By Nick Mason

When Jemma Wayman became an intermediary, it was because she wanted to make a difference to the lives of vulnerable people.

Intermediaries are impartial within the court environment and have a duty to support and facilitate communication between a service user and court and vice versa. This one case illustrates the impact that the support of a good intermediary can have on a service user’s experience in criminal court.

Jemma was asked to support a young man, in his early 20s, who found himself accused of historical sex offences dating back to when he was a young child.

Funding was only made available for her to attend the prosecution opening and the defendant giving evidence, but the time she spent with the client was invaluable.

Jemma, who is an intermediary with The Intermediary Cooperative (TIC), which has over 50 members across England and Wales, said: “I was permitted to sit next to the defendant in the dock on the first day of the trial.

“While in the dock, I created a visual aid to outline who everyone was in court and a simplified, brief definition of their role. This aid remained in the dock throughout the trial, so that he could refer to it whenever he needed to.

“I also provided the vulnerable person with a stress ball, which he used throughout. Although the stress ball assisted his emotional state (by managing his anxiety), its use in itself was not enough. I also needed to answer various questions that he had as they arose in the dock (e.g., “who is that?” “What are they doing?” “Why are they doing that?” “What are they talking about?”).

“I kept a written note of any comments and concerns he had about what was discussed, so that he could later address it with his legal team and make sure he fully understood what was going on.

“While the defendant gave evidence, I stood in his line of sight, as his stress and anxiety levels naturally heightened. The court had been told that he may either look at me or towards me to offer his answers, as he did not feel comfortable or confident enough to directly address the Jury.

“This was permitted by the Judge and the Jury were informed of this approach. The vulnerable person was also permitted to continue using the stress ball throughout his evidence and cross-examination.

“I was also permitted to verbally interject when a communication difficulty occurred, rather than raising my hand. I noted that counsel usually looked down while the vulnerable person was responding, so would not have seen my hand.”

Jemma spent a lot of time sitting with the defendant and his parents in the waiting area at the court, answering questions and providing reassurance.

Jemma, who is based in North-East England, added: “After the case finished, the vulnerable person gave me a card he had drawn and cried and thanked me for supporting him through his ordeal. He said he could not have done it without me. His dad was also in tears and gave me a big hug.”

Jemma, who works with vulnerable people in Family and Criminal Courts, worked for another intermediary company before hearing about TIC and deciding to move across.

She said: “I was travelling all over the UK with my previous employer and at one stage was doing up to 30,000 miles a year.

“This is the opposite of TIC, where there is focus on trying to match service users with an intermediary in their region, as well as tailoring the support provided to meet the vulnerable person’s specific needs. Because we are also a not-for-profit social enterprise, we really can provide a best value for money service.

“We now have seven intermediaries in the North-East, all in different locations, which means we always have someone local to the referral. I still travel for cases elsewhere in the UK when carrying out work for TIC, but my main focus is on supporting vulnerable people and growing awareness of TIC in the North-East.

“We have good relationships with several local firms of solicitors and barristers, something we are keen to develop further over the coming months, hopefully leading to more referrals and the opportunity to recruit more intermediaries in the North-East.”

Like all TIC intermediaries, Jemma had acquired extensive experience before becoming an intermediary. This included gaining an MSc in Forensic Psychology from Teesside University, working as a Support Worker at a young offender’s institute and for social services safeguarding children and young adults.

Her expertise covers areas including ADHD, OCD, Autism (including Asperger’s Syndrome), learning disabilities and difficulties, dyslexia and mental health issues.

Jemma, who is also a TIC tutor, training experienced communication specialists to become intermediaries, said: “Becoming an intermediary and joining TIC are the best things I have done. There is nothing more satisfying than helping vulnerable people to communicate and have fair access to justice, making a difference to their lives, often at their worst times.”

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