Justice review stumbles along

Audra Mahlong
By Audra Mahlong, senior journalist
Johannesburg, 05 Mar 2010

The Department of Justice will focus on the implementation of IT solutions for the Integrated Justice System (IJS) programme, but notes it is still struggling to modernise its IT systems.

The IJS was approved in 2002, with the aim of increasing the efficiency of the criminal justice process. The system highlighted the use of ICT to increase the probability of successful investigation, prosecution, punishment for priority crimes and ultimately rehabilitation of offenders.

“Right now, we already have a correctional facility where prisoners no longer physically go to court, but they do video conferencing in order to issue remands. So these are some of the things that are being done,” says justice and constitutional development minister Jeff Radebe.

The initiative uses technology systems to integrate the work of the South African Police Service, National Prosecuting Authority, Department of Justice and facilities of the Department of Correctional Services.

The project will also establish an integrated and seamless National Criminal Justice System Information System, modernising IT infrastructure and a national database.

Radebe notes that eventually, the project will seamlessly integrate the various departments and facilitate more informed strategies, plans and decision-making.

Time to act

Radebe noted, however, that while the pace of each department would differ, they would all now focus on the widespread implementation of systems.

“We will have an opportunity in the future to give more details on the implementation of this criminal justice review, but I can indicate to you it is action time - no policy, no research,” he says.

Radebe noted the outstanding Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Amendment Bill, which is still under debate in Parliament, will be passed soon.

He added that the implementation of the Bill was still key, as it would the biggest initiative to be incorporated into the IJS programme.

While the Bill was approved by Cabinet, in December 2008, and introduced into Parliament, in January 2009, it had been subject to delays. The Bill, which deals with DNA, fingerprinting and biometric issues and the sharing of personal information across departments, has been delayed as the police source funding and deal with capacity issues.

“The integration of the work of the police, of the National Prosecuting Authority and so on, is being integrated to ensure the whole value chain of an offence, from beginning to end, is seen in an integrated form,” says Radebe.