NEW EXPANDED LIST OF PERMITTED LEGAL SERVICES AND ACCESS TO COURTS UNDER ALERT LEVEL 3
Dear Clients, Friends and Businesses locally and abroad,
We are pleased to advise that on 2 June 2020, the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services issued new Directions (“the Directions”), which permit more legal services and updated court procedures under Alert Level 3. This means we are now able to offer you an expanded range of legal services.
WHICH SERVICES ARE PERMITTED IN ALERT LEVEL 3?
Permitted services include the following civil, family, and criminal law matters:
- Civil matters dealt with online, telephonically or in writing;
- Urgent motion applications;
- Urgent civil trials, including Covid-19 related cases;
- Alternative Dispute Resolution Mechanisms;
- Debt Review applications;
- Divorce Proceedings, including Rule 43 applications in the High Court and Rule 58 applications in the Regional Court (interim relief), as well as interlocutory applications and trials;
- Small Claims Court matters;
- Issue of all court process and proceedings and filing of papers;
- Applications for leave to appeal, Appeals and reviews;
- The hearing of any other civil action is subject to the approval of the Judicial Officer hearing the matter;
- Ex parte applications; and
- Endorsement of powers of attorney.
- 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, as well as extension of existing orders;
- Guardianship, care and contact, care, and protection proceedings in respect of children, including removal to temporary safe care and placement in child and youth care centres;
- International child abduction cases;
- Adoption applications and hearings; and
- Mediation and Facilitation.
- First Court Appearances, including child justice preliminary inquiries;
- Postponement hearings;
- Bail applications;
- Proceedings under section 63A of the Criminal Procedure Act;
- Consideration of the continued detention of children awaiting trial in detention in Child and Youth Care Centres and Correctional Centres on a case by case basis;
- Postponements of trials through audio-visual links;
- Guilty Pleas;
- Trials limited to:
(a) Corruption, Sexual offences, Gender-Based Violence and Femicide (GBVF), serious violent crimes, robbery, murder and Violation of Covid-19 Regulations;
(b) Cases where a child is an accused, a witness, or a victim;
(c) Cases where accused persons are in detention;
(d) Single witness trials;
(e) Finalisation of partly heard matters which can be completed,
(f) Cases on the priority roll and;
(g) Any other matter allowed by the Presiding Officer.
- Applications for leave to appeal, appeals and reviews.
THE DIRECTIONS IN GENERAL
It is important to remember that the Directions must be read with Directives issued by the Chief Justice and/or Heads of Court.
- This creates some uncertainty, as Divisions may deviate from the Directions.
- A judicial officer who presides over any matter also has the discretion to deviate from the Directions, provided they believe it is in the interests of justice.
Many role-players in the legal community, including the courts, are taking necessary steps to promote social distancing and revised safety practices. Consequently, courts are still operating on reduced staff and/or on a shift basis. We ask you to bear with us, as delays are expected.
The situation is constantly evolving, and the Directions are subject to change without notice.
Many courts around the country have had to close for a deep-cleansing as a result of an exposure to Covid-19.
WHO CAN ACCESS THE COURT?
The courts, in a bid to reduce the spread of Covid-19, only allow people with a ‘material interest’ in a matter to attend court proceedings. These include:
- litigants themselves;
- accused persons;
- legal practitioners; and
- persons who may be needed to provide support to the litigant.
We recommend only going to court if absolutely necessary, to help curb the spread of Covid-19.
If you need someone with you, we recommend contacting the court beforehand to be certain that such person will be allowed access into the court.
Audio visual links may be used in proceedings where a Presiding Officer deems it appropriate to do so and if to do so would prevent unreasonable delay, save costs or be convenient and make it unnecessary for the person to physically appear in court.
Some courts have been more efficient than others in adapting to electronic means of court proceedings. We hope that all courts will embrace the real need to adapt to electronic means, as we move forward on the path towards a ‘new normal’.
If you have any questions regarding how we may assist you, please do not hesitate to contact Marie-Lou: MGillespie@dacct.co.za