Beefing up the criminal justice system

22 October 2008

Reducing the levels of crime and enhancing citizen safety was one of the five main priorities of this year’s medium term budget policy statement, unveiled by Finance Minister Trevor Manuel in Cape Town this week.

Addressing members of Parliament in Cape Town, Manuel said the government would intensify the fight against crime through “strengthening the criminal justice sector, especially detective and investigative services, and by improving court processes”.

The Department of Safety and Security’s budget increases significantly over the medium term, enabling an increase in the number of police officers to more than 200 000 by 2011, up from some 131 000 in 1997/8.

Manuel pointed out that while general crime levels have been on a downward trend since 2003, with the all-crimes rate falling by 18.2%, reducing crime – particularly violent crime – remained a pressing challenge.

Partnership with communities, business

He said this was mainly because the criminal justice system had experienced coordination failures, and suffered from poor management and ineffective systems.

“In partnership with communities and business, government aims to restructure the criminal justice process and establish a more modern, efficient and integrated system,” he told Parliament.

“Funding priorities include the rollout of the integrated electronic docket management system, a case management system, upgrading of network and associated infrastructure in all police stations and national fingerprint identification.”

He said the government would prioritise an increase in the number of policing personnel who specialise in crime prevention, detective work, crime intelligence and forensics.

In addition, provision for additional expenditure will be made to cover the cost of increased operations during next year’s general elections.

Correctional services

Manuel added that the government was also placing focus on reducing the number of detainees facing trial, while also increasing the capacity of the country’s correctional facilities.

“Six new prisons that are more focused on rehabilitating offenders before release are expected to be completed over the next three years,” he said.

Securing borders

Manuel said that the government was also taking steps to strengthen security at South Africa’s borders and ports of entry, increasing patrol capacity and upgrading technology to prevent organised cross-border crime.

Such efforts were also aligned with the country’s preparations to host the 2010 Fifa World Cup, he said.

The South African Revenue Service will establish a national centre to coordinate all border activities, including emergency response and integrated intelligence, while customs will monitor imports, exports, transit, excise and travellers across the region.

“The Department of Home Affairs will install a passenger information system and establish a port control unit,” Manuel said. “The passenger system will allow for new pre- and post-departure clearance processes and act as an early warning system.”

SAinfo reporter

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