We were delighted that so many people supported our official launch event on 10th December. In all, over 70 people attended including our three Honorary Members, David Wurtzel, Joyce Plotnikoff and Richard Woolfson and our first patron Lady Henrietta St George. There were also many intermediaries, representatives of the MoJ, NCA, Judiciary, CPS, police, solicitors, CBA, Law Commission, the Prison Reform Trust, Witness Services, NSPCC, research psychologists and expert witnesses.
Proceedings were opened by Jan Jones, IfJ's current Chair, who welcomed guests, gave a short history of IfJ and outlined its aims. Jan emphasized that it is an inclusive professional body embracing registered intermediaries trained in England and Northern Ireland and also those intermediaries who work for Communicourt and Triangle. Barrister and lecturer, David Wurtzel, followed by observing how much the intermediary scheme has changed since its inception. It has been influenced significantly by a combination of the good practice and good sense of intermediaries and those who have supported them. He listed many aspects of the role and the skills required. David also observed that, although statutory provision for vulnerable defendants has lagged behind that for victims and witnesses, many intermediaries have been undertaking work with suspects and defendants for some years. He concluded by expressing full confidence that intermediaries will continue to do a great job and that IfJ will play its part.
Committee member Gill Darvill and our website designer, Dan Goddard of Thread Creative, gave a presentation about our website contents and structure, illustrating how Full and Associate members of IfJ can obtain access to additional material such as case studies, articles, useful references and resources held in the Members Area. Gill also drew attention to the Members Discussion Forum which will provide an opportunity for discussion and, we hope, lively debate among Full and Associate members. IfJ warmly welcomes contributions from members, the intention being to keep the website regularly refreshed.
Researcher and author Joyce Plotnikoff (who was made a DBE in the New Year Honours List) followed on by welcoming this new professional body, thanking the steering group and Dan Goddard for their hard work in putting it all together, and welcoming the fact that IfJ will help to bring together all trained intermediaries from England, Wales and Northern Ireland. She too reflected that the scheme had come a long way in ten years and that intermediaries have helped shape the profession themselves. Criminal justice colleagues are now firmly convinced of their value. Joyce recounted with a smile how, while taking brief respite from writing her book about intermediaries, she and husband Richard visited a museum in Amsterdam. The first item they came across was an Egyptian bust of Amenhotep, described as 'intermediary between men and God'. She did wonder if the gods were conspiring against her achieving a break!
Jan Jones closed the formal proceedings, inviting people to join IfJ. Through its Full and Associate members, the association will become increasingly dynamic, informative and useful. Jan was also pleased to announce that IfJ's first Annual Conference will take place on Saturday 14 March at City Law School. Its title is Working with Defendants; and plans look exciting with some excellent speakers. The day will be free to Full and Associate Members, made possible through the generosity of our patron, Lady Henrietta St George who attended the launch and was thanked in person. Non-members will also be most welcome at the Conference, the cost being £50.
Following the presentation, drinks were served and there was much positive discussion and animated sharing of views. The arrival of IfJ as a professional body was warmly welcomed.The committee wishes to thank all those who were able to attend and is aware that it was too far for some to travel. IfJ intends to remedy this in the near future by holding events outside of London.