Tina Pereira, a member of The Intermediary Cooperative, gave a talk to Australia and New Zealand’s inaugural conference for intermediaries. The conference, sponsored by the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Human Rights Commission, brought together a range of international experts to discuss ways of ensuring justice is accessible and understandable for everyone.

While intermediaries have been an established part of the justice system in England and Wales for the last 20 years, they are much newer in Australia and New Zealand.

Tina was among a select number of speakers from around the world invited to give a talk to the online conference, with delegates predominantly made up of intermediaries from the two countries.

Tina’s presentation was entitled ‘Effective communication aid use – Police interviews and in court’. Tina has spoken extensively and run training courses on this specialist area to national and international audiences.

Tina said: “I was delighted to be asked to give a talk to Australia’s first ever intermediary conference and to be able to share some of my thoughts around the use of low technology communication aids.

“The preference historically in a legal setting has been the aural-oral modality, but this can disadvantage certain groups of vulnerable people including those affected by intellectual disabilities, autism and ADHD.

“Often, vulnerable people with these conditions have better visual processing skills and can respond to the use of certain low tech communication aids (i.e. not powered by a battery) such as drawing, writing, pictures, wooden mannequins and rag dolls.

“Communication aids such as these can often be highly effective in a way that spoken language can’t. It’s evidentially proven that some people struggle with speech-only communication.

“As an intermediary, our role is to enable effective communication between vulnerable people and legal professionals. We don’t communicate on their behalf. Intermediaries are impartial and their duty is to the court.”

Tina added: “Communication aids can’t be used in an ad hoc way. They need to be appropriately selected, introduced in a non-leading manner and managed effectively in real-time.

“Communication aids are not a panacea. They may not work for all individuals in all contexts. For example, you may not use a mannequin to establish timelines with someone who struggles with sequencing, but you might use such an aid to answer the question ‘what happened?’. Therefore, how they are selected, introduced and managed needs to be done systematically and with thought.

“Communication aids are not used as widely as I believe they should be in the justice system. Just because someone can speak, doesn’t mean they have understood the question. A carefully selected communication aid can also assist with improving an individual’s understanding, focus their attention and regulate their emotions.”

Tina has recently written a guest article for the Research on Language and Social Interaction blog titled ‘Using multimodality communication aids in interviewing complainants with intellectual disabilities’.

Tina’s blog includes a case study of a 13-year-old vulnerable person with an intellectual disability and autism who was due to be interviewed by police. You can read the blog in full here – https://rolsi.net/2024/06/21/guest-blog-using-multimodality-ca-in-interviewing-complainants-with-intellectual-disabilities/

Tina Pereira is an accredited Registered Intermediary with the Ministry of Justice, an HMCTS Appointed Intermediary and Hon Res Fellow, City Law School.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This field is required.

This field is required.