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Court of Appeal judgment on intermediaries

R v James Davis Pringle [2019] EWCA Crim 1722

The appellant had his conviction overturned as a result of not having been given the benefit of an intermediary throughout his trial.

Details

The appellant was 20 when he was found guilty of child abduction. Both the appellant and his co-defendant had communication difficulties. The co-defendant had the benefit of an intermediary throughout his trial. The  use of an intermediary throughout the appellant’s trial was recommended, but the court ruled that such assistance should be limited to his evidence. The intermediary was not prepared to attend for that limited purpose and therefore the appellant was tried without one. The trial judge refused to allow the intermediary’s report to be put before the jury.

The Court of Appeal found  a ground rules hearing should have been held to give guidance as to what form of questions would be appropriate, to take a properly assessed decision about providing regular breaks, and to consider other special measures. This was not done and there were no other steps taken to ensure  that there was no unfairness during the cross-examination of the appellant. There wasn’t parity in the way the defendants were treated and the jury were not given the opportunity to understand the communication difficulties of the defendant.

Commentary

The court’s recognition of the unfairness caused to the appellant is welcomed.  In our view, the registered intermediary scheme should be extended to defendants as was argued in R (on the Application of OP) v the Secretary of State for Justice [2014] EWHC 1944 (Admin). Were there to be a regulated service at regulated rates of pay (such as with interpreters or registered intermediaries for witnesses) fewer vulnerable defendants would end up unsupported.