Legal Advice for Children
Here you can find out more about the law in any of the following situations. For example, what are your rights at school, or what are your rights if you have broken the law? These are just general outlines.
Please contact us if you have any questions, or require more assistance.
Dr Ann Skelton
Tel: +27 12 420 4502
Fax: +27 12 420 4499
Breaking the Law
You need to remember that if you are in trouble with the law that you still have the right to be treated fairly and with respect. This includes being given the opportunity to get your life back on track, and to make the wrong that you have done right. The first offence may result in a reprimand, warning, diversion or charge.
Your rights include:
- Not being tortured or, punished in a cruel inhumane way; and no person under the age of 18 may be given the death penalty or life imprisonment without possible release. But in South Africa there is no death penalty anymore.
- Not being detained or imprisoned without good reason.
- Should you be put in prison you must be treated with dignity and respect, you must be kept separate from adults, and your privacy must be respected.
- You should be kept in prison for the shortest possible time. This means that you should be allowed legal help as soon after arrest as possible, and given a fair trial in court, if you are charged.
You need to also remember that you have the right to be seen as innocent until you have been proven guilty. You cannot be forced to speak in court, or forced to say that you are guilty. You are also allowed to question people who give evidence against you, call a person to give evidence on your behalf, and have everything that is said in court explained to you in a language that you understand.
This is a very brief overview of your rights when in trouble with the law.
Protection from Abuse
You have a right to be protected from any kind of abuse, from anyone who might try to hurt you physically or emotionally.
This includes being protected from exploitation – for example where you are forced to work for little or no money.
You should also be protected from any sort of sexual abuse. This includes watching pornographic material, being forced to take part in a sexual act (like being touched in a place you don’t want to be touched, or being asked to touch someone else), being forced to have sex with someone else, or even being forced to become a prostitute.
This could be caused by someone you know very well. But it is still not right. It is okay to say no, and it is better to tell someone you can trust, as soon as possible. Remember, that you are not to blame.