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Justice Services During Level 4 Lockdown Outlined

May 8, 2020

Department of Justice and Constitutional Development

The justice and constitutional development department has reaffirmed its commitment to the safety and health of its staff and members of the public.

Directions to address, prevent and combat the spread of COVID-19 in all courts, court precincts and justice service points in South Africa during Level 4 were published in Government Gazette 43268 on 4 May 2020.

The directions were drawn up in terms of Disaster Management Act Regulations.

They focus on restriction of services and access to a court room, court house or justice service point; postponement of criminal cases and related matters; civil cases; foreign language interpreters; legal aid; resolution of disputes; travel by officers of court; issuing of permits; safety measures at courts, court houses and justice service points during the period of the state of national disaster and exclusion.

In a statement, the department added that while some “sites of service have been affected by COVID-19, mitigating measures to address the spread of the virus at these points have been taken”.

According to the department, the measures contribute to the national effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in all justice service points.

Information on the justice services that are available during the level 4 lockdown is also provided.

The department points out that “all criminal cases enrolled during alert level 4 must be postponed, save for prioritised cases or trials, those taking place within the context of the permitted services stipulated within the Regulations or where special arrangements have been made with the judicial officer hearing the matter”.

Trials relating to corruption, sexual offences, Gender Based Violence and Femicide, serious violent crimes, robbery, murder and violation of COVID-19 Regulations will be prioritised.

Civil cases that are not identified as urgent may not be placed on the court roll.

“However, Judicial Officers may authorise matters on the court roll to be heard through teleconference and videoconference means.”

Child and spousal maintenance proceedings; protection orders in terms of the Domestic Violence Act or the Protection from Harassment Act; foster care applications and hearings; matters in respect of the care and contact of children, international child abduction cases and adoption applications and hearings will be heard.