Minister McEntee launches new training programme for professionals who help vulnerable witnesses to give evidence
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Last updated on
The Minister for Justice Helen McEntee today announces the launch of a new qualification programme at the University of Limerick to train Intermediaries who will help vulnerable people, including sexual abuse victims and children, when giving evidence in the justice system.
Intermediaries are professionals, usually with a background in speech and language therapy or a cognate discipline, with the skills and expertise necessary to assist witnesses who have communication difficulties in providing evidence.
This a big milestone in delivering on the Implementation of Supporting a Victim’s Journey, the implementation plan for the O’Malley Review, where recommendations were made around making available a panel of registered, qualified intermediaries to work with vulnerable victims in sexual assault cases.
The Professional Diploma in Intermediary Studies is a part-time course run over 1 year. On successful completion of this programme, graduates will be eligible to be placed on a panel from which the courts, to work within the Irish justice system.
The Registered Intermediary’s role will be to assist in the communication process, whether between lawyers and witnesses during trial or, earlier, during Garda interviews.
Minister McEntee said:
"The introduction of a new programme for intermediaries is a key action in Supporting a Victim’s Journey, my plan to create a more victim focussed criminal justice system. It outlines reforms to protect victims of sexual violence during the investigation and prosecution of sexual offences, and committed that appropriately qualified intermediaries should be recruited and registered.
"I’m delighted that my department has been able to collaborate with the University of Limerick to provide a suitable course to train intermediaries to the required standard.
"Once qualified, they will have an essential role in assessing the communication needs of vulnerable witnesses and to advise An Garda Síochána, advocates and the court on the steps needed to assist such witnesses to give their best evidence."
The diploma is a postgraduate training programme which will qualify CORU-registered health and social care practitioners to work as registered intermediaries in the Irish justice system.
Following best international guidelines, the programme is designed to include 4 modules, a combination of online and face-to-face tutorials, delivered across the School of Law and the School of Allied Health at UL and will ensure those who qualify have the competencies to provide intermediary interventions as part of all aspects of the legal process in the context of Irish legislation.
The project team who designed the programme include: Dr Aoife Gallagher (project lead), Dr Aine Kearns, Dr Alan Cusack and Professor Sean Redmond. The team believe that the successful graduates will have a significant and enduring impact on advancing UN Sustainable Development Goal 16 (ensuring equal access to justice for all) in the Irish context, and that UL is ideally placed to deliver this unique programme.
Dr. Gallagher said:
"We are delighted to have been successful in applying to work with the Department of Justice on designing and delivering this interfaculty programme. The values of the programme are aligned closely with the core values of all we do at UL in producing ethical graduates who are social reformers, motivated to contribute to a fairer society. We believe that the collaboration places UL at the forefront of national efforts to secure effective and meaningful participation for vulnerable individuals when engaging with the Irish justice system."
Places for academic year 2022/2023 will be funded by the Department of Justice meaning successful applicants will not incur fees to complete this programme. Entry requirements include a minimum of a second-class honours primary degree (2.2) and 3 full years practice experience as a CORU-registered Speech and Language Therapist, Occupational Therapist or Social Worker in the Republic of Ireland.
The application process is now open. For further details on how to apply see the UL webpage: https://www.ul.ie/gps/intermediary-studies-professional-diploma