By Penny Cooper, a Barrister and Associate Dean at City University Law School
For many people, an appearance in court is a confusing blur of baffling procedures and jargon; for more than half of young people with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN), I can only think it is akin to being tried in a court in a foreign language that you don’t understand. One young man Jack (not his real name) who was involved in last year’s civil disturbances, said he ‘didn’t have a clue what was going on and for guidance looked to his Mum, sitting in the visitors’ gallery. Needless to say the ‘non-verbals’ were not positive; his Mum was crying. When asked what would make a difference Jack said “It would help if they had, like, a person who could stand with you to help you understand” . What Jack doesn’t know is that there is a name for that person – an intermediary.
Unfortunately if Jack was permitted his ‘person’ to help him there are several hurdles to get over: