stake holders such as magistrates. This has now been addressed. The ACDP thus welcomes and supports this Bill, an initiative of the Justice Portfolio Committee.

While we welcome this Bill, for it to make a real difference, there must be a departmental plan that sets out targets for the rolling out of such courts with time frames. While we also appreciate the department’s budgetary constraints, there must be a sufficient budget for extending these special courts country-wide.  It is a matter of concern that these Special Offences Courts will only be designated once the necessary funding has been acquired for the necessary infrastructure and the multi-disciplinary services for victims. Some of the courts that were previously established as Sexual Offences Courts have, however, some infrastructure in place, but clearly this is not enough and additional funds will be necessary.

The ACDP is also concerned that this Bill has been met with some skeptism from civil society. We as MPs need to ensure as part of our oversight function that these courts are not only set up, but that they also actually provide a better quality of service for victims of sexual offences than ordinary courts.

We cannot fail them!

I thank you”

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