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Family Law

The leading authority on all aspects of family law

18 JUN 2012

Intermediaries and vulnerable witnesses in family courts: what do we do now?

Penny Cooper
Professor, City Law School, City University London

This article considers the latest case law, research and practice concerning intermediaries for vulnerable witnesses. Intermediaries assist practitioners and judges to put questions to and understand the answers from children and vulnerable adult witnesses with communication needs. Though the criminal courts in England and Wales frequently use Registered Intermediaries to achieve better communication with vulnerable witnesses, as yet there is no statutory scheme for this in the family justice system. The author highlights recent Family Justice Council guidelines in relation to children giving evidence in family proceedings and the use of intermediaries, a High Court family case concerning an intermediary, the Legal Services Commission position and research which shows that finding intermediaries and funding them in the family courts is not straight forward. This article suggests what practitioners and judges can do if an intermediary is not available via the Ministry of Justice. It also discusses what local authority lawyers and social workers need to do if a police officers is not familiar with the intermediary special measure and has not identified the special communication needs of the vulnerable witness in a related criminal investigation.

To read the rest of this article, see July [2012] Family Law journal.

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