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More Magistrates Needed In Our Courts: Chief Registrar

  There is a need for more magistrates in our courts to deal with a backlog of cases, it has been revealed. This was highlighted during a submission by the
26 Jan 2018 11:00
More Magistrates Needed In Our Courts: Chief Registrar
Public Accounts Committee Chairperson Ashneel Sudhakar during the submission of the Judiciary on January 25, 2018. Photo: Vilimoni Vaganalau

 

There is a need for more magistrates in our courts to deal with a backlog of cases, it has been revealed.

This was highlighted during a submission by the Judiciary to the Parliament Standing Committee on Public Accounts yesterday.

Commenting on the follow-up audit of the timeliness in the management of the Magistrates Court, Chief Registrar Yohan Liyanage said they had put in a request for the appointment of more magistrates.

He said this would remedy the backlog of cases currently pending in the lower courts.

He said in 2013 there were 23 magistrates, 25 in 2014, 27 in 2015, 30 in 2016 and 32 last year.

“One of the key strategies is to increase the number of magistrates to have these matters heard in a timely manner. That is a way to reduce the time that is going to be taken,” Mr Liyanage said.

“We have increased the number of magistrates over the years. There is a constitutional requirement to be a magistrate. You need post admission qualification of 10 years and in some cases some lawyers are not interested in joining the judiciary.”

He said all efforts had been made to advertise vacancies for magistrates both locally and internationally in their bid to have all courts running in full capacity.

 

Case Management

The Judiciary has its own case management procedures.

This is being attended to internally by Judicial Officers, who have received training both locally and internationally.

“We stress that this is a core judicial function, that is the decision making process, which neither the Auditor General nor the registry can interfere in,” the report said.

“It is to be noted that we have an electronic database to record summary of proceedings in order to provide instant information.”

 

Integrated Electronic Litigation System (e-litigation)

The judiciary is looking at e-litigation which would result in a paperless court system as is the case in Singapore.

Once it is fully implemented, information will be available on a centralized database accessible to all registries throughout Fiji.

 

Legal Practitioners Unit

Set up as an arm of the Chief Registrar’s Office, the Legal Practititoners Unit has inherited complaints from the Fiji Law Society.

 

External Reporting

The registries have information pertaining to the running of the Judiciary which is readily available and have been provided to non-government organisations, government departments and other stakeholders upon request.

 

Missing Files

Mr Liyanage confirmed that they had encountered issues of missing case files which he said could be due to human error.

However he said these were isolated incidents and in most cases the files were recovered.

 

Delay in hearing of cases

Mr Liyanage said in certain cases the time taken to hear cases was beyond the judicial officer’s control.

He explained that some reasons could be the delay in the arrest of accused persons by the law enforcement authority.

 

Unspent balances

It was highlighted during the submissions that the judicial department had unused funds from 2008 to 2010.

In 2008 they had $1.4million, $2.3million in 2009 and $0.9million in 2010.

According to Mr Liyanage this could be attributed to the non-appointment of magistrates during those particular times, adding that they did not have a full judiciary from 2008 to 2010.

Edited by George Kulamaiwasa

Feedback:  fonua.talei@fijisun.com.fj




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