WINDHOEK. The last of the three organizations I visited last week, Legal Assistance Centre, has been coaching kids to testify in abuse cases: the ins and outs of the legal process, how to deal with questions from the opposing lawyers, emotional support to get them through the ordeal. And the project has legs on it: The Namibian government has agreed to take it over now that our initial funding is done.
The centre lined up a whole clockwork series of shoots to show their process with the children: giving statements to the police, meeting government social workers, the coaching sessions themselves. [Edited August 29, 2012 - I originally had a shot showing the child witnesses themselves practising at the stand, but the Legal Assistance Centre double-checked, and it turns out the law says “No person shall publish by radio or in any document produced by printing or any other method of multiplication the name, address, school or any other information likely to reveal the identity of any child who is or was concerned in any proceedings in a children’s court.” I replaced the old photo with one that just shows the support officer who works with the kids.] It’s been four years since they witnessed the crime, and their court date is finally this week.
I didn’t ask the children anything about the trial, though maybe I should have. In this instance I really am just planning to use any photos as background illustrations - the cases themselves will be more than enough to hold people’s attention without involving the kids unnecessarily. Back in February this project helped convict a man down south for raping his 14-year-daughter seven years before. I’ll be curious to know how this latest case goes - though the verdict could still be a long time coming.