A new programme at the University of Limerick is aimed at training intermediaries to help vulnerable people to give evidence in the justice system.
Intermediaries – who usually have a background in speech and language therapy, or a cognate discipline – will assist witnesses who have communication difficulties.
The Department of Justice says that the Professional Diploma in Intermediary Studies, a part-time course run over one year, is a “big milestone” in implementing the recommendations of the O’Malley Review (of Protections for Vulnerable Witnesses in the Investigation and Prosecution of Sexual Offences).
The review called for a panel of registered, qualified intermediaries to work with vulnerable people in sexual-assault cases.
After completing the programme successfully, graduates will be eligible to be placed on a panel from which the courts can choose.
A registered intermediary’s role will be to assist in the communication process – whether between lawyers and witnesses during trial, or during garda interviews.
Launching the programme, Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said that it was a key part of the plan to create a more “victim-focused” criminal-justice system.
The course is designed to include four modules, and a combination of online and face-to-face tutorials, delivered across the School of Law and the School of Allied Health at UL.
Places for academic year 2022/2023 will be funded by the Department of Justice. The application process is now open.
Entry requirements include a minimum of a second-class honours primary degree (2.2), and three full years’ practice experience as a CORU-registered speech-and-language therapist, occupational therapist or social worker in the Republic of Ireland.