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Closing Remarks delivered by the Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, the Hon JH Jeffery, MP, at the National Conference on the Integrated Criminal Justice System and the Review of the Criminal Procedure Act, 1977, held at the Birchwood Hotel, Boksburg, Gauteng, 29 February 2024

Programme Director,
Distinguished guests and friends,

I think that this Conference has provided an ideal platform for information sharing and for robust debates and discussions informed by various perspectives on issues pertaining to the Integrated Criminal Justice System and on the findings and proposals on the Review of the Criminal Procedure Act.

I want to, once again, thank everyone for their extremely valuable inputs and their participation in the discussions and for making this Conference a success.

I would argue that flowing from the discussions and debates certain issues have crystalized – and these are the key aspects which we would need to focus on as we move forward with this process.

Firstly, what came through strongly is the importance of victims’ rights and the need for victims’ support. I have also noted the discussions from yesterday afternoon in respect of the Victims Charter and the issue of a separate standalone piece of legislation for victims. 

Issues were raised regarding the services given to inmates in correctional facilities which are essentially services that human beings in the custody of the state should get as well as opportunities to rehabilitate them versus the services given to victims of crime.  It should not be “either/or” but, I believe, the focus should be on more rights to victims.

Another important aspect that came up is that of an “integrated” system and the fact that something may well seem “integrated” on paper, but not always necessarily so integrated in practice.

In other words, we should guard against working in silos. If the criminal justice system is to be effective, the seamless and practical integration of all role-players and stakeholders is vital.

We often speak of the criminal justice system as a chain and what this Conference has again highlighted is the fact that if there is one single link of that chain which is missing or weak, it has a negative impact on the entire system.

Equally important is the need to ensure that all role-players and stakeholders are included and consulted when proposals or recommendations are made.

I was particularly struck, once again, by the fact that a good criminal justice system is not enough to solve crime.

We need a “whole of society” approach. We need everyone to come on board.

This is also something that the Report of the Expert Panel on the July 2021 Civil Unrest highlights when it speaks of the need for innovative thinking, for collaborative and consultative functioning of the criminal justice system and for state and/or private partnerships with civil society, the business sector, private institutions, and communities.

I was also struck by the example Gareth Newham gave of the strategy that was followed in Gauteng in 2009 which focused on robberies and how successful that strategy was.

This shows us that we do not need to reinvent the wheel. We also do not always have to look to other countries or other jurisdictions for the answers. Sometimes we already have the answer or the strategy ourselves.

What is more needed is the ability to critically look at strategies which have worked in the past, to take those elements that work and incorporate that into our current or future strategies.

That is how we can build best practice models which are tailormade for our own unique circumstances.

For example, on the issue of bail, we already have the Protocol on the procedure to be followed in applying Section 63A of the Criminal Procedure Act - the Bail Protocol – as well as the JCPS Protocol on the procedure to be followed in applying Section 49G of the Correctional Services Act – which is the Protocol on maximum incarceration periods of remand detainees.

We have these Protocols already, since 2009 in fact, so we don’t need to come up with new ones. Are these being implemented?

Speaking of Gareth Newham’s presentation, it was also interesting to see his statistics regarding the massive drop in the murder rate in South Africa from 1993 to 2012. 

There have been debates here regarding whether accused persons have too many rights.  It is interesting that this massive drop took place when South Africa moved to constitutional supremacy and rights of accused persons were not there before.   It would therefore appear that giving accused persons basic rights did not cause any increase in crime.

Another crucial aspect is that of modernisation and technology.

By making better use of technology or by moving services online we will dramatically improve service delivery and be able to minimize operational risks such as, for example, data or records or dockets going missing.

Coupled with the enhanced use of technology is the need to be open to innovation and change.

Another striking aspect of the discussions was the importance of building public trust – not only in the police, but also in the courts, in Legal Aid practitioners, in Judges and Magistrates, in correctional services and also for us, as the political principals who need to take political responsibility for justice and crime prevention. On our collective shoulders rests a great responsibility.

The way laws are made or implemented often affects public trust.  To use one area of the proposed CPA review - being the issue around bail - as an example.

Bail is a much contested and much debated aspect of the criminal justice system.

When we do outreach or community events, often the biggest source of frustration and anger we see, is from communities who say that the police will arrest someone, only for that person to be out on bail and back in the community a few days later.  

Sometimes there are genuine and valid concerns, but very often the problem is that members of the community feel that the accused is guilty and therefore should be in jail - whereas that is not the purpose of bail.

The situation is that refusing bail is not a punishment, as the person hasn’t been found guilty yet and the question as to whether or not a person gets bail depends on whether or not the court believes they will come back to stand trial and that they will not interfere with witnesses.

We need to have a serious re-think about bail, whilst also bearing in mind human rights implications and the issue of overcrowding in correctional centres.

Whatever decision is taken in new legislation, there must be thorough stakeholder consultation and public participation around this issue.

As mentioned on Tuesday, the Criminal Procedure Act was developed and has its foundations in the apartheid era.

Although the Act was amended on numerous occasions to bring it in line with the Constitution, these amendments retained the essential framework of the Criminal Procedure Act, without overhauling it to infuse a culture of human rights and human dignity ushered in by our Constitution.

The review of the Criminal Procedure Act raises a number of issues, such as delays in criminal trials, the secondary victimisation of victims of crime and inadequate mechanisms to mediate criminal charges.

If we do not address these issues properly, people will lose confidence in the criminal justice system.

This Conference has provided us with an opportunity to engage on these matters.  

I would urge that we do not lose the momentum which this Conference has created.

As we take the process forward, it is important to hear the views of as many persons, communities and institutions as possible.

We need to go back to our institutions, to our sectors, to our constituencies and hear their views on the draft discussion paper so that we can develop the best possible Bill. 

In this regard, persons with inputs that they would like to make should please submit them in writing to the SALRC or the Team.  There will also be focus-group discussions and communications with key role-players.

The successful review of the CPA will depend on solid public engagement processes.

Finally, we need to take forward the proposed recommendations made here so that we can address the identified gaps and challenges in achieving an efficient, modern, fair and transformed integrated criminal justice system.

Our communities deserve to feel safe and be safe.

I thank you.