Provision for legal companion for child victims tabled

azalina-childsexualcrimeKUALA LUMPUR: The amendments to the Legal Aid Act 1971 tabled for the first reading today, seeks to provide legal companion services for children who are victims of any offences.

The amendment sees several new parts introduced in this Bill.

In Part I-A, it states that legal aid services are offered in criminal cases, civil actions, legal advice, mediation and legal companion services.

The services are only offered to Malaysians.

In Part V-B, it states that a person is qualified to make an application to the director-general of legal aid for a legal companion service.

The applicant must be a child who is a victim of an offence and still a child at the time of the proceedings in court.

The third new part is under the fifth schedule that states that “all sexual offences against a child” is provided in any written law.

The bill was tabled by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Azalina Othman Said, who was reported to have said last week that the amendments will enable underage victims of sexual crimes and their family members to get access to legal advice from the Legal Aid Department and lawyers approved by the department.

She said that the amendment would allow for legal officers from the department to act as the legal companion in giving the necessary aid and advice to the victims in accordance with the Sexual Offences Against Children Act 2017.

“The proposed amendment to the Legal Aid Act 1971 follows the government’s efforts to introduce the Sexual Offences Against Children Act 2017 and the newly-established Special Child Sexual Crimes Court,” Azalina said.