Towards a safe SA

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Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development Jeff Radebe says the mandate of the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security (JCPS) cluster is to ensure that “all people in South Africa are and feel safe” in their homes, places of work and businesses whilst they carry on with their lives.”

Addressing journalists at an annual activities briefing, Radebe said the cluster “seeks to coordinate the implementation of programmes of constituent departments through an integrated approach in a manner that creates synergy for the best outputs.”

He added that departments in the cluster, which includes the police and prisons as well as the military and the courts, will in the coming year:

  • Addressing the overall levels of crime

  • Improving effectiveness and ensuring integration of the CJS

  • Combat corruption within the CJS cluster to enhance its effectiveness and its ability to serve as deterrent against crime

  • Manage perception of crime among the population

  • Combating of cyber crime

  • Effectiveness and integration of border management

  • Secure the identity and status of citizens.

All these actions are underscored by a consolidated public order and safety budget of R85.6 billion, comprising R56.6 billion to police services, R16.3 billion for prisons, and R12.9 billion for law courts. The Department of Home Affairs has a budgetary allocation of R5.719 billion for the 2010/11 financial year to carry out its programmes.

The minister added building a society in which all people are, and feel safe, will require reducing levels of overall, contact and “trio crimes” (murder, rape and assault with the intent of inflicting grievous bodily harm). He added that the state’s intelligence capacity will be called on to support crime prevention and combating activities. “Improved police visibility will act as deterrence in reducing crime. Focus will be given to identifying hot spot areas and in integrating JCPS interventions in these areas,” he said.

Proliferation of fire arms in circulation and control over fire arms will also be a specific focus area, Radebe continued. “Forensic services and fingerprinting and coordinating of intelligence gathering will be utilised in dealing with crime. In this regard the police, prosecutors, legal aid and the courts will increase their capacity to improve the efficiency of the criminal justice system.

“Bail management will be strengthened as well as Section 49 of the Criminal Procedure Act, 1977.” The latter section deals with the entitlement of a police officer to shoot at suspects, and was controversially amended in 1998 to severely restrict the police’s freedom of action. Radebe’s department now wants to amend the change that only came into effect in 2003, because of the contention, to take into account two court rulings, namely that of the Constitutional Court in Ex parte: The Minister of Safety and Security and Others: In re the State v Walters and Another (2002(2) SACR 105 (CC) and the Supreme Court of Appeal case of Govender v Minister of Safety and Security 2001 (4) SA 273 (SCA),according to a memorandum attached to the Bill tabled in Parliament last week.

Crime awareness

Radebe also said the cluster will embark on an “anti-crime awareness programme and the use of community safety forums to foster partnerships with the community and deter crime in general. In particular, the incidents of domestic violence and crimes against women and children will be prioritised by strengthening awareness programmes in communities. The regulations governing the licensing of trading liquor places shall be tightened to reduce substance abuse which is a serious contributing factor to the violent nature of crime like contact crimes, trio crimes.”

In reducing serious and violent crime, the cluster will further improve quality of social crime prevention programmes through the social crime prevention strategy; intensify national awareness campaign against substance abuse and finalise regulations for the substance abuse legislation. “We will also improve quality of life in families through the implementation of family preservation programmes. The cluster will promote the development of a one stop centre model and establish three one stop centres for victims of crime and violence.

“The Sexual Offences and Community Affairs unit will strengthen its programme and focus on training and policy development in these areas: domestic violence, sexual offences, child justice, children in conflict with the law and human trafficking. Additional Thuthuzela Care Centres (TCCs) will be established to the existing 17 institutions. Five more TCC’s will be established during the 2010-2011 financial year.

“The capacity of the detective services and forensic science laboratories will be increased to improve the detection rate of crimes, the finalisation of court ready cases leading to efficiency in the courts and a reduction in case cycle times, humane incarceration, effective correctional supervision and rehabilitation interventions of offenders.

“The case backlog reduction project, aimed at reducing the backlog cases in the regional courts, is continuing and in total 18 271 cases have been finalised and removed from the regional court rolls between November 2006 till the end of December 2009. There are currently 45 regional backlog courts countrywide. During this year of action, the project will be rolled out to more regional courts as well as a number of district courts in all provinces.”

