Intermediaries in the justice system for people with communication disability: Enacting Sustainable Development Goal 16 in Ireland, Northern Ireland, and New Zealand

Áine Kearns, Dorothy Clarke, Alan Cusack, Aoife Gallagher, Jenny Humphreys, Sally Kedge, Alayne Mckee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Individuals with communication disabilities often face barriers when engaging with justice systems. Such barriers pose a material risk to the individual in relation to their right of equal access to justice. These barriers also pose a risk to the relevant State in potentially breaching Sustainable Development Goal 16 peace, justice and strong institutions (SDG 16). To mitigate these risks, many adversarial criminal justice systems have identified the need for accommodations to facilitate the participation of individuals with communication disabilities.

Result: At the forefront of this movement has been the introduction of intermediaries. By facilitating effective communication between vulnerable persons and stakeholders within the legal system, intermediaries play a pivotal role in ensuring active participation in legal processes. They can also improve the forensic accuracy of the fact-finding inquiry. In this article, we outline case examples of intermediary schemes across three common law countries. As various terms are used to describe the intermediary role including communication assistants and registered intermediaries, the term intermediary will be used throughout.

Conclusion: Although the scope of the role of intermediaries varies across settings in line with policy and legislative frameworks, we draw on shared learning across these countries to guide others in designing an intermediary scheme. We highlight the importance of knowledge sharing across contexts to realise equal access to justice for all (SDG 16).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-6
JournalInternational Journal of Speech-Language Pathology
Early online date8 Nov 2022
Publication statusPublished online - 8 Nov 2022


  • Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
  • communication disability
  • registered intermediaries
  • communication assistants
  • justice
  • participation
  • Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

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