Some examples of how Intermediaries help young people in the legal system:

Jake, aged 11, with diagnosed DHD, was accused of sexual abuse. His counsel realised early on that he was not able to give an account of his situation, or understand the complexity of his case. Once assessed by an intermediary, it was possible to help him form a narrative, using pictures and timelines. The intermediary attended four conferences and accompanied him to a one day trials, advising the court on ground rules and helping Jake to understand questions in the witness box.

Lucy, aged 18, with mild learning difficulties and a history of minor offences, was remanded following arrest for burglary. When assessed by an intermediary, Lucy was not expecting to go to court, as ‘she was already in prison’. Unable to read, she had not understood or remembered the charges. With intermediary assistance, the court was able to adjust the proceedings to allow her time for explanation and make an informed decision about whether to give evidence.

Sarinder, aged 17, with a history of mental illness and currently in care, had previously pleaded guilty to avoid a trial. He said it was too stressful even though ‘he didn’t do it’. Recently he was charged for assault. He pleaded not guilty, explaining to his counsel that this time he has been able to cope with a five-day trial because an intermediary was with him in the dock and helped him understand and instruct his counsel.

Jamie, aged 15, knew about the law as his brother was in jail. With ADHD and learning difficulties, he has pleaded not guilty to sexually harassing a female peer from his school. He didn’t want a criminal record. His barrister requested intermediary support, an Jim was then able to understand the CCTV and forensic evidence. With simplified explanation and clarification from the intermediary, his barrister could be sure Jim had understood the implications of pleading guilty. He changed his plea and avoided a criminal record, saving court time and money too.


 

Julie suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) in 2007 whilst working as a dental nurse in the Royal Navy. As a result of this, she has severe difficulties with processing and retaining large amounts of verbally presented information as well as difficulties with maintaining topics of conversation. Julie was due to attend Family court as the Local Authority had proposed her son should be removed from her care and should be cared for by his father.

She was assessed by an intermediary as her legal team were concerned with her ability to give clear instructions and retain information discussed with her on previous occasions. The intermediary’s report gave a more detailed explanation of Julie’s communication difficulties and what this would mean in the court environment. The judge stated that she was ‘greatly assisted’ by the intermediary report as previously was unclear to her how the court environment would impact on her difficulties. The intermediary suggested regular breaks in which Julie was able to recuperate. Part of the break time was used as a conference with her legal team and the intermediary to explain in simple terms what had happened in court.

When it came time for Julie to give evidence, the intermediary worked with all counsel in developing a strategy which ensured Julie stayed on topic and could answer questions in a coherent way. Collaborative working ensured all counsel were able to put their questions and her evidence was completed in a timely and effective manner.


 

John, aged 25, had no formal diagnosis but required extra assistance at school. His solicitor instructed Communicourt to carry out an assessment of John’s communicative abilities, due to concerns about his understanding during previous conferences. John was due to attend the Family Court.

The intermediary found that John was under the impression he was attending the Crown Court and that he was extremely anxious about this. With the use of a visual diagram and simple explanations, the intermediary was able to improve John’s understanding of the Family Court and the professionals involved. John told the intermediary that ‘it all made much more sense now’.

Throughout the hearing, the intermediary used visual aids to assist John’s understanding of evidence and was able to provide simplified explanations. John said that the Social Worker’s evidence was now much clearer to him and where previously he thought he disagreed with what she had to say, he now found that they agreed on many things. Furthermore, the intermediary explained the complex threshold document to John using visual aids and bullet points. John demonstrated that he understood and used the same visual aids to instruct his legal team clearly.

NB – real names have been substituted.