Meet the team

IfJ is made up of a diverse and dynamic team of dedicated trustees and staff, consistently striving to raise awareness on the vital role of intermediaries.

Our trustees bring invaluable skills, experience and knowledge to the board.

Our Trustees

Catherine O'Neill

Catherine O'Neill - Chair

As chair and a founder member of Intermediaries for Justice I have a firm belief in equality of access to justice for all.

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I am a registered intermediary in the justice system, a Speech and Language Therapist and an Arts Psychological Therapist. As a therapist I have worked with adults and children with communication needs and mental health issues, in a variety of settings including palliative care, acute mental health wards and day hospitals, schools and clinics.

I am a visiting lecturer on the Wellbeing Practitioner course at University of East London and have written for Jessica Kingsley publishers and Childsplay International on subjects related to mental health.

As chair and a founder member of Intermediaries for Justice I have a firm belief in equality of access to justice for all.

Alongside other IfJ trustees I have run conferences and seminars on subjects ranging from: Working with Defendants; Trauma in the CJS; Joined up working in CJS; Abuse and its many faces in the CJS and Vulnerability and Justice.

I have chaired and contributed to the writing of many Toolkits for The Advocates Gateway and currently run trainings for the police on communication to Achieve Best Evidence and on Trauma Informed Practice.

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Francesca Castellano - Secretary

After working for many years in television and film production, I retrained and gained a degree in psychology and a masters in Forensic Psychology.

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Since 2018 I have worked as an intermediary with defendants and witnesses and specialise in working with people who have communication difficulties associated with autism, learning difficulties, drug & alcohol addictions, ADHD, OCD, depression and anxiety. 

I bring the skills of organisation and dedication to the role of IfJ secretary. I speak fluent French and bilingual Italian. 

I believe that the work intermediaries do is an essential part of upholding the concept that the Justice system should be open and accessible to everyone in a way that is meaningful to them. 

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Kate Blake

Kate Blake - Membership and Referrals Secretary

I am a registered intermediary and speech and language therapist working with children in Yorkshire and the North East. I specialise in speech and language difficulties and Autism.

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Prior to becoming an intermediary, I worked to design and program websites with inmates in a men's prison; was vice Chair of governors for an outstanding primary school where I was part of the finance committee and school website development team. As a volunteer, I set up and led two girl guiding units and mentored new leaders.

As an IfJ trustee it has been fantastic to work on the development of the website.

It has shown me how diverse the range of work IfJ does, for intermediaries, other professionals and the wider public.

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Sue Osbond

Sue Osbond - Treasurer

I have been a registered intermediary since 2011 and work with teenagers and adults with a range of learning difficulties, including ASD, hearing impairment and acquired injuries.

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My background is in Speech Language Therapy (SLT), originally in paediatrics, but during a time living abroad, I developed an interest in functional language, teaching and examining English at all levels, from primary to post-graduate. It was at this time that I had the painful personal experience of what it means to struggle to communicate freely in an unfamiliar environment. This belief that everyone’s voice is important and should be heard has stayed with me and informs my work as a RI.

On returning to the UK, I worked for a number of years in a special school for young people with Speech, Language and Communication Needs (SLCN), developing a program to embed language learning and support in the curriculum, as well as being responsible for the successful transition of the students to further education and/or the workplace.

Working as an intermediary, I am able to draw on my range of experience to understand the emotions and needs of witnesses, as well as applying strategies I have learned over the years.  I particularly enjoy the interaction with other professionals and the training sessions I have been asked to deliver.

As a trustee of IfJ, it is exciting to work with such enthusiastic and dedicated colleagues, sharing ideas and innovations. I intend to play an active part to strengthen the registered intermediary support network so that our role can be developed and accorded the respect and support it deserves. 

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Nicola Lewis

As a former solicitor and accredited mediator by background I have always believed that in a democracy, fair access to justice is a fundamental pillar of a just society.

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"Access to justice is a practical, not a hypothetical requirement. And if it does not exist, society will eventually start to fragment. That is not merely a fragmentation in the sense of the gulf between rich and poor, which leads to real frictions and difficulties if it gets too wide. It is a fragmentation which arises when people lose faith in the legal system: they then lose faith in the rule of law, and that really does undermine society".

