Naomi has achieved high acclaim as a Registered Intermediary accredited by the Ministry of Justice, and has facilitated communication in over 200 criminal cases.
She offers practical support and training to Police Officers across the UK, currently contributing to Investigative Interview training of five forces.
Her down-to-earth approach combined with her passion to ensure justice for the most vulnerable members of our society contribute to highly effective team working.
Who are intermediaries, and what do they do?
The intermediary facilitates communication between a witness/suspect and
o The Police
o Prosecution and Defence Teams
o The Court
This ensures that the communication process is as complete, coherent and accurate as possible.
The intermediary is impartial and neutral and ultimately his/her duties to the court are paramount.
The intermediary is allowed to explain the questions or answers so far as is necessary to enable them to be understood by the witness or the questioner but without changing the substance of the evidence.
Intermediaries are not investigators and their role is not the same as appropriate adults, witness supporters or expert witnesses.
Who can have an intermediary?
In criminal proceedings, vulnerable witnesses may apply for a range of ‘special measures’ including examination through an intermediary. The definition of a vulnerable witness (section 16 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999) covers: witnesses who are under the age of 17, and those who suffer from a mental disorder or significant impairment of intelligence and social functioning or have a physical disorder or condition that is likely to affect their evidence. Witnesses under the age of 17 are automatically vulnerable witnesses and should always be considered for the full range of available special measures which includes intermediaries. Courts must approve the use of an intermediary on a case by case basis.
Vulnerable suspects and defendants may have the use of an intermediary only if the judiciary uses its inherent powers to grant the use of an intermediary in the interests of a fair trial. (Please call Communicourt direct if you would like further advice regarding using a non registered intermediary for a vulnerable suspect or defendant 0121 602 0882)
Is the intermediary on the side of the prosecution or the defence?
Although initial contact is likely to be with the police or another justice agency, the duty of the intermediary is not to act on behalf of the prosecution, defence or even the witness. Intermediaries are neutral and their primary responsibility is to the court.
What happens first?
You will need to request the services of a Registered Intermediary by contacting the NPIA.
The appointment of a Registered Intermediary is subject to one with the specialist skills required being available on the required dates and able to work in the location required.
If appointed, the Registered Intermediary will contact you to arrange to meet up. It is helpful if you can tell the Registered Intermediary all you can about the witness’s communication skills, and the contact details for you, and any other people that may be able to help e.g. Social Worker, Community Psychiatric Nurse, Psychologist, Teacher.
If a Registered Intermediary is not available you may be able to use the services of a non registered intermediary – contact Communicourt direct and we will do our best to help find one with the necessary skills.
What happens next?
The Registered Intermediary will meet with you, and have a look at any reports or other information you have gathered about the witness’s communication. You will then need to introduce the Registered Intermediary to the witness so that an assessment of their communication skills and difficulties can begin.
What kind of assessment is it?
What the Intermediary will be looking at is how the person communicates, what difficulties they may have in understanding questions or communicating their answers, and what strategies seem to help best in enabling them to give best evidence.
They will use a range of assessment tools – perhaps pictures and objects too. They will engage the witness in conversation, structuring it to check out how he/she copes with different kinds of questions and trying different ways of communicating to see what works best,
It may take one or more sessions to complete an assessment, depending on the complexity of the communication difficulty, and the attention span of the witness.
Does the interviewing police officer need to be involved with the assessment?
Not necessarily, but preferably. By watching the Registered Intermediary assess the witness’s skills you will see for yourself what the weaknesses are (and what works well) and this will assist you greatly when you come to interview.
Can the assessment and interview happen on the same day?
Sometimes, but not necessarily because:
1. The assessment process is tiring, because it tests the person to the level that is the most difficult for them. Being tired after assessment may affect the quality of the evidence at interview.
2. Some of the assessments may allow the person to “guess” at the answer. This is quite different from what we want them to do at interview. So it is useful to have a different occasion, and location, to introduce a different set of ground rules.
3. Following assessment, the intermediary will need time to evaluate the assessment results, and make recommendations based on the assessment. Only then can effective interview planning take place. Ideally the intermediary will write a comprehensive report, which would take a few hours to complete.
What happens at the interview?
That will depend on the planning! Experience has shown that good planning makes a big difference to how much help an Intermediary can offer.
What happens next?
You will need to keep the Registered Intermediary updated about the progress of the case, and any Pre trial meetings that are taking place. It is helpful for the Registered Intermediary to attend to attend any hearings to explain the role and recommendations. Registered Intermediaries also assist with pre-trial visits to court, to help the witness understand what he is being told, and to help him ask any questions he wants to ask.
Do you need a Registered Intermediary?
If you need a Registered Intermediary for a witness or victim, your next step is to contact the Specialist Operations Centre at NPIA on 0845 0005463, or email email@example.com and ask for a REQUEST FOR SERVICE FORM. It maintains a database of Registered Intermediaries and will then match the needs of the witness to the skills of the Registered Intermediaries based across England and Wales.
If you need an intermediary for a SUSPECT/DEFENDANT, you may contact Communicourt direct and we will happily advise.
Or if you would simply like to have an informal chat/advice about your case, just call Naomi on 0121 602 0882 and we will do our best to help.
What others said:
“Can I take this opportunity to thank you so, so much for your assistance with this enquiry. Your expertise and experience were invaluable and it was a pleasure to work with you”
DC Sarah Manton, West Midlands Police, July 2010
“It was a real joy to work with someone so talented in their field. You show a great passion for your work. I hope our paths cross again”
PC Suki Kharaud, West Midlands Police, October 2010
“I was so pleased and proud for you over the Derbyshire case that was reported by CPS. This is another case where you must have felt you really made a difference. Well done!
Joyce Plotnikoff, Lexicon Ltd , September 2006
“The intermediary can assist counsel to phrase their questions appropriately or simply and if counsel cannot do this and the witness fails to understand/misunderstands the question, then the intermediary can put the question in a way that is understood. In this trial Ms Mason did that several times, each time achieving an answer where counsel had failed. Ms Mason’s interventions were always appropriate in my opinion and helpful. The Intermediary’s report was most helpful. “
Judge Christopher Critchlow, R v Lawrence, 2005
“In follow-up to your case in Manchester Crown Court this week, I wanted to write to thank you. We don’t have a formal way of recognising efforts which go “above and beyond the call of duty” but you clearly did this in this case. The team would like to thank you for what you have done for the witnesses in this case and the Intermediary Service generally”
Tim Wright, Formerly of Witness Intermediaries Service, Office for Criminal Justice Reform