Report traces Supreme Court reform progress


CJ Ntende holding a copy of the newly released report

He released the report – which also highlights the judiciary’s challenges and shortfalls – during a press conference in his chambers on Wednesday during which he was flanked by acting registrar Jeanine Lepathy and the executive legal assistant to the CJ, Jessica Kerr.

Mr Egonda-Ntende told the media that early in August 2009 a United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime office-retained expert travelled to Seychelles to determine the country’s readiness to take on piracy trials given the increase in piracy in the Somali Basin.

“The expert recorded the following reports from members of the bar in Seychelles:
‘The defence and the bar association are of the view that the judiciary is on the verge of collapse. They are of the view that the courts cannot cope with the volume of cases and do not have the necessary technology for case management.

‘The view was expressed that the addition of the piracy cases may lead to a collapse due to the shortage of courts and judges and the cost of detaining piracy suspects and of unplanned legal aid.’
“It is clear that at the start of my tenure, a section of the stakeholders in the justice system were of the belief that the system was on the verge of collapse. That marks the starting point of my tenure and may indicate where we have travelled from up to today when I am ready to take questions from the press on the first annual report for 2012, the first such report.”

He said the report may not be evidence the Judiciary is no longer on the verge of collapse “but it is an indication that we are in a position to take full stock of what we have done over a period and provide an account to the nation”.

He said although a lot has been done, especially in terms of infrastructure, much remains to be done, adding although the case backlog has dropped, “the length of proceedings before determination needs to be reduced significantly to come in line with our service standards. Judgements need to be delivered in much shorter times than we have noted has been the case in some cases”.
He said there has been significant improvement in the productivity of magistrates courts and in 2012 more civil cases were completed than those filed during the year.

“More criminal cases are being finalised than was previously the case. We note that there is a noticeable number of convictions on guilty pleas, a phenomenon that was unknown at the time I assumed responsibility. The remand prison population is now at 18% which is at par with the better-performing nations in the world. We have noted a significant improvement in the ability of the prosecution to present their witnesses at trial when required by the court. This means that the police and attorney general’s chambers are coordinating very well and thus improving the court’s ability to start and complete trials. In this regard I would like to complement the AG’s office and the police for this radical improvement.

He told reporters that the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal will move to the new Palais de Justice building in June with more judges at the Supreme Court resulting in an expected significant reduction in the backlog cases.
Nation hopes to soon publish highlights of some of the issues outlined in the report and others which came out during the interview with the CJ.