By: 14 March 2024
Communicourt’s mission to ensure court accessibility for all

Meet William (Billy) Scrimshire, the managing director of Communicourt. Billy sat down with Yorkshire Legal News to discuss the invaluable work of intermediaries in the court system; the stark north south divide; and how Yorkshire lawyers can access free resources to improve their services for people with communication issues.  

 

Tell us about Communicourt and the work that you do. 

Communicourt is the largest provider of intermediaries in the criminal and family courts in England and Wales. We are a managed and approved supplier of court intermediary services, under the HMCTS Appointed Intermediary Service (HAIS) framework. Our intermediaries cover about 80% of the work through the framework, working with court users in criminal or family courts.  

We work with court users who have a communication problem and may struggle to access and navigate the court system.  

Communicourt assesses an individual’s communication ability and what needs they have. We then advise the court on what adaptations should be made for your client.  

Once these recommendations have been made and the court has approved the use of an intermediary at the hearing or trial, we then assign an intermediary. They will work alongside you and your client to support their understanding and help them to communicate with the court.  

It’s a two-way process, we’re supporting your clients to help them gain clear understanding throughout court proceedings, and also supporting them in giving evidence and communicating with others.   

 

“The intermediary service itself is about supporting people at the most vulnerable point of their lives to empower them to access court proceedings.”  

 

How is Communicourt adapting to the needs of the different communities it works with?  

The intermediary service at its core is about inclusivity. It’s about opening the court environment to people who maybe 20 years ago wouldn’t have been able to access that environment due to a communication need.  

Intermediaries have been in the courts since 2004, with the introduction of the witness intermediary scheme. Intermediaries to support defendants in the criminal courts and respondents in the family courts were introduced in the early 2010s.  The intermediary service itself is about supporting people at the most vulnerable point of their lives to empower them to access court proceedings.    

 

“There are endless ways that we work with law firms to support them in having intermediaries, but we also strive to support them in developing their knowledge of communication deficits and how they can support their clients.”

 

How can Communicourt help law firms in Yorkshire? 

Communicourt works with law firms across England and Wales, including a lot of lawyers in Yorkshire. We have developed the way we work with lawyers over the last ten years. We’ve made our referral process as easy as possible for notoriously time-poor legal professionals. We have also created a free online library of resources called The Access Brief, this is accessible on our website and is aimed at legal professionals who are working with people with communication needs.  

The Access Brief factsheets have been written by our intermediaries, and some of our condition-specific resources have been created in partnership with subject experts and charities. You can read those documents in less than five minutes to help you understand more about conditions such as autism, stammering, or dementia.  

There are endless ways that we work with law firms to support them in having intermediaries, but we also strive to support them in developing their knowledge of communication deficits and how they can support their clients.  An example of this is our free online CPD sessions, which we provide free to law firms wanting to gain a deeper understanding of communication needs. If you are interested in booking one of these free sessions, you can visit our website for more details 

 

What attracted Communicourt to sponsor the Yorkshire Legal Awards?  

We held our first conference in Leeds last year, in partnership with the legal charity JUSTICE. We recognised that Leeds is a bustling place for the legal sector – there’s so much going on in Yorkshire.  

We know that intermediaries are widely underused across the north of England. You’re much more likely to be referred for an intermediary assessment in the south than you are in the north. Our data shows that this is largely due to a lack of awareness about the intermediary service.  

We want to spread our mission across Yorkshire and ensure that everyone with communication difficulty can access legal proceedings, regardless of their communication needs.    

 

This post is sponsored by Communicourt

Image: William (Billy) Scrimshire, managing director of Communicourt.
Emma Cockings
Emma is the content editor for Yorkshire Legal News. Emma is an experienced writer with a background in client-centric personal injury law for a major firm. She has attended and reported on numerous high-profile legal events in Yorkshire.