Friday, October 29, 2010
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Johannesburg - The police and prosecutors both need training on how the criminal justice system works, head of the National Prosecuting Authority Menzi Simelane said on Thursday.
"I was reading through a police statement today and it didn't make sense, I even asked others in the office to try read it but they also couldn't make sense of it," he told a justice symposium hosted by the Helen Suzman Foundation in Johannesburg.
"It wasn't just the language used and the handwriting - it showed the huge gap in training."
Simelane was addressing three questions posed to him: What were the major constraints in the criminal justice system? How did the judiciary effect the administration of the criminal justice system? What role can civil society and the private sector play?
Simelane said there were many roleplayers in the criminal justice system and for it to function properly each needed to do their job.
He gave the example of bail.
"How come do we have a lot of people who commit serious crimes getting out on bail over and over again?" he asked.
Judges needed to take control of their court rooms as many cases were being postponed over and over again because parties involved were not ready.
"I once saw a case be postponed 56 times," he said.
This was not a one-sided view, Simelane said.
"We shouldn't only seek answers from the judiciary, we need to involve all parties."
It did not matter how many resources were put into fighting crime, what was needed was for people to stop committing crime.
"As long as people carry on committing crime we'll never win," he said.
The questions posed at the symposium had been asked over and over again, Simelane said.
"We don't seem to be making headway or progress with these issues.
"Is it because nothing is being done, or are we so desperate that we don't realise the improvements?"
If the administrative processes in the criminal justice system were carried out properly it would enhance the system.
There were a number of departments responsible for the administrative processes - the Department of Justice, the police, the Department of Social Development and the Department of Correctional Services.
The judiciary played a complementary role which enhanced those departments.
The way people reported crime was also very important, Simelane said. Facts needed to be reported exactly as they happened and the person helping or taking a statement had to have the right attitude.
Crime 'a mindset'
He said the crime rate in South Africa could not be blamed on poverty.
There were many African countries dealing with abject poverty and yet the crime was not as high as it was in South Africa.
"So why do some people commit crime and others don't?" he asked.
"It's a mindset."
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