Film clip 8 (06:07 mins)
Two speech and language therapists and two people with learning disabilities talk about some of the difficulties experienced in court by people with poor communication skills. Some suggestions about what you can do to help are made.
Effective communication underlies the entire legal process: ensuring that everyone involved understands and is understood; otherwise the legal process will be impeded or derailed (Chapter 2: Judgecraft, Equal Treatment Bench Book 2013).
Many vulnerable defendants will experience difficulties with communication and comprehension. Magistrates and district judges are expected to deal with such difficulties ‘as part and parcel of the ordinary control of the judicial process.’ Being able to communicate in court and understand what is happening is fundamental to an individual being able to participate effectively in court proceedings. Conversely, a lack of understanding on the part of the defendant and an inability to participate effectively in court can lead to feelings of frustration and anger, which can impede court proceedings.
For many vulnerable defendants some simple communication ‘rules’ can help, see Box 4, below. However, if you remain concerned that a defendant is unable to understand or to communicate effectively in court, specialist help should be sought; see Section 11e: i) Specialist communication support - intermediaries.
Box 4: Supporting communication and comprehension in court
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