Queensland Intermediary Scheme
Often people’s comprehension and communication difficulties are exacerbated by the criminal justice process itself, by investigative interviewing processes and by the traditional types of questioning in criminal trials.
Vulnerable witnesses may be unable to give clear and accurate evidence due to their communication needs arising from a range of reasons, including (but not limited to):
- very young or very old age
- cognitive issues
- learning disabilities
- mental illness
- ADHD and autism.
The Queensland Intermediary Scheme (QIS) aims to overcome communication barriers and create a more accessible justice system by facilitating the communication of evidence that may not otherwise be heard.
Using intermediaries, QIS aims to:
- improve the quality of evidence
- give police officers, the legal community and the courts a better understanding of the needs of vulnerable witnesses
- improve access to justice
- reinforce the importance of effectively and respectfully responding to child sexual offence allegations.
Using intermediaries, QIS assists witnesses with communication needs give their best evidence.
Currently the legislation around QIS is limited to prosecution witnesses in child sexual offence matters who:
- are under 16, or
- have an impairment of the mind, or
- have difficulty communicating.
However, if you believe that an intermediary would assist to overcome communication barriers and would like consideration of an out-of-scope referral, contact QIS via firstname.lastname@example.org and outline your situation.
Any prosecution witness in a child sexual offence matter who falls into any category listed above (regardless of age) is eligible for an intermediary
‘Child sexual offence’ means an offence of a sexual nature committed in relation to a child, including offences contained in Chapter 22 (Offences against morality) and Chapter 32 (Rape and sexual assault) of the Criminal Code Act 1899 (Qld).
The insertion of Division 4C into the Evidence Act 1977 (Qld) provides the framework in which the QIS operates. These legislative amendments to the Evidence Act commenced on 5 July 2021.
Special measures for witnesses
The following special provisions included in the Evidence Act 1977 (Qld) to help facilitate access to justice for vulnerable witnesses giving evidence:
- the recording of a witness’ evidence prior to trial (referred to as pre-recording), which can be played in court and admissible as if the evidence were given in person
- having the witness in another room to the defendant when the witness’ evidence is being taken
- having a support person with the witness while they are giving evidence
- the exclusion of the public from the courtroom while the witness gives evidence and whilst the pre-recorded evidence is being played
- the court’s power to control the questioning of a witness and disallow improper questions.
The intermediary scheme is an additional special provision for vulnerable witnesses.
Refer to the information for witnesses about going to court and giving evidence.
QIS works alongside existing support services available to witnesses in Queensland:
- Victim Assist Queensland (VAQ) provides information and advice for victims of crime including information about support services, victims’ rights and financial assistance. VAQ aims to provide a tailored, needs-based response, focusing on financial assistance and support for victims rather than just criminal compensation.
- Protect All Children Today Inc. (PACT) is a non-profit organisation dedicated to supporting victims and witnesses through the Queensland criminal justice system. Our focus is supporting children, young people and vulnerable adult victims and witnesses through the stressful process of giving evidence, through education, empowerment and in-person support.