KUALA LUMPUR: Amendments to the Legal Aid Act 1971 will allow underage victims of sexual crimes and their family members to seek legal advice.
The Legal Aid (Amendment) Bill was tabled by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said (pic) for the first reading in Parliament on Thursday.
Azalina said the Bill is expected to be debated and passed by lawmakers during the current Parliament meeting which runs till Aug 10.
Changes to the law include the creation of a new provision with regard to services of a “legal companion” provided to a child victim.
Under Section 29G and 29H, a child victim can apply for legal aid and will be provided with a legal companion.
The role of a legal companion is defined under Section 29I which includes advising the child's parents or guardians.
The legal companion is also responsible for obtaining relevant information related to the charges against the accused where the child is a victim.
Besides providing the necessary advice to the victim's family, the legal companion will also be tasked with accompanying the child victim in any proceedings in court and to speak on their behalf with leave from the court.
The legal companion must also advise the child's parents or guardians on whether the child can bring a civil action against the perpetrator.
Last week, Azalina said that the amendments were aimed at ensuring that child victims were given the necessary aid and advice in accordance with the newly passed Sexual Offences Against Children Act 2017.
She said that child victims can request a legal companion from the moment they enter the police station to lodge a report.