As part of addressing backlog cases, magistrate courts within the country will dismiss over 3,000 pending cases.
The cases differ from murder, sexual offences, 2,413 of them have been registered in Maseru district alone while 1,073 are registered in the northern region districts comprising Mokhotlong with 195, 131 Berea, Botha-Bothe 151 and Leribe with 593 while there are no statistics available for southern region as yet.
Chief Magistrate Central Region ‘Matankiso Nthunya revealed during a press briefing on Tuesday where she said for a long time magistrate courts are blamed for pending of cases which she said have not been heard due to lack of prosecution and pending investigations and that the courts only get to hear and give sentencing on cases that are complete.
She added that courts should not be blamed for delaying justice saying this is because there are cases pending directives from the Directorate on Public Prosecution (DPP) as well as pending investigations.
She explained that they have decided as magistrate courts under the instruction of Acting Chief Justice ‘Maseforo Mahase that cases which are have taken more than eight years being investigated be dismissed while at the same time release inmates who have been in custody for unreasonably long time.
‘If we have about 120 murder cases only 30 would be available for remands while 90 would be remanded in absence of the accused. Murder cases are just pilling up dust in our courts. We should not be blamed because ours is not to investigate crimes but to reside over them once they are completed’, she added.
Chief Magistrate Nthunya indicated that what is happening in the country is against Speedy Court Trials Act No. 9 of 2002 which states a person shall not be remanded in custody for a period exceeding 60 days unless there are compelling reasons to the contrary and such reasons shall be recorded in writing.
‘The law binds us to remand cases for only one month but due to poor services we end up compromising ourselves and giving them three to four months even a year at times and at the end of the year,’ she stressed.
She emphasised that they are no longer going to allow or accept cases that pend investigations or directives saying that those responsible for the said jobs should expedite their work.
On the other hand, Chief Magistrate North Region ‘Makampong Mokhoro said exceptional cases will be included in the system and that they are going to observe periods within the Speedy Courts Trial Act.
She noted that at most a case needs about 11 months to be completed but due to their diaries being full they end up continuing beyond such period.
She added that with all these cases that are going to be dismissed, there are no restrictions if investigating officers would want to reinstate the cases but only if investigations are completed.
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed; which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation.