Monday, June 21, 2021

Legal Aid to cover juvenile criminal offenders

The coordinator of Legal Aid Botswana, Peter Brits, says that plans are under way to ensure that juvenile criminal offenders are covered by the scheme.

He said this will ensure that juveniles are kept out of prison.

“Juveniles should be kept out of prisons at all cost, that is why legal aid should cover them when they are alleged to have committed crimes,” he said.

Currently, the scheme only covers civil cases but a review to look into the system, including covering of juveniles, has been planned.

On how the scheme is progressing in general, Brits said the project, which started last year, is growing at an encouraging rate despite challenges, such as lack of knowledge about the scheme by some Batswana.

He said that the growth of the project is shown by its staff compliment, which has grown to about 31 employees in its current two offices and the growth of its budget, from P7m last year to the current P10m from the government of Botswana. The United Nations Development Fund gives another P1.5m.

As another sign of growth of the scheme, Brits said that they are planning to open another office in Maun in the current financial year. He said this will help people in the northern part of the country.

Another office is currently operational in Francistown.

On how they are tackling the problem of lack of knowledge about the scheme, Brits said that they are working with the Ministry of Justice, Defence and Security to get them to tell people about the scheme in kgotla meetings around the country.

Besides that, he said that they are planning to advertise their services in the media and that he had already been on the breakfast show on BTV and hopes to go to other media outlets with the same message.

Brits said that they have handled a total of 389 cases since their inception last year, adding that some of them were handled by Non Governmental Organizations such as Emang Basadi, Ditshwanelo and Women Against Rape, which his office funds to the tune of P37,500 per month to handle the cases.

He pointed out that cases they have so far dealt with include family matters, land, industrial or labour cases and contractual disputes. Brits said that he would like to see more people coming to their offices for, among others, the purpose of drawing up their wills.

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