THE ‘Magistrates’ Courts (Amendment) Bill 2014’ is timely as technology is embraced for efficiency, Justice Minister Commins Mewa said.
When introducing the Amendment Bill during its second reading in Parliament on Tuesday, Mr Mewa said the amendments are incremental steps that can provide a large improvement in the speed and accuracy of the recording of evidence and make a significant contribution to improving the operation of the courts.
The ‘Magistrates’ Courts (Amendment) Bill 2014’ is one of the two that the Minister will be presenting during this parliamentary sitting to allow for the sound recording of evidence in the magistrates courts. The other Bill is the Criminal Procedure Code (Amendment Bill) 2014.
The ‘Magistrates’ Courts (Amendment) Bill 2014’ seeks to make some minor amendments to the Magistrate Court Act.
Section 69 currently requires the magistrate court to take down in writing the oral evidence before the court.
If the magistrate is unable to do this due to the incapacity the Clerk, the Court must record the oral evidence in writing.
This Bill replaces Section 69 with a plain English version that is easier to read and understand.
It preserves the requirement to record the evidence in writing. This is necessary in circumstances where sound recording equipments may not be available.
The Bill also introduces Section 69(a). This Section modifies the effect of Section 69 by providing that sound recording by a suitable recording device operated by the Clerk of the Court may be used to record the evidence.
The evidence is then transcribed, examined by the magistrate and certified as the accurate and faithful record of the proceedings.
The Justice Minister said the effect of the amendment is to allow magistrates to continue to take written notes of evidence if they prefer or if there is no sound recording equipment available.
“However, where equipment is available proceedings maybe sound recorded. “This makes the recording of the evidence faster and more accurate. It also allow magistrates to observe witnesses more closely and to notice the domineer, man of delivery and their reaction to questions.
“We embrace new technology and new practices where they can lead to better services and more timely delivery of justice to our people.
“These small amendments are incremental steps that can provide a large improvement in the speed and accuracy of the recording of evidence and make a significant contribution to improving the operation of the courts.”
By EDNAL PALMER