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'Sex offence courts will be efficient'

Jeff Radebe announced on Tuesday that the specialised courts will be re-introduced.

Deputy Minister for Justice and Constitutional Devlopment John Jeffery. Picture:GCIS

JOHANNESBURG - The Deputy Minister for Justice and Constitutional Development, John Jeffery, said on Wednesday there is political will to drive the re-introduction of specialised sexual offences courts.

Justice Minister Jeff Radebe announced in Pretoria on Tuesday that the specialised courts will be reinstituted across the country.

Twenty-two of these courts will be set up nationally over the next few months and 57 within the next three years.

It is hoped the courts will help streamline criminal cases of a sexual nature.

Jeffery said the department is ensuring that the courts work efficiently.

"Specific attention [will be] given to the facilities, specifically for witnesses and the complainants. There would also be matters like other support counselling and the special training of prosecutors and magistrates."

Each court will feature a special room for victims to testify, a private waiting room for witnesses, victim support services and specialist presiding officers.

Radebe said that R20 million has been allocated for the project, however gender-based violence researcher Lisa Vetten questions whether it's enough adding that this decision is long overdue, and is necessary to protect complainants.

The courts were shut down between 2007 and 2008, due to a lack of satisfactory funding.

But Radebe commissioned a task team to look into the feasibility of re-introducing these courts last year.

A pilot project saw several such courts being set up again in some parts of the country.

The Justice Department has repeatedly called for these courts to be re-instituted to deal with South Africa's rape crisis.

Radebe said the task team found these previously specialised courts managed a successful prosecution rate of as much as 80 percent as well as a quicker case turnaround.