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20 000 dockets backlog at lower courts

by Rodney Pienaar

The Office of the Judiciary is experiencing a backlog of 20 263 criminal cases at the lower courts that were due to be finalised in December last year. 

According to performance of the magistracy statistical data on criminal cases of lower courts about 6 605 new cases were registered from October to December while 19 142 old cases were brought forward without being finalised.

Statistics also indicate that from July to September last year, 7 299 criminal cases were finalised. 

Speaking at the official opening of the legal year Chief Justice Peter Shivute said that these statistics are worrisome.

“This is of great concern to me because at this rate we are building up a backlog of cases in the magistrate’s courts. The inadequacy of court rooms, the malfunctioning and not enough recording equipment and the shortage of both judicial officers and courts support staff have been cited by the magistracy as the reason for the less than satisfactory statistics,” he stated.  

He further said that as far as infrastructure goes, the office of the judiciary has begun to acquire and deploy ready-to-use structures to serve as court rooms. This will be done in collaboration with the justice ministry which in terms of the Judiciary Act 2015 is responsible for capital projects for the office of the judiciary. 

Shivute also said that he is pleased to report that reforms initiated at high court continued to be of great value in the early finalisation of cases and reducing litigation costs.

“The success rate of matters referred to mediation improved from 60.4% in 2016 to 68 % in 2017. As we all are aware, the more serious criminal cases are heard in the high court. Fewer new criminal cases were finalised last year compared to the previous year. This is a worrying trend which is attributable in the main defense lawyers being overbooked,” he said. 

He added that the office of the judge president has initiated consultations with the legal aid directorate and the law society of Namibia to address all the problems in the interest of administration of justice.