Criminal justice revamp ‘under way’

10 February 2009

The government is determined to deal with crime in South Africa through the creation of a modern, efficient and integrated criminal justice system.

Speaking during a parliamentary debate on the President’s state of the nation address in Cape Town on Monday, Safety and Security Minister Nathi Mthethwa said all South Africans shared President Kgalema Motlanthe’s concern about the crime levels in the country.

Mthethwa said the government was reviewing the performance of South Africa’s criminal justice system along the whole value chain, including the functioning of the police, the judiciary and correctional services, with the aim of improving integration and coordination.

The team conducting the review had already identified an urgent need to improve the collection, storage and use of fingerprinting and DNA evidence in South Africa.

The Department of Justice had subsequently put forward amendments to the Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Bill that would give police investigators access to the extensive databases of other state departments, and expand their power to take and retain fingerprints and other biometric material.

Special attention, Mthethwa said, was also being given to the fight against serious and violent crime, organised crime and criminal syndicate activity.

The minister said the government would act speedily to establish the Directorate of Priority Crime Investigation, which will be replacing the Directorate of Special Operations, popularly known as the Scorpions. He added that the new unit would takes on board the positive aspects of the Scorpions while shedding the old unit’s weaknesses.

Mthethwa said the government had embarked on a nationwide campaign to increase the capacity of the South African Police Service (SAPS) through recruitment, rigorous training and better remuneration.

“Steps are being taken to better equip and increase the capacity of detective services, forensics, prosecution and judicial services … [T]raining is earmarked to commence in earnest this year.”

Source: BuaNews