The role of an intermediary in family and criminal proceedings

Published: 26/08/2021

This podcast looks at the role of an intermediary and how it is important in any work with families, but particularly with court cases.

Hannah Scott, Research and Development Officer at Research in Practice and qualified social worker speaks to Kerry Chatterje who works as an Intermediary for an organisation called Triangle. They discuss the role of an intermediary and how it is not uncommon in social work to be involved without the social worker present.

It is important in any work with families, but particularly with court cases, that the family members are supported to have procedural fairness and can contribute equally to proceedings. Social workers also have to identify how this has been done in their legal evidence, on the Social Work Evidence Template (SWET), which was revised in March 2021.

The role of an intermediary is to assist with communication difficulties. An intermediary does not provide emotional support nor answer questions of behalf of a witness.

The specific Rule within the Family Procedure Rules (FRP) 2010 defines an intermediary to be a person whose function is to:

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

Talking points

This podcast looks at:

  • The role of intermediaries in supporting families in court.
  • How intermediaries support communication and participation within family and criminal proceedings,
  • The process of getting intermediary involvement and identifying a vulnerable participant.

Resources mentioned in this podcast

Related case law

Recent case law that have referred to the use of an intermediary have been summarised in Case Law and Law Summaries and are outlined below:

  • C (Children: Welfare) (No.2) [2020] EWFC B36
    • This case was not an appeal but a judgment that noted the success of an innovative approach by an intermediary to support the mother to participate in the remote hearings.
  • A & B (Children) (deaf parent – assessment and practice) [2021] EWFC 10
    • This judgment stated that the local authority should have ensured that they explicitly identified how they fulfilled the requirement to communicate adequately with a deaf parent.
  • T (Children), Re [2020] EWCA Civ 507
    • In this judgment there was criticism that an intermediary had been used to support a child during an Achieveing Best Evidence (ABE) interview, who advised that the child was losing focus, however this was not responded to by the interviewer.
  • S (Vulnerable Parent: Intermediary)[2020] EWCA Civ 763 
    • This judgment is regarding a mother who had a learning difficulty but capacity to instruct solicitors to oppose the adoption of her children. The solicitor and psychologist identified the need for an intermediary to support her. This was initially refused by the court but the mother successfully appealed.

Related resources

Reflective questions

Here are reflective questions to stimulate conversation and support practice. 

  1. From your experiences of working with an intermediary or listening to this podcast, are there any ways that have helped family member’s communication and participation which you could use in your own practice?
  2. What methods do you use to support parents communication and participation in pre-proceedings work? Do you consider using an intermediary at this stage?

Professional Standards

PQS:KSS - Communication | The law and the family and youth justice systems | Purposeful and effective social work | Creating a context for excellent practice

PCF - Diversity and equality | Rights, justice and economic wellbeing

Intermediary Role 2 (1)

Family justice: Understanding the role of an intermediary

Intermediaries facilitate communication between a witness, party, suspect or defendant and others in the justice process to ensure communication is as complete.
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Case Law and Legal Summaries

Our Case Law and Legal Summaries provide a monthly overview and analysis of selected cases, highlighting implications for social care practice.
View the summaries