How Intermediaries Work

You may have heard intermediaries debating about ‘intermediary for evidence only’ versus ‘intermediary for full trial’ so we thought we would provide some examples of how intermediaries can work.

Intermediaries are experts in communication and any recommendations that an intermediary makes must be based on their assessment findings and their professional experience working with vulnerable people in the justice system.  Intermediaries should not take a ‘one size fits all’ approach to their work, so their recommendations should be as individual as the people they work with.

Here are some examples of the way intermediaries may work:

Adam

Adam is a 33 year old male with a diagnosis of ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder and a psychological report puts him in the ‘Borderline range of Learning Disability’ with ‘a significant impairment in short-term memory’.  He is the defendant in a week-long trial.

The intermediary assessment revealed Adam to have profound difficulties attending to and processing auditory instructions.   Verbal instructions with up to two sentences were processed to a level of 50% or less.  Adam was not able to state when he had not understood and was noted to guess answers rather than ask for clarification.   Adam was unable to make written notes due to his short-term memory difficulties.  He could not remember what he was meant to be writing.

In court, Adam would not be able to follow proceedings, understand and retain what was being said by witnesses or take notes to notify his legal team of any points to which he does not agree.  The role of the intermediary will be to summarise and simplify the information to Adam at all times, make written notes of important pieces of information that Adam needs to retain, and to make a note of any comments Adam makes so he can discuss this with his legal team during breaks.  Adam will also need the assistance of an intermediary when giving his evidence due to his comprehension difficulties and his inability to indicate when he has not fully processed a question. 

The recommendation for Adam would be that he requires an intermediary for the full duration of the trial.

Michelle

Michelle is a 17 year old female with no formal diagnosis, but she received learning support when she was in school and left school with no formal qualifications.  She is the respondent (mother) in family proceedings, which is listed for 2 weeks.

The intermediary assessment revealed Michelle to have slow processing of verbal information and a limited vocabulary.  She was able to ask questions and seek clarification on a one to one basis, but in a group setting she lacked the confidence to express when she was not following the conversation.   When Michelle is anxious she has a stammer and can struggle to verbally express herself.  Michelle is literate and is able to take simple notes.

In proceedings, Michelle would find it difficult to process rapid and complex discussions and would lack the confidence to express this in a room full of people.  Michelle has significant concerns about giving evidence as she feels that she may not understand the questions and will struggle to express herself verbally.  The role of the intermediary will be to attend a Ground Rules Hearing to explain to the court about slowing down the pace of proceedings and to use simple vocabulary and avoid jargon at all times.  The intermediary will work with Michelle and her solicitor to ensure Michelle understands the issues that will be discussed and to go through any terminology that may be used.  The intermediary will attend meetings and hearings for specified periods to assist Michelle when giving instructions and to ensure that she has fully understood the case relating to her baby.  The intermediary will be present when Michelle is giving her evidence to monitor her understanding of the questions and implement some strategies for when Michelle is struggling to speak. 

The recommendation for Michelle is that an intermediary is required for specified periods during proceedings only.

Darren

Darren is a 57 year old male with a diagnosis of Expressive Aphasia following a CVA a number of years ago.  He is the defendant in a three week trial.

The intermediary assessment revealed Darren to have effortful and unintelligible speech and inconsistent range of movement in his trunk and head to indicate yes/no.  However, his comprehension of spoken language remained intact and he has no identifiable learning difficulties or cognitive impairment.  Darren has retained his literacy skills and can use writing to communicate, however, this is slow and time consuming.  He can also type on his ipad.

In court, Darren will be able to follow proceedings as well as any other person.  Darren will also be able to instruct counsel using writing and messaging on his ipad.  The role of the intermediary will be to assist Darren when he is giving his evidence by reading out any written notes he makes and by providing him with a choice board so he can quickly indicate ‘yes’ ‘no’ ‘don’t know’ ‘can’t remember’ ‘I don’t understand’.  The intermediary will also be involved in the Ground Rules Hearing to discuss Darren’s needs, such as him requiring longer than normal breaks to instruct his legal team due to his expressive communication impairment. 

The recommendation for Darren would be that he requires an intermediary for evidence only.

These are just three examples of different approaches that can be taken when working with people with communication difficulties.  If you wish to discuss a client with a specific need, please get in touch with one of the intermediaries on the ‘Find an Intermediary’ page of this web site.