Belfast Telegraph

Ford announces further help for vulnerable victims, witnesses and defendants

Stormont Executive press release - Department of Justice

Justice Minister David Ford has welcomed the positive impact of the Registered Intermediaries Schemes in assisting vulnerable victims, witnesses and defendants in communicating more effectively.

The Schemes began in May 2013 and today the Department of Justice has launched a second recruitment campaign for Registered Intermediaries.

The role of a Registered Intermediary is to assist victims, witnesses and defendants who may find it difficult to understand questions asked of them and to help communicate their answers more effectively during a police investigation or at a trial.

David Ford said: “I welcome the early indications that the Registered Intermediaries Schemes are working well and that very vulnerable people with significant communication difficulties are now getting the help they need to tell the police and the courts what happened to them.

“Registered Intermediaries make a real contribution to the criminal justice process.

“It is a challenging but vital role in aiding victims, witnesses and defendants to give their best possible evidence, as well as working closely with criminal justice professionals, sometimes in emotionally stressful and high-profile cases.

“This second recruitment campaign is a unique opportunity for professionals who have a specialism in communication to make a real difference to the lives of vulnerable people, and to enhance the effectiveness and fairness of our justice system. I would encourage all those who have the requisite skills and experience to consider this area of work.”

This role may be of interest to people from a wide range of professional backgrounds, including speech and language therapy, clinical and forensic psychology, social work and the mental health professions.

Note to editors:

1. Examination of a witness through an intermediary is one of the special measures provided for in the Criminal Evidence (Northern Ireland) Order 1999 to assist vulnerable witnesses give their best possible evidence in criminal proceedings. The Justice Act (Northern Ireland) 2011 provided for the examination of a vulnerable defendant through an intermediary so that they can participate effectively in criminal proceedings.

2. People who may need the assistance of a Registered Intermediary include children, and individuals with a learning or physical disability, social communication difficulty, mental health issue or neurological or progressive disorder.

3. The Registered Intermediaries Schemes pilot began operating in the Crown Court sitting in Belfast in May 2013. It was extended to all Crown Courts in November 2013. By 4 June 2014, 146 requests for a Registered Intermediary had been made. These have been primarily for victims of alleged sexual offences who are vulnerable either because of their young age or a learning disability. Following evaluation, a decision on the future of the Schemes will be taken by March 2015.

4. Applicants may be in employment on a full-time, part-time or reduced hours basis, be self-employed or retired/semi-retired. A Registered Intermediary will work on a self-employed basis and registration as an accredited intermediary does not mean that the individual becomes an employee of the Department of Justice.

5. The duty of the Registered Intermediary is to the court. They are impartial and neutral, and do not act for the prosecution or the defence.

6. Further information and an application form are available from:

Website: www.dojni.gov.uk/registered-intermediaries

Email: intermediaries@dojni.x.gsi.gov.uk

The closing date for applications is 5pm on Friday 25 July 2014.

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