Intermediaries In Family Court Proceedings

Image of a family on a walk for a blog post on famil law

In his latest Timms Blog, Trainee Solicitor Matthew Light explores the role and duties of Intermediaries in family court proceedings….

What Is An Intermediary?

In family court proceedings intermediaries are used to assist people in the giving of evidence. Intermediaries perform an extremely important function in ensuring a fair trial for highly vulnerable people in family courts, usually parents.

Her Majesty’s Courts and tribunals Service pay for the services of Intermediaries.

What Do Intermediaries Do?

The intermediary should be given details of the vulnerable person, this is usually in the form of an assessment that has already been entered into during the proceedings. The Intermediary should then conduct an assessment regarding the person’s communicative abilities, and how they can support them in court during their trial.

An assessment can take between one and three hours, depending on what support the person needs.

Once the assessment has taken place a report will be prepared and filed with the court.

The Intermediary will then appear with the person at court and assist them in effectively participating. 

What Does The Law Say?

Part 3A.1 of the family procedure rules defines an intermediary as follows: 

“‘Intermediary’ means a person whose function is to:

  • Communicate questions put to a witness or party;
  • Communicate to any person asking such questions the answers given by the witness or party in reply to them
  • To explain such questions or answers so far as is necessary to enable them to be understood by the witness or party or by the person asking such questions.”

There is no other codified guidance for intermediaries in the family court.

Is There Any Other Guidance?

The criminal justice system has a detailed scheme for intermediaries assisting in criminal trials, details of which can be found here. It is important to note, however, that this does not directly apply to the family justice system.

The Advocates Gateway website provides free access to practical guidance on communicating with vulnerable witnesses. It aims to promote the highest professional standards in the questioning of people who are vulnerable in justice settings and to provide practitioners guidance and support in the form of toolkits. As a result, it contains a wealth of information and guidance on the function and practice of intermediaries.

If you would like to contact us regarding a family matter, please don’t hesitate to call us on 0800 011 6666. Alternatively, visit our website here.

Matthew Light

October 2021

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