Administrative chaos at outlying Western Cape magistrate’s courts is leading to miscarriages of justice‚ say two high court judges. In a hard-hitting judgment highlighting the "endemic problem"‚ acting Judge Mark Sher and Judge Robert Henney say the problem affects defendants who cannot afford lawyers. They are particularly critical of Caledon and Montagu courts for taking up to three years over a task that should take a week. The judgment scrapped a Caledon housebreaking case in which the defendant was convicted and given a two-year suspended prison sentence‚ saying "fundamental dereliction of duty … has resulted in a material failure of justice". They gave the director of public prosecutions a month to say why two other cases — from Caledon and Montagu — should not be treated similarly. And they ordered the regional head of the Department of Justice‚ Hishaam Mohamed‚ to audit deficiencies at courts in Caledon‚ Montagu‚ Vredendal and Ceres. Mohamed has to report back to the judges ...

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