(Welcome address to Australian Bar Association Biennial Conference, Lord Neuberger, President of the Supreme Court, 3 July 2017)

I became a registered intermediary in 2014 and I currently work with witnesses, defendants, and in the family courts assisting children and vulnerable adults with mild to moderate learning difficulties or disabilities or mental health conditions. I love the work and I see the difference it makes. Imagine your child is adopted but you don't really understand why it happened. Imagine being able to explain to the Judge why your child should come home, where you are afraid that you will not be able to find the words.
I am encouraged by the possibilities that are created by IfJ, to promote equal access to justice for all vulnerable people whose voices can otherwise be lost in the Justice process.  

There is work to be done to raise awareness around communication and the different forms it can take, around hidden disabilities, and around how an intermediary actually works with the vulnerable. 

Often a good intermediary will be an invisible one, a lot of work will be done before the person even enters the courtroom or tribunal. But without telling our colleagues in the Justice system our role will never be fully understood.  

IfJ also seeks to ensure that the intermediary workforce has access to a space where discussions can take place to improve the way we work and to share thoughts and ideas. I work in the team compiling surveys and we facilitate online meetings for members to discuss issues that are relevant to intermediary work and the people whose communication we facilitate. We also encourage intermediaries and justice professionals to feed back and reflect how things could be done better, to develop our practice and to reflect on how we are regulated and how to 'professionalise' our role.

I work on responses to papers published where the intermediary perspective could prove useful to legislators/policymakers. This gives the vulnerable people we work with a voice when they may otherwise not be heard. I also represent the intermediary perspective in some stakeholder groups. I have contributed and run training for the police, for solicitors and for advocates spreading the word about intermediary work and hidden vulnerabilities.

I work on the CPD programme which we ran initially as an IfJ initiative and which we currently deliver together with City Law School and City University. I have facilitated IfJ sessions on working in the Family Courts and in Remote Working.
I am also part of the media group where IfJ aims to promote equality of access to justice by publicising the ground-breaking work taking place between justice professionals, intermediaries and the vulnerable.

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Robert Thomas

I am an independent intermediary assisting defendants in the justice systems, criminal and family, having previously worked as a registered intermediary.

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I served on RIRT for two years on behalf of the South West Group and am a fluent Welsh speaker. 

I am a retired teacher having taught in the maintained and independent sectors both in this country and overseas for thirty five years. I have worked as a teacher and senior manager both in schools, sixth form college and in Further Education. The last ten years of my career were spent as senior manager in a medium sized mixed comprehensive school in the West Midlands, following which I took early retirement to return home to South Wales. In that capacity I served on a number of governing bodies and as trustee of an educational charity.

My main teaching subject was English and I have spent my career asking students throughout the ability range questions they can understand, which has been an outstanding preparation for my intermediary role.

One of the formative experiences of my early intermediary career was at the ‘Trauma’ conference in Wyboston where it was immediately clear that IfJ was making an invaluable contribution to our professional development.

I became an IfJ trustee in part because of the current and on-going great support that it gives to intermediaries. My early involvement as a trustee coincided with the release of the Victims’ Commissioner’s Review which gave me an insight into the work that needs to be done for intermediaries to develop as a profession.  

It is a very exciting and important time to be involved, and, whilst time consuming, it is one of the most satisfying experiences I have had in a long career.

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Esther Rumble

Esther Rumble

I believe that everyone has a voice - and that all of those voices should be heard and accepted as part of a fair trial. The work of IfJ feels key in upholding and promoting these values.

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I have been an intermediary for 10 years, and take cases with witnesses and defendants. I am based in Bath and work across the South of England and Wales. I am the Treasurer of the South West Regional Support Group. 

My professional background is as a Speech and Language Therapist, and I have worked for over 20 years with adults and young people who are autistic. And currently continue to work within the NHS as the Clinical Lead in a highly specialist service for adults seeking diagnostic assessment for autism.

I have day to day experience of communication breakdown, and of finding practical ways to make things make more sense. Perhaps as a result, I am determined that all communication should be clear and easy for everyone to understand, and want to make this happen as much as I can within the criminal justice system.   

I am very proud to be one of IfJ’s trustees and as a visual artist and writer use these skills within the  Media and Website subcommittee, in order to share our key messages. 

