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Family Law

The leading authority on all aspects of family law

03 AUG 2015

Safeguarding measures, intermediaries and vulnerable witnesses: footnotes from the trenches (£)

Safeguarding measures, intermediaries and vulnerable witnesses: footnotes from the trenches (£)
Gillian Geddes, 2-3 Hind Court

This article highlights new guidance now available and for use in family proceedings to enable vulnerable witnesses to be able to participate effectively.

The article outlines ground-breaking safeguarding measures employed in a care case in which the mother had serious physical, learning and speech difficulties; her speech could not be interpreted by those trying to understand her.

Two Ground Rules hearings lead to a complete alteration of the way the fact-finding hearing was conducted to enable the mother’s evidence to be understood: hearings were timed, examination was re-modelled, and an intermediary developed and used communication tools to accommodate the mother’s particular special needs.

Starting from an almost blank canvass, the article sets out the novel safe-guarding procedures devised from the combined advice of the jointly-instructed expert and the mother’s intermediary.

These safeguarding measures enabled the mother to move forward from her previously disempowered position of not having been understood or listened to by the police and the courts, to being able finally to describe her experiences after many years of serious abuse of herself and her children.

The article underlines the impact of the safeguarding measures employed on all who took part, and the lessons learned from the process.

The full version of this article appears in the August 2015 issue of Family Law.

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