An evaluation of a social context training programme for South African magistrates

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University of Cape Town

This study is an evaluation of the Law, Race and Gender (LRG) Unit’s social context training programme for magistrates (1998-2004). The programme was developed in the context of the political transition of 1994 and the promulgation of the new constitution. These factors created an impetus for the transformation of the justice system. Research suggests that the South African lower court system was plagued by discriminatory practices in relation to race and gender. Under apartheid magistrates were public servants and responsible for enforcing apartheid legislation. Their work demands changed after 1994, yet many members of the magistracy were ill-prepared for the new requirements of their job. The Law, Race and Gender Unit’s training programme was developed to increase magistrates’ awareness, knowledge and skills of the social context concerns of race and gender. The aim of the programme was to help magistrates deliver fair and equal justice to all of South Africa’s citizens. There are few published evaluations of social context training programmes for judicial officers specifically and judicial education interventions generally. This study aims to contribute to this relatively under-researched field. It is also the first study to apply Brinkerhoff’s (2003; 2006) success case method (SCM) to a judicial education training programme. The evaluation is designed according to Rossi, Lipsey & Freeman’s (2004) evaluation hierarchy. The study presents the method, results and discussion of evaluations across this hierarchy. The evaluations include an assessment of the needs identification process, analysis of the programme impact theory, appraisal of programme implementation and evaluation of programme outcomes. A variety of research methods and techniques were used in the different evaluations. These include document analysis, interviews and Brinkerhoff’s (2003; 2006) SCM. The results of the evaluation of the needs identification process suggest that the training need was not identified through a traditional systematic needs analysis. The LRG Unit was established and funded prior to any formal needs assessment. The lack of a comprehensive needs identification process had implications for the development of the actual training intervention. The theory evaluation uses social science research to critique the impact theory implicit in the programme and offers suggestions as to how the impact theory could be strengthened. The implementation evaluation concludes that the training programme was well delivered and received by the trainees and external evaluators. The results of the SCM outcome evaluation demonstrate that despite some of its limitations, the programme succeeded in enriching the education and social awareness of magistrates, which in turn enhanced their work and the way they served their communities and the ends of justice. The study is the first of its kind in that it offers a comprehensive, multi-levelled evaluation of a social context training intervention for judicial officers. It aims to contribute new knowledge to the area of judicial education programme evaluation.

Includes abstract.

Includes bibliographical references (leaves 184-216).