20 April 2022

Court appointed intermediaries will be available for defendants with communication needs in England and Wales, starting this month.

The launch of Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) scheme to support vulnerable defendants is welcomed by the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT), which has long campaigned on the rights of those with communication needs to access intermediaries in the interests of a fair trial.

Intermediaries are communication specialists who support vulnerable people to engage in and participate in a court or tribunal hearings. They provide impartial recommendations to the court about a service user’s specific communication needs and outline the steps needed to achieve them.

For too long these communication specialists were only available to victims and witnesses. In 2008 the Ministry of Justice Witness Intermediary Scheme made specially recruited and trained registered intermediaries available to all victims and witnesses in England and Wales, but did not extend this provision to defendants.

The RCSLT secured an amendment to the Coroners and Justice Act in 2009 to make this provision available, but it has taken until now for the government to push ahead with introducing this.

The HMCTS has awarded contracts to several service providers to supply the court appointed intermediary service. The service is suitable for defendants in criminal cases and all parties in family, civil and tribunal cases. Legal representatives and HMCTS staff can select an intermediary from an approved list.

Under the new framework, support to vulnerable court and tribunal users will be standardised to ensure fairness and quality of service.

Find further guidance and information on intermediary services on the GOV.UK website.

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