Help­ing chil­dren get jus­tice

Vuk'uzenzele - - Safyeotuyt&h Sfeocursity -

He­leN Nt­sOKa’s pas­sion for jus­tice saw her leave her teach­ing job af­ter 20 years to serve the coun­try’s jus­tice sys­tem as an in­ter­me­di­ary.

as­sist them to un­der­stand the questions posed.

“A good in­ter­me­di­ary must be pa­tient with the wit­ness and have a de­sire to help oth­ers, es­pe­cially the most vul­ner­a­ble, in or­der for jus­tice to be served,” ex­plains Nt­soka.

She cred­its her vast teach­ing ex­pe­ri­ence and her ed­u­ca­tional qual­i­fi­ca­tions for her abil­ity to work with chil­dren in a sym­pa­thetic and com­pas­sion­ate man­ner.

A wit­ness will only en­gage with an in­ter­me­di­ary dur­ing court pro­ceed­ings to pro­tect the child from sec­ondary vic­tim­i­sa­tion and suf­fer­ing from un­due men­tal stress.

“When chil­dren tes­tify in court, they are fur­ther pro­tected by not tes­ti­fy­ing in an open court. This is to avoid hav­ing to come into con­tact with ei­ther the per­pe­tra­tor or the per­pe­tra­tor’s fam­ily.

She ex­plains that a child tes­ti­fies in a sep­a­rate room, through CCTV, and the in­ter­me­di­ary as­sists the wit­ness through­out the tes­ti­mony.

Nt­soka says her job can be trau­matic at times due to the kind of ev­i­dence that she has to lis­ten to. As such, the depart­ment or­gan­ises an an­nual de­brief­ing ses­sion to as­sist in­ter­me­di­aries to deal with trauma.

“Dur­ing these ses­sions, we are taught how to de­tach our­selves from what­ever is be­ing pre­sented dur­ing trial that day. What­ever I learn from these ses­sions I put to prac­tice and I find it help­ful,” she said.

How chil­dren tes­tify in court

A child wit­ness gives ev­i­dence in a room sep­a­rate from the court­room. This room is re­ferred to as a pri­vate tes­ti­fy­ing room and is usu­ally lo­cated close to the main court­room.

It has com­fort­able chairs and de­pend­ing on the avail­abil­ity of space, it may also pro­vide a small sleep­ing couch for a child to take a nap when drowsy or tired.

-A video cam­era or oneway mir­ror is in­stalled in the pri­vate tes­ti­fy­ing room to fa­cil­i­tate com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween the room and the main court­room while the child is giv­ing ev­i­dence.

-The in­ter­me­di­ary is pro­vided with ear­phones to en­able him/her to fol­low the pro­ceed­ings in the court­room.

-The in­ter­me­di­ary hears the questions and re­lays these to the child. The child’s re­sponses are cap­tured on the live video link.

-The child can nei­ther see nor hear the ac­cused or any­one in the court­room. The court­room is pro­vided with CCTV or one-way mir­rors to en­able peo­ple in the court to view and hear the child and the in­ter­me­di­ary.

-The video is live so role play­ers in court, in­clud­ing mem­bers of the pub­lic in the gallery, can see and hear the child and the in­ter­me­di­ary as they speak. No video­tape record­ing is made when the child gives ev­i­dence.

-The mag­is­trate has a clear and close view of the child and the in­ter­me­di­ary through a mon­i­tor that is in­stalled on the court bench. This mon­i­tor also en­ables the mag­is­trate to see when the child is tired and re­quires a break or nap.

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