What is an Intermediary?

The role

Intermediaries work within the justice system to enable vulnerable victims, witnesses, suspects and defendants to give complete, coherent and accurate evidence to police and to courts.

The primary role of Registered Intermediaries, as set out in the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence (YJCE) Act 1999, is to assist two-way communication between children or vulnerable adults and those professionals involved at the investigation and trial stages of a case. They advise police officers, lawyers, judges and magistrates, Witness Service personnel and others. Some intermediaries also assist in Family Courts.

When a vulnerable victim or witness is required to give evidence to criminal justice personnel, a range of Special Measures may be considered by the court. The assistance of a Registered Intermediary is one such measure.

Increasingly, vulnerable defendants are also enabled to give evidence and participate more fully in trials with the assistance of an intermediary. The responsibilities and role of such intermediaries differ in certain respects from those of a Registered Intermediary working with victims and witnesses. However, in both cases they offer guidance to the key professionals.

A number of non-registered intermediaries who undertake such defendant referrals are employed by two private companies, Communicourt and Triangle. Many Registered Intermediaries also work with defendants, but since the MoJ has not so far made full provision for RIs to work in this capacity, they generally undertake this work independently of the MoJ and for this purpose are known simply as intermediaries. The situation is currently under review.

History of the Witness Intermediary Scheme

IfJ is grateful to Joyce Plotnikoff DBE for her article ‘Celebrating the Ministry of Justice Intermediary Scheme’ which outlines the development of the service provided by Registered Intermediaries since its inception.

Training and expertise

Intermediaries are all experienced professionals such as Speech and Language Therapists, psychologists, teachers, social workers and mental health specialists. They are selected for their specific expertise in human communication and their skill in assessing and supporting this. Some intermediaries undertake the work full-time while others fulfil the role alongside their work in the NHS, education, psychological services or other specialist agencies.

Funding for intermediary work

According to the type of work (victim, witness, suspect or defendant) and the stage of the case, an intermediary’s professional services are paid for by either the police, the Crown Prosecution Service, court budget, or funding sought by a defence solicitor.