May 2021 1st edition

Increasing access to justice

Written by More Matshediso

A new court in KwaZulu-Natal is set to revolutionise justice services, allowing for the community to apply for protection orders online.The Point Branch Family Court ensures that nearby communities can access a variety of family services at one point.

The new Point Branch Family Court marks an important step in the country’s fight against gender-based violence (GBV).

Speaking at the official opening of the court, Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Ronald Lamola said the court will be the first in South Africa where domestic violence survivors can apply online for a protection order.

“In this court, we introduce much welcome innovation in our quest to drive our justice system towards an effective response to GBV.

“We hope to learn important lessons from this pilot as we prepare to roll-out a more comprehensive version throughout the country,” he said.

Located in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, the court enables the community to access a variety of family services at one point.

It offers legal services related to domestic violence, maintenance, children’s court and protection from harassment, among others.

“The branch court concentrates on a basket of services that were accommodated at the Durban Magistrate’s Court, which has and continues to serve the KwaMashu, Umlazi, Chatsworth and Phoenix communities,” explained the Minister.

The Family Court was previously located at the Durban Magistrate’s Court, where there were severe spatial challenges.

Communities can now access services in a more secure and private atmosphere that promotes and maintains human dignity, while ensuring an environment that is victim- and child-friendly.

The court consists of six family courtrooms, with expanded waiting rooms.

Minister Lamola added that through this court, the department is demonstrating a shift towards gender sensitive courts. Most of the court’s features are designed to not only dispense justice, but to also achieve it with women’s needs in mind.

“Through this court, we will implement the National Strategic Plan on GBV and Femicide.

“We address underlying problems with the implementation of the Domestic Violence Act, the Maintenance Act, and other pieces of progressive legislation, such as the Children’s Act, Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act, Employment Equity Act and the Protection from Harassment Act,” he said.   

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