Huge change has happened in the ten years I have been an Intermediary. I believe that everyone has a voice - and that all of those voices should be heard and accepted as part of a fair trial. The work of IfJ feels key in upholding and promoting these values. 

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Ann King

Ann King

I believe that it is a fundamental right that those with a disability or disadvantage (vulnerable adults and children) should be able to take a full and active role within the Criminal Justice System (CJS).

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IfJ is a vital part of delivering this right by raising awareness of the role of intermediaries and supporting them in their work.I have been a Registered Intermediary since 2007.

Previously I have worked as a Registered General Nurse (RGN) in oncology and palliative care. I practiced as a Health Visitor for 10 years; the work included supporting families in crisis.  I am a counsellor and have worked with young people for the Children Society.  My various professional roles prompted my interest in how practitioners make decisions, leading me to obtain an MA in Medical Law and Ethics. I continue to be concerned with how professionals facilitate autonomy in those they work with and feel IfJ makes an important contribution in this area.

I am a practising artist. In 2016 I coordinated and contributed to an exhibition at Plymouth Combined Court entitled ‘Justice: Let’s Face It’. The work centred around exploring the human experience of those involved in the CJS whether as a user or a professional.

I am a member of the IfJ Film Committee involved in producing films to raise awareness and inform both professionals & the wider public about the work of intermediaries and the needs of vulnerable people.

IfJ anticipate these films will be an ongoing information tool for all.

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Giuditta Meneghetti

I believe that everyone is unique and that we all have a responsibility in society to consider the different needs in all aspects of our daily interactions.

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My career to date has focused on working with those who have barriers to information, education and employment.

Whilst studying law at university I worked with the youth offending team in Brighton. I wore various hats during my time there; an administrator, a sessional worker supporting the case manager in the delivery of preventive services, supervision orders and also as an appropriate adult at the police station. I also volunteered for the Witness Support Services at Lewes Crown Court. These roles clearly demonstrated that language and the process of the legal system can make it difficult for the ordinary person to understand, and even more so for people with specific learning and communication needs which are often accompanied with mental health issues. 

After completing my degree, I began a career in education. I have been a lecturer of law and business enterprise for over 20 years, predominately lecturing in higher education and as a curriculum leader in further education. During this time, I found myself working with increasing numbers of learners and colleagues who were struggling with poor mental health. As a result, I retrained in the field of stress management and safeguarding. I now run a company that delivers stress management solutions for the education sector and for micro entrepreneurs. 

Alongside my business, I work for Milton Keynes College on a sessional basis, delivering the SFEDI enterprise qualifications in a high security prison. This is something that I am passionate about. I believe that developing enterprise knowledge and skills can positively contribute to reducing reoffending rates.

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Rochelle Cowan

My background is as a Speech and Language Therapist and I have worked for over 25 years with both adults and children in a wide variety of settings, including schools, clinics, colleges, hospitals and adult education, often as part of a multi disciplinary team. I specialised in the areas of Disorders of Fluency and Learning Difficulties/Disability.

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I have been a Registered Intermediary (RI) since 2007 and have seen at first hand, how the work of intermediaries has helped vulnerable people to give their best evidence in the Criminal Justice System.  I have also seen the impact that this group has had in courtrooms and understand the need for raising awareness and understanding of the work. I have contributed to the Tool Kits on the Advocate's Gateway, and to Joyce Plotnikoff and Richard Wolfson's book 'Intermediaries in the Criminal Justice System'. 

I have worked closely with the Ministry of Justice and the Witness Intermediary Team to run Conferences about Special Measures. These are a series of provisions that help vulnerable and intimidated witnesses give their best evidence in court.  Intermediaries are one of these provisions. I worked with the same teams to provide a number of conferences for Registered Intermediaries, as part of Continuing Professional Development and I have worked on training courses for the Police on achieving best evidence with vulnerable witnesses.  I have also worked on RI training courses to induct new RIs.

I am a member, and have also acted as chair, of the London Intermediary Group, and have been a member of RIRT (Registered Intermediary Reference Team) which acts as a liaison group between RIs and the MoJ.

I have watched IfJ grow out of the dedication and hard work of Intermediaries who understand the needs of vulnerable people and what it takes to have their voices heard in the Criminal Justice System. The charity has grown in strength and stature and has become an important voice for those who work with them. I am a new Trustee and am proud to join IfJ and contribute to its development as the charity moves forward at a time of great change in the CJS.

