During the financial year 2021/22 Namibia recorded a reduction in criminal appeals. This is contained in the office of the judiciary annual report for the 2021/22.
There was a 65% reduction in criminal appeals from last year, states the report.
Criminal petitions filed in 2021 recorded a reduction of 40%, whilst the number of civil petitions increased by 50% and civil appeals by a percentage point.
During the period under review, the Supreme Court in 2021 filed petitionsrepresenting a 17% reduction from the previous year, while the total number of appeals registered decreasedby 6% in 2021 compared tothe previous year.
At the same time, five reviews were registered with the court. Of those, three were disposed of by the court and the remaining two were set down for hearing during the March–April 2022 court session.
The annual report says that a total number of 38 matters were enrolled from March to November 2020, one of which was withdrawn and 37 heard by the court.
“Out of the 37 matters heard, 32 judgments were delivered, four representing 86.5 percent and five were reserved for judgments. Out of the five reserved judgments, four were delivered during the period 2021 and one was deferred to 2022,” report said.
In 2021, a total number of 57 matters were enrolled from March to November, of which three were withdrawn and 54 heard by the court. Fourty-three judgments were delivered, representing 79.6% and 11 were deferred to 2022/23.
In 2021, the Supreme Court enrolled 19 more cases compared to the previous year, according to the report.
“On average, 17 to 19 cases are set down for hearing per court session.”
On applications made by non-resident legal practitioners seeking authorisation to appear in courts of Namibia, there was a 51% reduction of applications granted to non-resident lawyers from the previous year.
The report further said the Supreme Court remained resilient and committed to ensuring that litigants and citizens have access to court and its services under the difficult conditions presented by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The court continued to hear matters by means of remote hearings, in certain circumstances such as where a non-resident lawyer is unable to appear in person before the court,” the report said.
Chief justice Peter Shivute said it is fundamental for the judiciary to remain committed to these key principles of integrity, independence and impartiality.
He said that the performance of the Supreme Court remained unaffected during Covid-19 peak times as the court essentially did business without the presence of witnesses.
“The apex court encouraged litigants and their legal practitioners to participate in virtual hearings when circumstances required to avoid the postponement of cases. This arrangement worked well as not a single appeal was postponed,” he said.
Shivute said one of the lessons the judiciary has learned is that delivering access to justice in a global pandemic is a challenge that requires courts to think out of the box and remain resilient.
“Towards that end, the judiciary reacted swiftly to the pandemic and implemented new processes, protocols and technologies to curb the spread of the virus while at the same time delivering access to justice to the citizens,” he added.
The Chief Justice said that the judiciary’s IT division greatly contributed to its adaptation during the pandemic by facilitating online meetings and virtual court proceedings.
He also urged the judiciary staff to continue to combine efforts to provide world-class service to the citizens.