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The role of the Registered Intermediary

A Registered Intermediary is an independent communication specialist who usually has a background in speech and language therapy, teaching or social work. They help both vulnerable witnesses and criminal practitioners (such as barristers, advocates and case workers) at every stage of the criminal process, from police investigation to trial.

Providing testimony or answering questions in a criminal trial can be a distressing and confusing experience. It can be particularly challenging for the thousands of witnesses, defendants and victims who have learning, mental and physical disabilities or disorders.

For the most vulnerable people, the presence of a Registered Intermediary can make the difference between the ability to give evidence or not.

Collaborating with the School of Law

Our School collaborated with the School of Law to provide students with an insight into the role of the Registered Intermediary. It also highlighted their importance within the UK legal system.

The activity was led by Speech and Language Therapy Clinical Tutor Alison Cox, and Professor Amanda Millmore from the School of Law. More than 30 students took part in a day of workshops, which trained them how to support and interact with vulnerable witnesses. Alison Cox said:

"The Registered Intermediary has a number of important roles in the criminal process. This includes assessing witnesses to understand their communication, comprehension and attention skills.

"They also make recommendations to the Criminal Prosecution Service such as simplifying questions or suggesting allowances to ensure the witness is able to testify cogently.

"Most importantly, while the Registered Intermediary is there to support vulnerable people, they must remain independent and neutral in the entire process."

The mock trial

The day's workshops culminated in a mock trial, where students from both Schools assumed the roles of witnesses, intermediaries and barristers.

Students used the knowledge gained from the day to ensure the trial was fair and thorough. They also took into account the concerns and requirements of vulnerable people in the courtroom.

The session was incredibly successful. One student said:

"I started the day with very limited knowledge about Registered Intermediaries but now I feel like I fully understand their role."

A successful day

Thanks to the success of the initial workshop, there are plans to run future sessions.

Professor Amanda Millmore said:

"It was great to watch the students working together to structure questions, bringing their respective skills and knowledge to the process. The feedback from students was uniformly positive and we would be keen to run the session again in future.

"Working in an interdisciplinary way brought a new dimension to advocacy training. The law students appreciated the practical nature of working with speech and language therapy students. It felt more realistic to them, and highlighted challenges they would face as advocates."

 Alison Cox said:

"It was fantastic to collaborate with the School of Law. With fewer than 200 Registered Intermediaries in the UK having to manage more than 6,000 requests a year, we hope some of our students are considering this role.

"The skills and knowledge from studying speech and language therapy can be applied in many situations outside a clinical setting, whether it is law or a variety of professional careers."

Learn more about undergraduate study in our School

Supporting adults with aphasia on placement

Speech and language therapy graduate Jodie Kenvin helped run the Aphasia Friendly Book Club as part of her weekly summer placement. She made connections with clients and found the experience hugely beneficial.

Helping students improve mental wellbeing with exercise

During a placement, BSc Psychology student Leyla Owen saw the benefits that being active can have on wellbeing. This inspired her to try and make a difference for her fellow students.

Gaining research skills and hands-on clinical experience

Simon Brett is a psychological wellbeing practitioner (PWP) with the Anxiety and Depression in Young People (AnDY) Research Unit at Reading. He's been part of our School from undergraduate level onwards.

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