Defining the Role of a Registered Intermediary in Court
Overview the Role of a Registered Intermediary in Court
Within the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), registered intermediaries have been employed to facilitate communication for Vulnerable or Intimidated Witnesses (VIWs) in court. Registered Intermediaries are independent communication specialists who assist the understanding of basic courtroom phrases and legal proceedings in order to aid and improve the quality of evidence presented by VIWs.
Following the introduction of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act (1999), Section 29(2) and 29(3) outlined the initial elemental role of a Registered Intermediary, substantiating that their primary function is to communicate questions put to the witness, and to uphold transparency within the courtroom by ensuring that witness examinations must take place in the presence of a judge or justice and legal representatives, either directly or indirectly through video recorded examination.
Rather than acting as a conduit for questions and answers, Registered Intermediaries in England and Wales are required to aid professionals by facilitating communication, and must perform assessments on an individual, case-by-case basis to subsequently advise police officers and other advocates.
The Office for Criminal Justice Reform (2005) indicates that Registered Intermediaries are required to propose recommendations regarding the implementation of ‘special measures’ and other courtroom communication aids to improve the quality of evidence presented during the trial, and to minimise anxiety associated with giving evidence.
Registered Intermediaries are required are remain impartial and neutral, in order to uphold the transparency in court. The comprehensive training enables an in-depth assessment of individual’s communication requirements and examines the abilities of the witness, in order to provide subsequent recommendations for the police at interview stage as well as for the judge and legal representatives in court.
Intermediaries liaise alongside the judge and other advocates to propose the necessary parameters in order for the witness to adapt their communication at court and provide the best quality of evidence.
Why are Registered Intermediaries Important?
Registered Intermediaries improve the quality of evidence for vulnerable or intimidated witnesses in court. Specifically, Section 16 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act (1999) in England and Wales recognises that certain witnesses may be identified as ‘vulnerable’ or ‘intimidated’, which makes them ‘eligible for assistance on the grounds of age or incapacity’.
In this instance, ‘incapacity’ refers to a witness under the age of 18 years; a witness who suffers from a mental disorder within the context of the Mental Health Act (1983; 2007), or who displays significant learning, intelligence, or physical impairments and social functioning, which is likely to diminish the quality of their evidence in a trial.
In addition, Registered Intermediaries originate from an extensive and diverse range of professional backgrounds, including speech and language therapists, psychologists, as well as teaching and social work. Each of these professions engenders specific expertise and skills to the role.