Digital savings of court records prevent spoilage


24-September-2012

This has saved situations where no case records are available when old type analogue tapes are damaged resulting in what chief justice Fredrick Egonda-Ntende called disasters.

He gave the example of a recent Court of Appeal case in which judges had to depend on the memories of the prosecutor and defence lawyer after recordings proved inaudible because the tapes had been damaged.

Supreme Court’s senior systems support officer Rodney Payet told Nation yesterday that technician Anthony Tirant is helping play the tapes into newly installed computers which are saving the analogue recordings into digital files which stenographers can easily access from a server and transcribe.

During the reopening of the Supreme Court last week, Mr Egonda-Ntende said he “inherited a dysfunctional and archaic system of recording proceedings much of which 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 only at 850. It is my hope that they will be eliminated by April 31, 2013.”

He thanked staff of the court’s information technology section for the work they are doing to convert the recordings.

“I would also like to thank our staff in the court reporting section, especially those taking up cassette tapes that had been abandoned by members of staff who have left, in order to complete this phase of our not so happy history,” he said.

“I trust this will finally put to rest the problem of court proceedings, whether alleged to be missing or not transcribed that had appeared so intractable a few years ago.”

As the courts entered their third year of reforms, the chief judge unveiled five new “basic initiatives in addition to day to day operations of hearing and determining cases”.

He talked of computerisation of the case registers and case tracking; online publication of decisions of superior courts, extensive training for judges and magistrates; the establishment of the commercial court; and the launch of mediation as a method of resolving disputes.

“I am hopeful that before the end of this year we shall have updated all the case data in relation to the current cases and all those cases that were filed this year. We shall then be in a position to have a baseline that is accurate going forward. The system allows the entry of data once, at different stations and the same is updated with every new event or step in the life of that case.

“With an up-to-date database we are able to monitor the performance of each court and each individual judge or magistrate with regard to his or her caseload. The system allows us to produce reports and other documents like the cause list in an automated manner, greatly easing the work of affected staff.”

Mr Egonda-Ntende said the courts have established the Seychelles Legal Information Institute (Seylii)  website with the help of the African Legal Information Institute to provide an online portal of decisions of the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal together with all primary and secondary legislation in force in Seychelles.

“This is ongoing with all current decisions being uploaded soon after delivery. We plan to publish the older decisions as well in order to have a one stop centre where a person can find Seychelles’ law at no cost,” he said.

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