New tool for military justice

“From humble beginnings” aptly describes the Electronic Case Management System (ECMS) now operational in the Defense Legal Services Division (DLSD).

Its origins date back to October 2018, when holding preliminary meetings and presentations to determine the feasibility of a program of legal advice and litigation on the IT Service Management System (ITSM) used by the National Defense Force. At the same time, attention has been paid to expanding an existing program designed for the Directorate: Military Judicial Reviews (DMJR) with DLSD to fit the entire military justice process, writes Col. John Yarrow, SSO Administration of Military Justice, in SA Soldier.

“This small program was to be launched on the Department of Defense (DoD) intranet in 2019. The Review Counsel Solution program has captured key details and milestones of cases reviewed and processed by a judicial review lawyer in accordance with the Supplementary Act. on military discipline and the rules of procedure. .

“Then things moved quickly starting with a User Needs Statement and Specification (URS), target architecture, costs, user flow flow as well as an information needs analysis. All were completed at the end of January.

“An interim design of the military justice system encompassing the pre-trial and investigation phases, resulting in the prosecution’s final decision and certification of trial readiness, was concluded in the second quarter of 2020. The concept included fields for entering the business process resulting in non-prosecution requests as well as those referred to civil courts.

A training program involving the majority of military law practitioners in mid-2020 provided “a host of suggestions and improvements to further refine the CHMS, as the system was now called.”

As with many others in South Africa, the onset of the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting containment regulations put the brakes on further development of the CHMS. Regulatory relaxation saw “rapid progress” with a detailed trial phase and an expanded judicial review phase to replace the existing review lawyer solution.

“The scope of the CHMS,” writes Yarrow, “is extremely broad and designed to capture all military matters, from the first recording of offenses by the six satellite legal offices to the review of completed trials, including proceedings before the Military Court of Appeal ”.

The CHMS is sophisticated enough to record cases involving multiple accused charged with multiple offenses, even when charges “follow divergent paths to conclusion.” This includes the preliminary inquiry, trial and conviction or acquittal, referral to civil court, requests and decisions not to prosecute, and “various outcomes of the review process”.

The CHMS is simple to use, but access is limited to Military Law Practitioners (MLP) with “read-only” access available to key non-MLP personnel. This list includes heads of services and divisions, officers commanding level 3 and 4 force structure elements (FSE) and field staff officers.

In June, Adjutant General Major General (Dr) Eric Mnisi, who defended the CHMS from the start, signed the acceptance of the new military justice tool with activation on the DoD intranet ( on the DLSD portal).

“ECMS securely displays and records all important case information in extremely detailed fashion with a holistic view of how cases were handled,” Yarrow writes in the official SA National Defense Force (SANDF) publication.

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