Intermediaries: Communication assessment and support for people who have been victims of a serious crime.

Last year, I completed a Professional Diploma in Intermediary Studies. The diploma was a new postgraduate course developed by the University of Limerick for the Department of Justice.

The intermediary role is a new one within the Irish justice system. It comes from the recognition that sometimes, people who come into contact with the justice system may struggle to understand, or to express themselves in highly stressful situations.

Access to an intermediary is one of a suite of measures that can be used to support witnesses or victims of crime, specifically aimed at young children, or people with disabilities which impact communication. The role of the intermediary will be to assess the communication needs of the vulnerable person, and advise and assist in the communication process, whether at Garda interview stage, or during a trial.

Initially, the use of an intermediary will be focused on victims of violent crime or sexual assault. It is hoped that in time, the scheme will be extended to allow people with communication difficulties equal access to all aspects of the justice system, regardless of their role in the proceedings. People who witness crimes, are accused of crimes, or are the victim of a crime, all need to be given every chance to understand and communicate.

Intermediaries are not the same as advocates or supporters. An intermediary is an officer of the court, and will only meet with a witness in the presence of the Gardaí, but if you need this service, you can inform the Gardaí that there is a trained intermediary in DSI, and ask them to get in contact.

Nicola Hart,

National Research and Support Specialist,

Down Syndrome Ireland

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