Other focus areas that are receiving attention include:

  • Strategic operational alignment of all stakeholders

  • Improved CJS co-ordination and management, including capacity and performance management, at all levels

  • Improved effectiveness and operational efficiencies in all component parts of the CJS

  • More effective trials through protocols dealing with trial readiness of cases and the limiting of disputes as well as case flow management initiatives

  • Legislative interventions such as the Forensics Bill dealing with fingerprint and DNA aspects

  • The use of information technology (IT) systems to provide integrated management information to the cluster departments and the JCPS overall

  • Technology driven modernisation initiatives including roll out of video remands to various courts and correctional facilities.

In support of efforts to improve the effectiveness of the CJS the departments will:

  • Implement the Child Justice Act during 2010

  • Consider responsive secure care models for children in conflict with the law

  • Develop and implement a regulatory framework for restorative justice and diversion programmes to ensure quality of services in this regard

  • Perform a victim survey

  • Develop and implement a register/database for victims of crime and violence

  • Improve the quality of victim support services

  • Continue with the protection of witnesses

Corruption in cluster & crime perception management

Radebe added government will step up anti corruption measures and “ensure that offenders are brought to book. Corruption relating to dockets being lost, bail payments, identity documentation, court cases and the illegal release of detainees will be fought through the strengthening of internal risk management. Incidents of corruption and organised crime within the cluster will continue to be targeted through various interventions including activities of the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) and Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU).

“Perceived levels of crime directly inform citizens’ sense of well-being and safety. A community safety forum strategy will be finalised by the Secretariat of Police during 2010 and will contribute to a greater understanding of the role and responsibility of the public in crime combating, building partnerships with civil society and corrections as a societal responsibility (which includes the successful reintegration of offenders in the community). Successes by the police in dealing with crime and the reduction of various crime forms and effective prosecution of crimes as well as our correctional facilities that are overflowing with offenders that have been brought to book will continue to be communicated during 2010,” he added.

Regarding the effectiveness and integration of border management, Radebe said this was also a key initiative and would see the state establish a border management agency during the course of the year. “This agency will improve the security of our borders and ports of entry and promote cooperation of security agencies in the region and meanwhile boosting the economic trade relations. It shall also bring about improved management of population registers in Southern Africa.”

He also noted that the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) will from April 1 take over responsibility for borderline security and commence with the deployment of four companies on the South African side of Zimbabwe and Mozambique borders.

Secure the identity and status of citizens

 

“We will act to ensure that our citizens are not threatened by identity theft and the fraudulent acquisition of identity by syndicates aided by corrupt officials and members of the public,” Radebe said. The cluster will therefore:

  • Combat identity theft

  • Improve the integrity of South African travel documents and identity documents

  • Prioritise joint operations aimed at identity theft offenders

  • Through the Department of Home Affairs provide police and the National Prosecuting Authority with evidence that can be used in court to indicate aggravating circumstances for purpose of sentencing

  • Consider a review of legislation to combat identity theft.

Turning to “cyber crime”, Radebe said the development of an integrated and technology based approach to combating cyber crime, including increased capabilities of the cluster to address the growing phenomenon of this crime “will receive priority attention during 2010.” A draft cyber crime policy was gazetted on February 19 inviting public comments and the revised integrated document shall be finalised during 2010.

Looking at the prison system, Radebe said a newly appointed ministerial task team in the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) will, over the next six months conduct an audit of certain categories of offenders with the overall objective of alleviating overcrowding. “This includes looking into backlogs in offender reclassification as well as backlogs in the hearing of parole applications by Parole Boards. Our officials, especially centre heads ensure effective use of tools immediately available to the department in the form of bail protocol to allow for the controlled release of Awaiting Trial Detainees (ATD’s) with bail of up to R1000 and below. Furthermore, the department will this year establish the remand detention branch. This is in line with Cabinet decision that the DCS will be responsible for matters relating to ATD’s.



“The successful implementation of this is also dependent on whether ATDs furnish the department with accurate addresses which can be monitored and adhere to court appearance dates without the risk of absconding,” Radebe said. Expediting the conversion of custodial sentences to correctional supervision for sentences of up to 23 months and below, the feasibility of this is dependent on accurate addresses offered by offenders to the department for the community corrections branch to be able to monitor parolees properly, he added.