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Coroners and Justice Act 2009

Section 104: Examination of accused through intermediary

507.The powers of the court under Chapter 1 of Part 2 of the 1999 Act to make directions allowing for special measures when giving evidence do not apply where the witness is the accused. Chapter 1A gives the court more limited powers regarding the evidence of accused persons. Section 104 increases these powers by adding sections 33BA and 33BB to Chapter 1A. These new sections provide for the use of an intermediary where certain vulnerable accused persons are giving evidence in court.

508.Subsections (1) and (2) of new section 33BA provide that the court may make a direction allowing an intermediary in any proceedings if the accused satisfies either the condition in subsection (5) or the conditions in subsection (6) and making the direction is necessary to ensure that the accused receives a fair trial.

509.Subsections (3) and (4) of new section 33BA set out the nature of a direction and the role of the intermediary when the accused gives evidence. The intermediary relays questions that are put to the accused and relays the answers to the questioner. In doing so the intermediary can explain to the accused what the questions mean and to the questioner what the answers mean. Subsection (3) requires the intermediary to be a person approved by the court.

510.Subsection (5) of new section 33BA sets out the condition that is to be satisfied before a court may allow an accused aged under 18 to use an intermediary. This is that the accused’s ability to participate effectively in the trial in terms of giving oral evidence as a witness is compromised by his or her level of intellectual ability or social functioning.

511.Subsection (6) of new section 33BA sets out the condition applying to an accused who is 18 years or older. The condition is that the accused is prevented from participating effectively as a witness giving oral evidence because the accused has a mental disorder (as defined by the Mental Health Act 1983) or a significant impairment of intelligence and social function.

512.Subsections (7) and (8) of new section 33BA are about the manner in which an examination through an intermediary is to be conducted, whether or not other provision about the examination is made. The examination is to take place in circumstances which enable the judge or justices, the legal representatives, the jury and a co-accused to see and hear the examination and also enable the judge or justices and the legal representatives to communicate with the intermediary.

513.Subsections (9) and (10) of new section 33BA require intermediaries to declare that they will perform the role faithfully and extend the Perjury Act 1911 to persons in the role of an intermediary. This is the same obligation that applies to foreign language interpreters and also to intermediaries assisting witnesses under section 29 of the 1999 Act.

514.New section 33BB gives the court power to discharge a direction for the use of an intermediary where this is no longer necessary for the purposes of a fair trial. The court may also vary a direction. A court must state publicly its reasons for discharging or varying an intermediary direction. This accords with similar provisions in section 20 of the 1999 Act that apply to special measures directions made in respect of witnesses.

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