Impartiality and integrity in the magistracy

18 November 2002
THE Law, Race and Gender Institute (LRG) last month hosted a pilot workshop on judicial ethics with 30 magistrates from around the country.

But the latest in a host of such training sessions the Institute has been presenting over the past 10 years and the 14th for 2002, the meeting was prompted by a request from senior representatives on the Magistrates' Commission who were concerned that magistrates received far too little training on issues related to judicial ethics, reports Professor Christina Murray.

She designed the course with colleague Jane Franco. In coming up with suitable content for the programme, the two consulted with the Justice College and senior magistrates and judges in Pretoria.

“Ethics is something that magistrates should live; it must permeate everything they do,” observes Murray.

For the workshop, the magistrates and four UCT facilitators retreated to Robben Island for a weekend, their stay there forming part of the Canada–South Africa Justice Linkage Project funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).

During their time on the historical island, the group worked their way through some intriguing case studies. One aspect that provoked a lot of discussion was around the fact that magistrates cannot refuse cases, yet find their lives threatened because of some of these.

“I think that one of the main successes of the weekend was the opportunity it gave the magistrates themselves to talk through issues,” says Franco. “Should they support a charity? Can they ever seen to be having that extra glass of wine?”

The LRG website has more information about the LRG and its workshops (including that on Robben Island) and other activities.

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