The BBC news website is running a report that there is only one full time registered intermediary currently available to work with vulnerable witnesses who lives in Wales.
Registered intermediaries have been a very welcome introduction to the criminal justice system under the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999. They are professional from a variety of backgrounds (such as social workers, clinicians etc.). They are chosen for their particular skills in facilitating communication with children or vulnerable adults, and are then given training in the workings of the criminal justice system. They can be called upon by the police and other agencies who need to interview a vulnerable person, and/or by the courts should that person be required to give evidence either as a witness or a defendant.
Zakon Training staff and associates have been involved in the training of various levels of investigative interviewing courses for many years, and have practical experience of working with intermediaries. A vital part of the training is to educate and inform the interviewer about the work of the registered intermediary, and how they can facilitate communication with vulnerable people. This is particularly relevant for advanced trained interviewers as they are more likely to be called upon to interview vulnerable people. Our Visually Recorded Interview (ABE) course deals specifically with the interviewing of witnesses, and includes how and when to call upon the services of a registered intermediary.
According to this report on the BBC news website Wales has only 1 full time intermediary, Robert Thomas, living and working in the country. The article does acknowledge that there are three part-time intermediaries also living in wales, and that intermediaries routinely work across geographical boundaries. Whilst this might suggest the problem is not as serious as reported in that intermediaries will not necessarily be sourced from near to where the vulnerable person lives, the report does highlight issues of supply and demand.
As interviewers have become more aware of the role of the registered intermediary, there has been an increase over the years in their use. That said, Baroness Newlove says in her 2018 report "A Voice for the Voiceless" that not all vulnerable victims and witnesses are being offered the support of a registered intermediary, and that there are cases where intermediary support should be considered, but where it is not provided. A copy of her report can be found in our resource library under "I" for intermediary. Baroness Newlove puts the lack of use of intermediaries down to a failure on the part of police interviewers in particular requesting intermediaries, due (at least in part) to a lack of awareness. She also highlights the fact that there is a lack of sufficient numbers of intermediaries to meet rising demands for their use.
Intermediaries are vital in helping to ensure that the most vulnerable in our society get equal access to justice as anyone else, and it is certainly hoped that the Ministry of Justice takes heed of her recommendation to increase recruitment, and that police forces and other investigative agencies ensure those charged with the responsibility of interviewing vulnerable people are fully aware of the role and use of the registered intermediary through proper training.