Technology Redesign for SA’s Criminal Justice System

The Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Development (DJCD) plans to invest a large part of its 2022/2023 budget in the integrated justice system.

This will see the merging of several IT systems from five government entities, with the aim of strengthening the criminal justice system.

So says DJCD Minister Ronald Lamola, presenting his ministry’s 2022/2023 budget vote during a virtual plenary session of the National Assembly this week.

The minister outlined the DJCD’s budget allocation plans for the 2022/23 financial year, which stands at R22.4 billion – an increase of around R515 million from the previous year, he said. he declared.

Lamola stressed that his department has taken a clear step to reinvest in the justice system, noting that the budget allocation will help accelerate the considerable work already underway to recover from the unprecedented impact of the pandemic, while providing a more efficient and modernized justice. system.

He described plans to merge the IT systems of the Department of Home Affairs, the South African Police Service, the National Prosecuting Authority, the Department of Corrections and the Department of Social Development in South Africa, in within the framework of the integrated justice system.

This will allow for seamless communication and data sharing between entities, the minister said.

The Integrated Justice System aims to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the criminal justice system by increasing the likelihood of successful investigation, prosecution, punishment for priority crimes, and ultimately the rehabilitation of offenders. .

“We need to prioritize the budgeting process to enable us to meet the need to digitize our infrastructure across the criminal justice system. The Integrated Justice System aims to integrate the processes of all these departments to enable an interactive platform to strengthen our criminal justice system.

“The digitization of these platforms will bring efficiency and also access to our judicial data. We are confident that with the budget we have allocated, we will be able to implement it,” commented Lamola.

South Africa is ranked among the countries with the highest crime rate in the world, with particularly high rates of assault, rape, homicide and other violent crimes.

Justice and Constitutional Development Minister Ronald Lamola.

Justice and Constitutional Development Minister Ronald Lamola.

The integrated justice system is part of the government’s plan to modernize justice services through the use of digital capabilities, which requires a supportive, responsive and stable underlying IT infrastructure.

The ultimate goal is to eliminate duplication of services and programs at all levels, while creating joint strategic planning.

The integrated justice system will see four key digital initiatives in the 2022/23 period, Lamola added. These include electronic criminal justice system documents and forms; Short Audio Visual Solution for Case Participants (Phase Two); Electronic programming and messaging for the courts; and integrated bail payment processing and release management.

“The Criminal Justice System e-Documents and Forms is an initiative that focuses on the review of processes to eliminate forms made redundant by the electronic exchange of information between the services of the criminal justice system as well as the digitization of all documents and certificates that remain necessary.

“The Court’s audio-visual solution for participants in the case will be a video conferencing and video identity verification facility which will be used for interviews and testimony of witnesses/victims in cases where direct contact is not possible or very costly, as well as in cases where expert witnesses are required in court,” he explained.

The e-Scheduling and Messaging for Courts is an information management and sharing system that tracks court dates, start times of court proceedings, and the arrival and check-in of witnesses, victims, defendants, defense lawyers and prosecutors.

The integrated solution for processing bail payments and managing releases will allow lawyers/family members of the accused to “pay bail anywhere”.

“Modernizing justice services through the use of digital capabilities requires an underlying, responsive and stable IT infrastructure. The Department’s currently aging IT infrastructure does not bode well in this regard.

“The department is working to upgrade and ensure the ongoing maintenance of its IT infrastructure, as this will not only impact the delivery of existing services enabled by technology, but also its modernization program. “

Lamola further provided a summary of how the department has used technology as an arsenal in the war against gender-based violence (GBV), as part of new anti-GBV bills introduced to help strengthen the fight against gender-based violence. scourge.

In February, President Cyril Ramaphosa signed into law three anti-GBV bills: the Criminal and Related Matters Amendment Bill, the Criminal Law (Sexual Offenses and Related Matters) Amendment Bill, and the Domestic Violence Amendment Bill.

Some of the GBV initiatives include:

  • An online web portal for domestic violence protection order applications.
  • The introduction of the online web portal and SMS notification system for the National Registry of Sexual Offenses Services (NRSO).
  • Enable testimony in GBV-related legal proceedings through an audio or virtual/visual link, with the assistance of intermediaries in the matter.

“It adds more pain to victims of gender-based violence when perpetrators roam the streets soon after they are apprehended by police. NRSO SMS services on sexual offenses will be made available to NRSO candidates during this exercise.

“Through the implementation of the NRSO, the department intends to limit the exposure of vulnerable people to pedophiles and serial sex offenders and also prevent the act of sexual offending in the country,” he concluded.