Andrew was in his late teens and had already experienced many difficulties through his life. Severe health problems, which had been poorly managed over the years, resulted in many hospital stays, erratic school attendance, low academic achievements and limited literacy. His attention span was extremely limited, his verbal reasoning poor, and his behaviour erratic. However, when helping his grandfather on their allotment or with DIY jobs, Andrew seemed ‘a different boy’.
Never having been in trouble with the police before, but having experienced poor anger management at school, Andrew lost his temper one day and was arrested by the police for punching a younger neighbour and trashing his bedroom.
Before the trial, Andrew’s Defence barrister and solicitor discussed how he might have extreme difficulty coping with a court appearance, would be likely to misunderstand challenging cross-examination questions, and could also have trouble concentrating for long enough to give his best evidence. An intermediary was sought.
At first, Andrew was suspicious of the need for an assessment of his listening skills and ability to express himself. But when he understood that an intermediary’s role is to make sure people understand questions at court, he was able to talk about his fear of attending the trial, meeting strangers and feeling out of his depth.
Having watched the intermediary assessment, the solicitor was able to confirm to Andrew’s barrister that he really would struggle at court if giving evidence alone. The intermediary submitted a detailed report to the court; was asked to meet with the judge and barristers for an early Ground Rules Hearing at a Youth Court; and was then present when Andrew was cross-examined.
On account of his very limited attention, the intermediary had recommended that Andrew be permitted to give his evidence via video link from a side room. Although this was not common practice, the judge agreed. Two-way communication between Andrew and the Prosecution barrister were supported by the intermediary on the day; and the judge commended Andrew for coping with the alien experience of cross-examination. Andrew, in turn, was heard to comment that he could not have managed without the intermediary.