Legal Aid South Africa is aimingto protect our vulnerable kids

CHILDREN'S rights are a top priority for Legal Aid SA.

This was said by Legal Aid Development executive Patrick Hundermark.

He was speaking at the first day of the Child Law Colloquium at the Legal Aid's head office in Braamfontein.

Legal Aid SA lawyers are putting their heads together in a bid to strengthen needed to protect children's rights.

The colloquium' s aim is to develop practice guidelines for its lawyers handling children's civil cases.

"We are mindful of Legal Aid SA's obligations in terms of section 28 of the Constitution to provide legal representation at state expense to secure the best interests of children in civil matters," Hundermark said.

He said children were becoming increasingly vulnerable in South African society in spite of their rights being entrenched in the Constitution.

Media reports suggested that with the coming Soccer World Cup large numbers of children from South Africa and neighbouring countries were being targeted for trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation.

"There is no denying that the plight of children is still a big issue in the country and needs attention," he said.

Legal Aid SA forms part of a national task team that deals with the protection of children's rights and has been instrumental in making sure that there are plans in place to minimise the risk of abuse and trafficking of children during the tournament.

Justice centres are fully geared to the implementation of the Child Justice Act that comes into effect on April 1.

This act will ensure that children in conflict with the law are dealt with separately from other persons in the criminal justice system, seeing to it that they are not exposed to adult offenders and that processes that are tailor-made for children are followed throughout their trials.

"Our justice centres pay particular attention to the representation of children in conflict with the law to ensure that no child goes unrepresented through the court system," Legal Aid SA chief executive Vidhu Vedalankar said yesterday.