Court misery frustrates farm-theft victims
THE EDITOR, Sir:
In your editorial headlined 'Putting an end to farm pillage', in last Saturday's paper, you recommended harsh punishment for those thieves who are caught.
However, punishment can only be imposed on those thieves who are not only caught, but prosecuted and convicted.
Herein lies a serious problem highlighted in various ministry papers published by the Ministry of Agriculture.
For example, Ministry Paper 56/2014 indicates that, for the first 10 months of 2013, there were 362 cases prosecuted, but only 78 convictions.
Identifying the various reasons for the low rate of conviction is a difficult task, but one factor that is mentioned frequently is the inordinately long time it takes for a case to be heard and concluded.
In many instances where a case drags on for months, the farmer and other witnesses become disillusioned with the process and eventually fail to appear. The result is that the thief walks away free.
Several years ago, there was a spasm of interest in modernising the whole judicial system, including the courts.
In 2009, the Court Management Services was established with a view to managing the process of improving the operations of the courts. However, a glance at its website suggests that the initial momentum has been lost.
available annual report
The only annual report available is for the period 2011-2012. In other words, the organisation is already two years in arrears - not very encouraging.
The annual report issued mentions the Judicial Enforcement Management System, a comprehensive computer system that was bought with the intention of computerising the operations of the courts, with the expectation that this would render the courts more efficient and more effective. It would have been useful to see from later reports what progress has been made towards that goal.
It would be a tragedy if the various measures mentioned in your editorial, as well as other factors such as the availability of cell phones, which, together, should enable significant progress to be made in reducing praedial larceny, are frustrated by the inadequacies of the court system.