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Exploring the experiences of registered intermediaries and police officers in UK of working with adult witnesses with intellectual disabilities

Agneswaran, Amuda (2018) Exploring the experiences of registered intermediaries and police officers in UK of working with adult witnesses with intellectual disabilities. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.

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Abstract

The Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 introduced a range of Special Measures to assist vulnerable witnesses whilst giving testimony. One of these was the use of Registered Intermediaries (RIs), who facilitate communication between the vulnerable witness and the practitioners of the Criminal Justice System (CJS). Using a mixed methods design, this research explored the experiences of RIs and police officers of working with each other and adult witnesses with intellectual disability (ID) and the attitudes of police towards ID. In Study 1, 12 RIs were interviewed on their experiences of working with the CJS and adult witnesses. Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) revealed that while they are being gradually accepted by the CJS, they face several challenges such as lack of awareness about their role among the police and legal professionals. The RIs, themselves, often felt isolated, unsupported, and stated that they needed personal and professional support. Study 2 conducted semi-structured interviews with 11 police officers who work with RIs. IPA showed that the use of RIs is not widespread, mainly due to lack of awareness about them. When used, officers felt that the RI was beneficial in facilitating communication with vulnerable witnesses. However, waiting for long periods for an RI frustrated the officers, while some questioned the apparent contribution of the RI to the interview. Study 3 examined whether working with RIs led to a more positive attitude towards ID. The Attitudes toward Intellectual Disability questionnaire was administered to 126 police officers. The results showed that officers had a more negative attitude towards individuals with severe ID as compared to mild ID. While working with RIs had no effect on attitudes, those that had worked with RIs believed it had changed their practice. The three studies provide an in-depth understanding of the experiences of RIs and police of working with each other and with adult witnesses with ID. This research makes a significant contribution to knowledge, as it is the first empirical work that explores the experiences of RIs and police officers, while providing recommendations for future research and practice, such as training police on the role of RIs and IDs and supervision for RIs so that they feel supported.

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