The new report lays down a further and clear challenge, that vulnerable defendants should have the same support as vulnerable witnesses. After setting out the stark facts (60% of children who offend have communication difficulties; 32% of adult offenders have an IQ of less than 80), the recommendations include (i) special measures should be equally available to vulnerable defendants; and (ii) the role of the judiciary, court staff and defence lawyers in fulfilling the responsibility of ensuring that this happens should be specified. 

The particular example of the use of intermediaries was highlighted by Jenny Talbot OBE of the Prison Reform Trust, author of the briefing paper and Director of the Care not Custody programme. She cited this as the prime example of where support should be available: all intermediaries, whether for witnesses or defendants, should be registered (with the same requirements of training, quality assurance, professional standards and monitoring procedures). She endorsed the Advocacy Training Council’s recommendation that the questioning of vulnerable people in court in order to achieve best evidence is a specialist skill that requires training.
The next stage in the campaign is for the Prison Reform Trust to meet with ministers, the DPP, the Bar Council and the Criminal Bar Association.

The briefing paper is available on