New proposal on court competences crucial

THE draft legislation that will see some of the capital offences tried at first instance in lower court is welcome news.

THE draft legislation that will see some of the capital offences tried at first instance in lower court is welcome news.

The current law on competence and jurisdiction of courts says that all suspects of capital offences are tried on first instance at the High Court, which has created backlogs of cases, given that there are only five High Courts across the country.

These High Courts - one per Province - are simply not enough to adjudicate, all these cases as they happen in various parts of the country.

Subsequently, appeals that are supposed to be filed at the Supreme Court which is only one, and with a single case to be heard by a panel of three judges has led to the cases to accumulate to over 5,000.

With the current workforce of fourteen judges at the Supreme Court, clearing this backlog alone may take years, without putting into account the fact that the 14 also include the Chief Justice and the Deputy, who also have other administrative duties to perform.

Now that the judiciary has been strengthened at different levels, courtesy of the reforms that have been underway for the past decade, there is no doubt that the judges at the Intermediate Courts, for example, can equitably deliver justice, even on the most serious of crimes.

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