My attached was based at Regional Magistrate Court South which is located in Block 3 industrial in Gaborone BACKGROUNDRegional Magistrate court was established under Magistrate Court Act of 2004. Section 3 of the Act provides that there shall be courts subordinate to the High Court called magistrate courts and these courts will be presided over by magistrates appointed under this Act. Section 17 of the act provides that the Regional Magistrate shall have jurisdiction over civil claims where the amount of money claimed does not exceed forty thousand pula as well as land disputes where the value of the land or premises do not exceed forty thousand pula. The role of regional magistrate or regional court in the criminal justice is outline under section 60 of the magistrate act of 2004 that the magistrate will be responsible for trying any offence except the ones punishable by capital punishment or exceed imprisonment of 21 years. According to CITATION Fom13 l 1033 (Fombad, 2013) regional magistrate have jurisdiction to try rape cases, attempted rape , defilement , acts intended to cause harm or prevent arrest , robbery attempted robbery and arson and impose the sentence prescribed for these offences. In terms of punishment the limit of sentences the Regional magistrate can impose is a sentence of 15 years imprisonment or a fine of up to forty thousand pula or both, CITATION Fom13 l 1033 (Fombad, 2013) highlights that he can also impose a maximum of 20 years imprisonment where a minimum sentence has been prescribed for the particular offence.
Section 61 subsection 2 highlights that in terms of corporal punishment regional magistrate can impose up to twelve strokes where it is permitted by the law for that particular offence. The Regional magistrate also have supervisory duties assigned to him by the Chief justice under section 10 of the Magistrate Courts 2004 and these supervisory duties include allocate work between the magistrates in one district to magistrates in another district , allocate himself work as wells as to make sure that work in his region is done effectively and efficientlyWORKPLACEMENT EXPERIENCEI was assigned to assist the court interpreter who was also responsible for facilitating my learning of how the court processes work. The court reporter’s main duties included interpreting legal proceedings in court from English to Setswana or vice versa and in cases where the accused person could not speak Setswana nor English he was responsible for making sure that the interpret for that particular accused is present, he was also responsible for reading the charge sheet to accused persons in the language they could understand so as they could take pleas, the court interpreter is also responsible for capturing all criminal cases and their results in the Court Records Management system as well as compiling criminal statistics of criminal cases that are tried at the Regional Court. He is responsible for drafting remand warrants, and other court orders. He was also responsible for making preparations to ensure that the parties concerned mainly accused persons, attorneys, witnesses and exhibits are ready before the court starts on a given date he only calls the magistrate to come inside the courtroom after making sure that everyone is available in the courtroom and also make sure that the parties gets new dates to appear before the court if the matter is not yet over.
Mostly I assisted him to call cases in court, type and certify remand warrants and other court orders that were to be given to parties or organizations concerned such as prison and also assisted him in capturing criminal cases in the system. I was also required to attend all criminal cases listen, observe and analyze and discuss with the magistrate whose responsibility was to adjudicate over all cases that appeared before the court, however some cases he allocated them to other magistrates subordinate to him as empowered by section 10 of Magistrate Court Act of 2014. Our discussions included among others delay of cases to be completed, minimum mandatory sentences, reasons why people would commit offences, and from the discussions I was able to understand how judicial officers apply their minds when dealing with cases particularly when sentencing for examples when in cases involving sexual violations of children magistrates tended to be harsh when sentencing and I was also able to understand why some laws were put in place such as minimum mandatory sentence on robbery.STRENGTHSJust like every institution in the criminal justice system the regional court also has its strengths and weaknesses.
The first strength that the regional magistrate court had is making sure that the accused persons were able to hear and understand court proceedings the magistrate would not continue the case until he was sure that the accused persons understood court proceeding or that a competent interpreter who would translate for the accused was present for example in the case of CITATION Sta l 4105 (State v Bhekizwe Nkomaza Mazibuku and others) that is still ongoing at the regional court the accused had indicated that he only understood Ndebele however at that particular court session the Ndebele interpreter was not available therefore the court postponed the matter until such a date that the interpreter was available and indeed the next mention the interpreter was available before the court and was able to make the accused person understand court proceedings.