Strike hits courts

Strike hits courts

MASERU– POLICE have to release crime suspects countrywide because there are no cases being filed at the magistrates’ courts registry because court officials are on strike.
Police spokesman Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli told thepost that they do not have enough rooms to keep crime suspects hence the decision to release them without any charges.
“There are suspects being released from police custody due to non-registration of cases at the magistrate’s court,” Mopeli said.

He however indicated that there are some cases which are applicable at the High Court, “so instead of going to the magistrate’s court, we go to the High Court regarding some offences”.
“There are some situations which we as police officers would find ourselves not in a good position to release a suspect due to a crime he may have committed, and such suspects instead of going to the magistrate they are referred to the High Court,” he said.
“The non-registration of cases at the magistracy has brought nothing but misery to the public,” Advocate Kabelo Letuka said.

He said he had five cases which were registered and four others pending registration.
“I am not able to prosecute because the magistrates are not working even though they do come to work,” Letuka said.
Letuka said his clients in one case have been evicted from their home and their house properties vandalised but now they are unable to access the court.

The eviction was in execution of a judgment from a lower court and Letuka has to challenge it in the magistrate’s court.
“I am not able to challenge that order because even if the case will be registered but no magistrate will hear it because of the strike,” he said.
The Judicial Officers Association of Lesotho (JOALE) secretary general, magistrate Masopha Kao, said the magistrates’ strike started a long time ago.
He said the government of Lesotho has not done anything about their needs.
“How can we work when we do not have stationery?” Kao said.
“I feel for the litigants but at the same time the government must play its role,” he said.

He said there is a likelihood that some criminals would commit crimes knowing that they would not be charged as their cases would not be registered.
“It is time that the government should give us an ear,” he said, adding: “We have been trying to be patient with them but they continue ignoring us.”
“We have been silent about all these things for quite a long time. The government took advantage of that because they knew that we always cry silently.”

He said he wished that the litigants would join them in the strike as they (litigants) would be striking on the issue of justice not being delivered while they (magistrate) would be striking on what they having talking about to the government.
He said they have talked to Justice Minister Mokhele Moletsane who seemed to be taking their grievances for granted.
“We wrote to Minister Moletsane several times but he only promised to solve our issues but never did. He seems to be full of empty promises,” he said.
According to the law police are not allowed to keep a suspect in custody for more than 48 hours, after which they are supposed to take them to court or release them.

Itumeleng Khoete

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