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Directions to Combat COVID-19 in Courts Amended

September 14, 2020

Department of Justice and Constitutional Development

Directions to combat the spread of COVID-19 in all courts, court houses and justice service points have been published.

The justice and constitutional development department published the Directions in Government Gazette 43709 in terms of Disaster Management Act Regulations.

The Directions focus on limited services; Directions issued by Heads of Court; restriction of access to a court room, court house or justice service point; postponement of criminal cases and related matters; measures to reduce case backlogs; use of audiovisual links in judicial proceedings; interpreters; resolution of disputes; safety measures at courts, court houses and justice service points during the period of the state of national disaster; disinfection of court room, court house or justice service point and exclusion.

In terms of limited services under Alert Level 2, any criminal trial involving a witness from outside the Republic and where the testimony of such witness cannot be obtained through an audiovisual link, the case can only be heard after such witness is allowed to travel to South Africa.

Directions issued regarding auctions and sales in execution conducted by sheriffs of the court published in Notice 816 on 17 July 2020 remain in force.

The Directions also stipulate that an “audio visual link or any electronic mode may be used in any proceedings where the presiding officer deems it appropriate and, where to do so, would prevent unreasonable delay, save costs or be convenient and make it unnecessary for the person to appear in person in the court room”.

As regards exclusion, the Directions stipulate that a judicial officer who presides over any matter in court may, where the interests of justice so require, order that the application of any provision of the Directions be deviated from, provided that such deviation does not result in the exposure of persons to infection by COVID-19.

The Directions came into effect on the date of publication.