PG Wants Discovery Also by Defence

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By Mbatjiua Ngavirue WINDHOEK Prosecutor-General Martha Imalwa has called for changes in policy that will require not only the State but also legal practitioners to provide full particulars of their defence and statements of their witnesses before a trial. She said the State currently has to overcome formidable hurdles, including providing full particulars of its case and witness statements before having to prove its case beyond any reasonable doubt. In contrast, however, there is no requirement that compels defence lawyers to provide particulars of their defence or witness statements before a trial. Imalwa was speaking at the official opening of the High Court legal year in Windhoek yesterday. To support her argument she referred to a 1995 High Court decision, which called for legal practitioners to endeavour to make a greater contribution to the search for the truth and the aim of justice by pursuing greater openness. Such changes, she said, would lead to shorter investigation phases and waiting time between arrest, detention and trial and thereby minimising the agony and costs for the accused. The search for the truth in general would therefore expedite and facilitate the advantage to both the accused and victims of crime. “I submit that a number of legal practitioners do not approach criminal trials with an attitude of openness and search for the truth,” she charged. As evidence of this, she cited the futility of pre-trial proceedings in a large number of criminal cases before the High Court. According to Imalwa, one of the main aims at criminal pre-trial proceedings is to limit the issues in dispute between the State and the defence. “But criminal trials in the High Court are often unnecessarily postponed, delayed and protracted due to failure by legal practitioners to comply with the High Court Practice Directive regarding criminal pre-trials, and the raising of unnecessary disputes,” Imalwa said. The Prosecutor-General also sharply criticised the unwillingness of legal practitioners to appear in court amicus curiae (friend of the court) to assist courts in making their decisions. In cases where legal practitioners did appear amicus curiae, she again complained they do not have to file heads of argument as required of the State. “This current state of affairs where only the State is required to file heads of argument in amicus curiae appeals does not serve the required purpose,” she stated.