Research has shown that two thirds of offenders have speech and language difficulties. These difficulties are not always obvious and intermediaries are able to identify if a vulnerable suspect is having difficulty communicating. Communication difficulties impact vulnerable suspects’ ability to understand the caution, what they are being held for, the decisions they make in interview and what they are being charged for.
When working with vulnerable suspects, an intermediary will:
- Assess the suspect
- Give an opinion on whether an intermediary would improve the quality of the vulnerable person’s communication
- Make recommendations for questioning. These recommendations relate to their attention, understanding, communication and emotional regulation because they all impact a vulnerable person’s ability to participate to the best of their ability.
- Plan the interview with the interviewing officer, in order to minimise any disruption to the flow of questioning.
- Facilitate communication between both parties during the interview itself so that the vulnerable suspect is communicating to the best of their ability.
Vulnerable witnesses are provided for by the Ministry of Justice’s Witness Intermediary Scheme which offers Registered Intermediaries to assist at investigation and trial. There is no similar national scheme for suspects and defendants, although some judges have allowed for defendants to be examined using an intermediary e.g. R v Sevenoaks Youth court  EWHC.
If there is a query about a vulnerable suspect’s understanding and communication and you would like an intermediary to give you an opinion, please contact the most appropriate intermediary on the ‘Find an Intermediary’ page of this web site