Sheila, a 45-year-old woman with Cerebral Palsy and learning disability and living in supported accommodation, alleged her purse had been stolen when she was out shopping. Sheila had moderately good understanding but her speech was extremely difficult to follow due to her Cerebral Palsy. After a detailed assessment of her communication abilities, at the request of the police, the Registered Intermediary (RI) met with the interviewing officer for joint planning before supporting Sheila’s video recorded interview.
Although the RI role is not to generate questions at interview, s/he is empowered to assist both witness and police when either questions or answers are not understood. Co-working between police and RI worked very well in this case. The RI organized communication aids including familiar symbols and picture boards. She also helped the officer to keep his questions simple so that Sheila’s replies could be short. At times it was necessary to help the interviewer when Sheila’s speech sounds or longer words were hard to follow.
Following the interview, the RI wrote a full report on Sheila’s communication difficulties and also noted the problems that had arisen at interview. This report was sent to the Crown Prosecution Service who considered all the evidence obtained, including Sheila’s videoed interview, and made an application to the Court for further assistance from the RI at the trial.
At the trial, with the RI’s support of two-way communication, Sheila was able to answer the questions put to her; and the lawyers and jury were enabled to understand her evidence. She stated that she could not otherwise have managed.
The jury found the defendant, an ex neighbour, guilty.
For an example of systemic abuse of vulnerable residents in a care home, where a team of intermediares were used as part of the trail see an article in the Guardian here.