By THE NATION
LEGAL CONSULTANTS will start providing free service for young victims at all juvenile and family courts before the end of this year.
“We will assign two legal consultants to each such court for the purpose,” the Central Juvenile and Family Court’s chief judge Sitisak Vanachakij said recently.
He said he had already raised the issue with the Lawyers’ Council of Thailand and received assurances that the council would help provide legal consultants.
“These consultants will provide free counselling and will also represent the young victims in court if requested,” Sitisak said.
He added that the Justice Ministry will increase the daily allowances for lawyers who agree to provide such services at juvenile and family courts. The lawyers’ daily allowance is Bt1,000 at present.
“If the victims want to file a civil lawsuit, these lawyers can also help,” he added.
Acting Second Lieutenant Thawan Ruyaphon, the council’s president, said many lawyers had already completed courses on juvenile cases, held in collaboration by the lawyers’ council and the court. “So, we are ready to provide counselling to young victims. We believe we should extend assistance to children who are victims,” he said.
Meanwhile, Sitisak said he will also ensure that social workers and trained staff help provide care for young victims, in order to minimise their trauma and emotional wounds.
“I once saw a girl break down in tears during a court trial and yell that she did not want to be shamed anymore,” he said. The girl in question had been gang raped and suffered when officials repeatedly asked for details about her ordeal.
“I hope officials in the justice system can help victims, not add salt to their wound,” the chief judge added.
As for young offenders, Sitisak said he will focus on rehabilitating them.
“We will instil in them knowledge, ethics and occupational skills. The goal is that they will not commit crimes ever again,” he said, adding that courts under his supervision must respect the defendants’ dignity.
“Do not use any violence, physical or verbal, against them. Don’t look down on them,” the chief judge said.
According to him, some associate judges have been rude or treated the young victims with contempt. “This practice must stop,” he insisted.
In the event that juvenile defendants are acquitted or have completed their term, they should be released immediately, he said. “Do not hold them for more hours just for the process of releasing them from juvenile centre. They can be released immediately from court detention too,” he said.
Sitisak also said that he had the policy of exempting young offenders from having to submit a cash bond for bail, if their alleged crime is punishable by a jail term of no more than 10 years and their family is strapped for cash. “I think it’s enough to have their parents come in and swear that they will take good care of their children,” he said.