Help for vulnerable people giving evidence

If you have significant communication problems and you need to talk to the police or give evidence at court, a specially trained person called a registered intermediary may be able to help you.

The Registered Intermediary Scheme is currently a pilot scheme and is only available in cases being brought to the Crown Court. Cases include those involving murder and serious assault or sexual crimes. 

About registered intermediaries

Registered intermediaries are people with special skills in communicating who can help you speak to the police or give evidence in court if you have significant communication problems. They will:

  • assess whether you need help to communicate
  • advise the police and the court on the best way to communicate with you
  • be present at the police interview, or in court, to help you communicate

The duty of registered intermediaries is to the court.  They are transparent, impartial, neutral and fair.  They:

  • are not 'on the side' of the witness or defendant
  • are not trying to achieve what the witness or defendant wants
  • do not work for the police, the prosecution or the defence
  • do not work to secure convictions
  • are not investigators, legal representatives or supporters

Find out more about the Registered Intermediary Scheme on the Department of Justice website

About you

A registered intermediary may be able to help if you have a problem that makes it difficult for you to communicate. For example, you may be able to get help if you:

  • are under 18 years old
  • have a mental health issue
  • have a learning disability or autism spectrum disorder
  • have a physical disability that makes it difficult for you to talk

Registered intermediaries can help vulnerable victims, witnesses, suspects and defendants.

Talking to the police

If the police or the defence solicitor thinks you need help because you have significant communication problems, they can ask for a registered intermediary to help you. 

The registered intermediary will speak to you and assess your communication abilities.

The assessment will be used by the police to assist them when they interview you.  The registered intermediary will be present at the interview to advise and assist with communication.  

Assessment

The registered intermediary’s assessment is given to the police and it may include recommendations on:

  • how you communicate best (verbal, visual, writing, drawing)
  • the extent of your vocabulary (verbal/sign/symbol)
  • your attention span (including whether you find it difficult to concentrate)
  • what sort of words or kinds of questions you find difficult
  • how you understand the concept of time

Once the police investigation is complete, the registered intermediary will prepare a report for the court. The report will tell the people who will be asking you questions in court the best way to talk to you.

Giving evidence at court

At court, a registered intermediary will help you to understand and communicate when you are giving evidence. 

They won't change the questions you are asked, but will suggest an alternative form of question, if they think it will help you understand what you are being asked. They will also communicate your reply to questions as accurately as possible.

The registered intermediary won't:

  • discuss any aspect of the case with you
  • interpret your answers or change what your evidence is
  • protect you from distressing questions

Find out more about giving evidence in court.

Someone I know needs a registered intermediary

If you know a vulnerable person with a significant communication difficulty, who may need the help of a registered intermediary when giving evidence at the police or court stage, contact the investigating police officer on the case or contact the Registered Intermediaries Scheme directly to request help.

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