Re-opening of Supreme Court-Courts cut case backlog despite staff shortage


Judges, magistrates, lawyers and other court staff in a souvenir photograph marking the re-opening of the Supreme Court yesterday

He was addressing fellow judges, magistrates, top clerics, lawyers and court staff at the climax of a ceremony that started with a church service at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, which was led by Anglican Church Bishop James Wong and Catholic Church Bishop Denis Wiehe.

Among those present were police commissioner Ernest Quatre and retired Anglican Church Bishop French Chang-Him.

After a procession led by the National Brass Band, Mr Egonda-Ntende inspected a guard of honour mounted by the Seychelles Police, before delivering his address entitled Enhancing access to justice in Seychelles.

The chief justice leads the procession through Victoria on its way to the Supreme Court

He also talked about successes in transcribing recordings from obsolete tapes and hailed staff for boosting court efficiency by putting into action modern computer-based alternatives he introduced when he assumed office three years ago.

Calling on members of the public to report any staff who solicit money from them, Mr Egonda-Ntende said the court had dismissed an employee who admitted having accepted cash from a court user without a valid official reason.

“In terms of the Supreme Court civil workload the trend of a drop in total caseload continues. All categories of civil cases pending are now around 950 with civil suits about 540 only.

The number of civil suits completed in the first seven months of this year roughly equal to new civil suits filed,” he said.

“On the other hand criminal cases pending in the Supreme Court have been on the increase. As of the July 31, 2012 there were 221 criminal cases pending up from 168 at the same time last year.”

He said he is encouraged by the progress at the magistrates’ court noting an increasing number of cases are completed every month with the accused pleading guilty in many of the cases.

CJ Egonda-Ntende inspects a guard of honour mounted by the Seychelles Police on the Supreme Court premises

“Perhaps this is as it should be as no system can operate optimally without the bulk of criminal cases being closed on guilty pleas,” he said, recalling he “inherited a dysfunctional and archaic system of recording proceedings”.

“Much as this was replaced in early 2010 we remained with a large number of magnetic tapes which had not been transcribed. Last year at about this time they had been reduced to 1,850. Now they stand at only 850. It is my hope that they will be eliminated by April 31, 2013,” he said, thanking the court’s information technology staff who have turned the analogue recording into digital version, making transcription easier.

Mr Egonda-Ntende said there has been “extensive training for Seychellois judges and magistrates with the help of the US government.

“It is hoped that this training will improve the individual effectiveness and efficiency of the officers, contributing to the overall improvement of the delivery of services by the judiciary,” he said.

Asked if judge Duncan Gaswaga has been sent for training under the US funded programme despite his contract ending soon, Mr Egonda-Ntende said the US scheme is available only for Seychellois.

“Case Western Reserve University’s school of law offered judge Gaswaga the position of Jurist in Residence for a programme in international criminal law. They gave him a partial scholarship for which the judiciary played no role either in the offer or his selection.

“All I did as chief justice was approve for him to take his accumulated leave. The judiciary has not financed his programme either directly or through resources it has got from overseas partners,” he said in an interview.