Access to electronic court records in Botswana

trends, status and recommendations

  • Tshepho Mosweu University of Botswana
Keywords: access, administration of justice, case files, Court Records Management System, electronic records

Abstract

Governments all over the world are using information and communication technologies (ICTs) to enable the delivery of their programmes more effectively and efficiently and to increase the participation of the citizens in their governance through their e-government initiatives. The main purpose of this study was to explore issues of access to electronic case files at the Gaborone Magisterial District. Since 2005, the Department of Administration of Justice (AOJ) in Botswana has implemented an electronic Court Records Management System (CRMS) to manage case file records at the high courts and magistrates’ courts of Botswana as one of the government’s public sector reforms to improve service delivery at the courts. This study used both the quantitative and qualitative approaches with data collected through a questionnaire, document review, interviews with respondents and observation of respondents at the Gaborone Magisterial District as well as at justice stakeholders, which are Department of Public Prosecutions and the Department of Prisons and Rehabilitation. The questionnaire was supplemented with interviews. The study used the Records Continuum Model as lens to examine how electronic case files were used and accessed through the CRMS. The findings of the study revealed inadequate legislation on the management of electronic case files in Botswana. Challenges such as network disruptions, shortage of computers, resistance to change, training and a lack of commitment by staff affected access to court records on the CRMS. The study also established that access to electronic case files was limited to court personnel only. The study recommends the adoption of relevant policies and the provision of adequate infrastructure and remote access to electronic court records by the public and other stakeholders in the justice system in Botswana. Failure to provide online access to court records goes against the spirit of the Botswana National ICT policy and the National Vision 2036, which advocates for digital access to information and community access through the use of ICTs.

Published
2021-11-06
Section
Articles

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eISSN: 0376-4753