A complete makeover of the waiting and intermediary rooms at Gqeberha’s High Court will help ease the fears of children and vulnerable adults when testifying in harrowing criminal cases.
The project, driven by the province’s deputy director of public prosecutions (DDPP) Indra Goberdan, has transformed the once-clinical facilities into calming spaces for those having to give evidence.
Thanks to the remodelling project, the waiting room was now “warm and receiving”, she said.
The intermediary space, where witnesses testify without having to face the alleged perpetrator, now sports warm colour tones recommended by a practising psychologist.
Both rooms now have food and beverage stations and are fitted with proper seating and furniture.
There are also play-therapy and educational items as well as children’s books to read and age-appropriate videos to watch before going in front of the judge.
Waiting to testify could be traumatising, particularly when trials had been delayed, Goberdan explained.
SPAR Eastern Cape, a long-time advocate against Gender-based Violence (GBV) and other familial atrocities, came on board to turn the veteran prosecutor’s vision into reality.
Advertising manager Roseann Shadrach said the project immediately tugged at the Group’s heart strings when approached in February.
“The emotional experience of being in those rooms as adults is uncomfortable, to say the least. We knew that this was a project that we needed to be involved in.”
Goberdan said the retailer even brought paint specialists Plascon on board.
“Then they ensured the decorator was advised by a psychologist so that the colours would assist in bringing out the best in a child.”
A coral hue, found to evoke feelings of individuality and empowerment and therefore giving witnesses more confidence, now dominates the intermediary section.
The new-look waiting room will also be used to consult with children on days the court is not sitting as the DDPP’s offices are not conducive to this purpose.
Goberdan emphasised that the facilities also catered for older people. Victims can range from eight to 80 years of age – and even beyond.
The rooms will immediately be put to us when the courts reopen for the third term this week.
“My female advocates are so excited about this,” she beamed.
With the 16 Days of Activism against GBV coming up in November, the revamp could not have come at a better time.
The public prosecutor’s passion for the project showed that she was in tune with the socio-psycho needs of the youth, Shadrach said.
“This goes beyond the legal profession. All kids need is a little help and someone who believes in them.”
She described it as a “legacy project” for the Group.
“Our hope is that in some way children can leave there knowing they have a full life ahead of them.”
It is not the first time Goberdan has pushed for a child-friendly environment in the legal sphere.
When she worked in East London, SUPERSPAR Vincent owner Frank McGlashan assisted her by having the intermediary rooms at the East London courts beautified.
“He was fantastic. When I consulted with little children, he [even] provided sandwiches and juice.”