Applying for a protection order is a time consuming process, but the Durban Point Magistrate’s Court is the subject of a pilot programme that could make the process a lot easier.
The court was opened in March and this week Justice and Constitutional Development Minister, Ronald Lamola, said that it would also be the location of a pilot programme in which citizens can file protection order applications online.
“This court will be the first in South Africa, where domestic violence survivors can apply online for a protection order,” Lamola told SA News.
“We hope to learn important lessons from this pilot as we prepare to roll out a more comprehensive version throughout the country,” the minister added.
What is perhaps most interesting to us is the minister stating that his department is improving access to justice through the use of technology.
For instance, Lamola says that the serving of a summons can take place electronically but this does rely on a few things, most importantly, a cohesive backbone the justice system can built off of.
“The integration of this technology across the justice system, will also enable a real-time single view of individuals engaging with the justice system, where for example, an integrated system will indicate, at any given point, whether individuals have protection orders against their names or are applying for maintenance from different defendants at different courts, across the country,” said Lamola.
The minister says the following justice services should be accessible to citizens digitally and that his department is working hard to make this a reality:
- Maintenance services available on the DOJ internet Portal;
- Protection orders available on the DOJ internet portal; and
- Expungement of Criminal Records services accessible via digital platforms
“In the current digital era, it has become imperative to have an effective online presence between citizens and the department,” said Lamola.
Honestly, this is a long time coming.
Access to justice is something that is a seminal problem in South Africa and making it accessible online is a good first step but there is a lot of work to be done in the space.
We can’t mention access to justice without mentioning the Hague Institute for Innovation in Law’s Innovating Justice Challenge. Every year HiiL hosts a challenge in which startups can pitch ideas that increase access to justice and highlight legal problems faced by civilians. It’s one of our favourite challenges and while applications for this year’s challenge are closed we’re keen to see what startups HiiL highlights this year.
We’re holding thumbs that the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development accelerates this digital access to justice services and that this pilot is the start of something better for us all.
[Image – CC 0 Pixabay]