New law courts to have more room for public


Chief justice Fredrick Egonda-Ntende said this when he launched the court’s first ever traceable “annual report”, saying there will be eight courts for judges up from the current five, plus one for the master of the courts and another for appeal cases.

If additional judges are hired they will help eat away the backlog of cases – which has seen drop dramatically with recent efficiency.

There have been times when members of the public and the media have not found space in court rooms during cases attracting big crowds, sometimes resulting in unruly throngs building up outside the Victoria court house.

Journalists not gaining access usually turn to lawyers or prosecutors to tell them what has transpired or take the last resort alternative of asking often impolite court officials who for example last week told Nation:

“You should have been in court to hear what date has been set for the case.”

Mr Egonda-Ntende admitted that while much has been changed in recent times regarding infrastructure, court staff attitude remains a major problem which cannot be fixed by money, but added training is being offered at the former Seychelles Institute of Management for court staff.

“There used to be only one diary for all the courts and fixing cases used to be a big deal as the diary went from court to court with delays if it happened to be in use.

“Of course the immediate solution to that was to buy eight more diaries – which was done immediately I took over – but we have now a computerised system where court staff can simply set case dates in a transparent system which I can monitor on computer from my office,” he said, giving the court’s new website as which carries many details of what is going on at the courts. The report he launched is also on the website.

The chief judge said lawyers representing clients through the legal aid system are given a certain amount of money for an entire case “whether they appear in court three or 20 times as opposed to when the lawyers would be paid by the number of times they appeared in court”.

He said during those days lawyers ran from one court to the other adjourning cases and few cases were ever heard.
The new system has helped raise the number of cases finished on guilty pleas “which save everybody precious time and the guilty parties stand to benefit if the courts decide to show leniency in return for their cooperation”.

Mr Egonda-Ntende said lawyers defending pirates tried here are paid by the United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime and “do not draw from the money meant for lawyers representing Seychellois”.

He said the out-of-court settlement of cases he has been encouraging is also catching up with major savings in time and resources because there are, for example, no appeals in such cases.
Formal monitoring of court room usage started in 2011.

“The work of judges and magistrates is of course not limited to the court room,
and not all time spent in court is equally productive. Nevertheless how long each judicial officer
sits has a relationship with productivity and a proper return on capital investment in court
infrastructure and equipment,” he says in the report, which shows on average that courts – which were in use for just a few minutes every day previously – are now active for between one and two hours daily.