The Criminal Procedure Act is to be overhauled to ensure it is attuned to the country's constitutional democracy, Justice & Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola indicated during his budget vote speech in Parliament yesterday.

A draft Bill will be formulated based on the integrated criminal justice framework, which was approved by Cabinet in 2017, BusinessLIVE reports. The envisaged legislation will also consider the victims of crime and witnesses as the main beneficiaries of the system.

Lamola said the work of transforming the Office of the State Attorney was ongoing and important given the unprecedented levels of litigation against the state. Some of the known inefficiencies included a shortage of legally trained personnel and the inability of the state to attract competent practitioners.

'We are giving urgent attention to this area of work and will soon be approaching the Cabinet with a business case and draft Bill containing recommendations that will take the department and the country forward,' Lamola said.

'An efficient Office of the State Attorney is also essential for the transformation of the legal profession as a whole, particularly in relation to the allocation of state legal work or what is loosely termed "briefing patterns". The department has increased to 80% the target in the 2019/2020 annual performance plan for the allocation of state legal work to previously disadvantaged individuals.'

Echoing sentiments expressed by the NPA's investigative unit boss Hermoine Cronje last week, as reported in Legalbrief Today, Lamola said the cash-strapped NPA would explore the possibility of private donor funding to boost its resources.

According to the BusinessLIVE article, he said the department would engage the NPA and National Treasury to better understand the request and implications of private donor funding.

'Care will have to be taken, however, that this does not undermine the independence and integrity of prosecutions.'

He said 'much more needs to be done' to enable the NPA to meet the demands for its services. 'For example, the fiscally induced freeze on all hiring of staff since 2015, resulting in 685 vacant prosecutor posts as at the end of June, needs to be reconsidered so that the NPA can recruit much needed middle to senior-level positions as a matter of urgency, especially in the specialised units.'

The Star reports Lamola will lobby Parliament to pressure the National Treasury to increase the funding of the NPA, which would have a budget shortfall of more than R121m. In a media briefing after his budget vote in the House, Lamola said the Justice Department would talk to Parliament about increasing funding for the NPA during the mini budget in October.

‘The NPA projects a shortfall of R121.5m for 2019/20. We will solicit the support of Parliament to increase this funding through the adjusted estimates of national expenditure in October,’ said Lamola.

Full BusinessLIVE report

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