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Paul Redfern

My roles have all highlighted the importance of support for vulnerable people who whether through minimal language skills, or have disabilities, find it hard to understand how our society works, particularly in court.

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I am currently working part-time as a general secretary for the British Society for Mental Health and Deafness, as a Community Business Manager for Action Deafness and as a facilitator for the Truth Project, part of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse.  I previously worked for the British Deaf Association as Senior Community Development Manager.

I worked as a qualified social worker many years ago and attended court on a few occasions and saw for myself how the system can so easily disadvantage people who don't have the skills or knowledge to challenge what is happening to them in the Justice system.

I have acted as a Trustee or Committee member for five different charities, holding the posts of Chair, Vice-chair, Secretary and Treasurer so have knowledge and experience of charitable work - both governance and management.

I am a new Trustee and I am hoping that my experience not only in the UK but also abroad - having worked in Swaziland and France - will contribute to IfJ to ensure that it continues to support Intermediaries out in the field who are in the frontline working with some of society's most disadvantaged people.

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Our Staff

Ferne Brewster - Administrator

It is an exciting time to be part of IfJ; since becoming a charity in 2018 there has been great momentum in the development of IfJ’s strategic plan.

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As administrator I undertake a wide range of tasks, including overseeing the website and online communication, maintenance and development of administrative systems, supporting IfJ’s activities & events and assisting the Board of Trustees in their subcommittee projects. On a day to day basis I work closely with IfJ’s secretary.

With a professional background in healthcare and education, working as a self-employed acupuncturist in private practice and a teacher assistant in special needs school, communication skills, organization and problem-solving have been at the heart of what I do.

It is an exciting time to be part of IfJ; since becoming a charity in 2018 there has been great momentum in the development of IfJ’s strategic plan. I enjoy the interpersonal aspect of the work which includes communicating with end-users, professionals in the justice system and intermediaries.

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Alicia Fairbairn

Having worked within the legal advice/support sector, I have become increasingly passionate about working to ensure ‘vulnerable’ adults and young people have a voice – in all aspects of life and especially in the justice system.

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Having worked within the legal advice/support sector, I have become increasingly passionate about working to ensure ‘vulnerable’ adults and young people have a voice – in all aspects of life and especially in the justice system. IfJ is an active organisation that raises awareness of this fundamental gap in the legal system and I am proud to be a part of the charity's journey. I currently support and empower young teenagers and children with learning difficulties, autism and social & emotional mental health problems in a secondary school whilst working part-time for IfJ. Previous to this, I was a part of the Personal Support Unit's fundraising team - a legal charity based in the Royal Courts of Justice.  I now manage IfJ's social media platforms and am working on launching various fundraising campaigns in support of the charity and intermediaries nationwide. 

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External Advisers

Dame Joyce Plotnikoff

The communication skills of intermediaries help make the justice system fairer and more appropriate to the needs of children and vulnerable adults. I am proud to support Intermediaries for Justice in raising awareness of the intermediary’s contribution to increasing access to justice.

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I trained as a social worker in the UK, then was admitted to the Bar in the US. However, much of my career has been as a researcher and co-director of Lexicon Limited with Richard Woolfson. Our Ministry of Justice report recommending rollout of the pilot intermediary scheme was published in 2007. Our book about the scheme  ‘Intermediaries in the criminal justice system’ - based on registered intermediaries’ first-hand accounts - was published in 2015. We have drawn on the experience of intermediaries in several articles and in guidance including Advocates’ Gateway toolkits, Criminal Practice Directions and the Equal Treatment Bench Book.

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Dr Richard Woolfson

It has been a privilege to support the work of intermediaries since their introduction in 2004 and to assist Intermediaries for Justice in promoting their work.

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I am a mathematician and management consultant. Joyce and I have worked together for almost 30 years: our involvement with the intermediary scheme has been the most rewarding of our careers. In addition to promoting the benefits brought about by intermediaries in England and Wales, we have spoken about the scheme in Northern Ireland, Scotland, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. However, in England and Wales the role is underfunded, unevenly available, insufficiently well-known and is still often misunderstood.

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