PROSTITUTES and youngsters are having their civil rights abused because they are not entitled to free lawyers for certain cases, claim support groups. Prostitution offences and juveniles' care and protection orders are not covered by the duty lawyer system - so defendants either have to find up to $15,000 a day for a private lawyer or defend themselves in court. Prostitutes can face up to six months' jail or a $10,000 fine if convicted. They get a raw deal in court, says Paul Harris, chairman of the Human Rights Monitor. 'If prostitutes are sometimes sentenced to prison, they are being deprived of their liberty. Someone deprived of their liberty ought to be provided with legal representation,' he said. Children under 16 can also find themselves pleading their case to judges over care and protection orders, Grace Wong Jin-li, administrator of the Duty Lawyers Service, says. This applies to runaways or children whose parents say they are out of control. As with prostitutes, they are not entitled to a duty lawyer. 'They could be sent away from home under the charge of a social worker for up to two years,' Ms Wong said. 'I think it's about time our service was extended to cover all offences. I have written to the Government. We are still waiting for a reply,' she said. The service, run by the Law Society and Bar Association, desperately needs extra funding, she said. Sister Helene O'Sullivan patrols the streets of Yau Ma Tei and Shamshuipo to talk to prostitutes, and tries to persuade duty lawyers to take their cases. But the worker for Action for Reach Out (Rights of Entertainers to Combat Human Oppression and Unjust Treatment) believes this should be the rule, rather than the exception. 'When it comes down to it, it's so much more beneficial to have a lawyer. The prostitutes don't know the procedures . . . It's an intimidating experience, it would be so much better if they could have a lawyer, even if it's just for the sentencing.' Corrine Remedios, President of the Hong Kong Federation of Women Lawyers, said: 'It's something that needs looking into.'