Legal Aid Services for Children
Vulnerable Children to benefit from Legal Aid
The Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport in collaboration with the Georgetown Legal Aid Clinic and UNICEF has launched the Children's Legal Aid pilot project, providing adequate legal protection for vulnerable children who come into conflict with the law.
The project is expected to run for a one-year period and then an evaluation would be done to measure its success. According to UNICEF Representative (Guyana, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago) Johannes Wedenig, this new facility is expected to provide legal advice and services for juveniles and their parents. He said with the launch of the service the rights of children would not be overlooked as they pass through the judicial system. The Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport in 2005, with support from UNICEF conducted a review of the Juvenile Justice System in Guyana, with a follow upNational Consultation hosted in 2006. Emerging from the consultations were several recommendations, with the provision of legal aid for children in conflict with the law being one of the more critical.
Importantly, it has been noted that many children could avoid passing through the judicial system and even being sent to the detention centre had they been given access to legal representation. In response to this serious issue, the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport, with technical and financial support from UNICEF and with technical assistance and facilitation from the Georgetown Legal Aid Clinic has established the Children’s Legal Aid Project in Guyana- the first of its kind for the country. It seeks to provide legal services for children in both civil and criminal matters – not only for children who come into conflict with the law but its services will also be extended to orphans and other vulnerable children in need of special protection who will require legal assistance.
This pilot project is one vital step in ensuring access to social and legal justice for children. Further it is envisaged that Legal Aid will reduce the number of children in conflict with the law being detained and ensure access to and establishment of alternative forms of sentencing in order to assist in addressing their issues.
Read Press Release: Legal Aid launch