Why do Young Witnesses need Registered Intermediaries? – A Case Study

The NSPCC’s Order in Court campaign is calling for all young witnesses to have access to a Registered Intermediary.

The below example, taken from a real case, highlights the importance of Registered Intermediaries in ensuring children can understand what is happening during a trial, without being traumatised by inappropriate and confusing questionning.

NSPCC Order in Court campaignA Registered Intermediary was assigned to the case of a distressed 6 year old who was the alleged victim of rape.

The Registered Intermediary met with the Judge before the trial and recommended that he meet the child ahead of them giving evidence, which the judge did. It was arranged for the child to give evidence from the video-link room and the judge warned the defence barrister about the need to keep questions simple.

However, during the trial, the defence barrister continually used very difficult questioning despite both the judge and intermediary explaining the child could not understand this. As a result the child ran out of the video-link room and was too upset to answer any more questions. Even when the child returned the next day, he was still visibly upset by the defence barrister and refused to answer any questions.

When it looked as though the case would collapse, the judge worked with the registered intermediary and the judge set aside time to speak with the child. The judge allowed the child to visit the courtroom when it was not in session to become familiar with the surroundings. The child agreed to continue the questioning via video-link. Having worked with the intermediary to produce simplified questions which were agreed with the defence barrister, the judge led the questioning and the child was able to answer confidently and assertively now that he understood the questions.

The defendant was found guilty on all counts and the judge thanked the intermediary saying ‘your help and professionalism was invaluable’ and explained that, without the assistance of the Registered Intermediary the child wouldn’t have been able to complete their evidence.

21,000 children give evidence in court every year but with only 94 Registered Intermediaries, most don’t get this support. Find out more about the NSPCC’s Order in Court campaign and help ensure all young witnesses have access to a Registered Intermediary.