Windhoek — Even though the lower courts managed to have a finalization rate of 56 percent as it completed 24,918 out of 44,857 cases last year, the backlog of criminal cases remains a huge challenge.
Challenges such as insufficient number of courtrooms, an unresponsive case management system and shortage of digital court recording equipment are the reasons behind the backlog of criminal cases in the lower courts, according to chief public relations officer in the Office of the Judiciary, Yvette Hasselmann.
Other constraining factors include inhibitive police investigations and staff shortage in terms of judicial officers, prosecutors and administrative support personnel.
"The backlog of cases within the magistracy remains a great concern and a high priority on the agenda of the magistracy for 2018," said Hasselmann.
The judiciary has commenced with consultations with various stakeholders and a project plan has been developed to ensure there is a reviving of an effort to address the backlog of cases.
In order to tackle the issue, Hasselmann said, several measures will be put in place this year to get rid of the backlog. Such measures include the facilitation of magistrates' courts on a regular basis by conducting monthly meetings between magistrates, prosecutors, legal aid and the police, and construction of additional prefabricated courtrooms.
The reintroduction of reception courts at major magistrate's court centres so that such courts operate after hours and on Sundays in order to reduce and possible eliminate the backlog, is also under consideration, as well as the design of proper management of court rolls through magistrates requiring parties to appear before the court to respect the schedule.
Other areas that will be of focus will be the granting of bail to repeat offenders, long delays between arrest and first-time appearances, delays in the appointment of legal aid counsels and long periods of criminal trials.
"A task team will spearhead the reforms aimed at addressing and fast-tracking the much-needed changes for 2018," Hasselmann said.