Press Release: 17 June 2022 – The HSF Makes Parliamentary Submissions On The Magistrates Bill And The Lower Courts Bill

The Helen Suzman Foundation responds to the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development's call for submissions on the Magistrates Bill, 2022 and the Lower Courts Bill, 2022.

 The Helen Suzman Foundation (“HSF”) commends the intent of the Magistrates Bill, 2022 and the Lower Courts Bill, 2022, to bring the administration and functioning of the Lower Courts in line with the Superior Courts and to provide much-needed independence from the Executive.

Among the other submissions made by the HSF in response to the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development’s call for comment, are the following:

Magistrates Bill
  • The Department should undertake a comprehensive study into the unification of a single Judiciary under the Office of the Chief Justice before the Bill is implemented.
  • There must be an increased consultative process in regulating the conditions of service of magistrates and the functioning and administration of the Lower Courts.
  • The HSF raises concerns about how the Lower Courts budget will be administered and controlled.
  • The appointment of commissioners to the Magistrates Commission (“Commission”) must be in line with the Judicial Service Commission, which is dictated by section 178 of the Constitution.  
  • The Commission must publish a professional code of conduct to which its members must adhere.
  • The Commission must be required to report to Parliament in the same or similar manner as the Judicial Service Commission.
  • The Commission must publish additional criteria to consider when appointing a magistrate.
  • A clear policy must be created for the appointment of acting magistrates, and the length of terms and the number of possible extensions must be prescribed.
Lower Courts Bill
  • The HSF recognises that there is much to be commended in the Lower Courts Bill, particularly concerning increasing access to justice.
  • The HSF raises similar concerns regarding the administration and control of the Lower Courts’ budget as presented in the Magistrates Bill.
  • The section governing civil contempt of court, as currently worded, allows for the repeated imprisonment of a contemnor over the same act or court order, which may amount to double jeopardy.

See the HSF’s submission on the Magistrates Bill here

See the HSF’s submission on the Lower Courts Bill here

Media Enquiries:

Chelsea Ramsden
Senior Legal Researcher