This issues paper investigates a new way to ensure equal access to justice for all Tasmanians. It discusses the feasibility of instituting a communication assistant/intermediary scheme in Tasmania for people with complex communication needs involved in the criminal justice system to enhance their ability to gain equal access to justice. Many Tasmanians have complex communication needs that impede their ability to interact with police, lawyers and the courts. These needs have many sources including physical, mental, intellectual or cognitive impairments, traumatic experiences, learning disorders, language difficulties and age. The ability of a person who has been the victim of a crime, who has witnessed a crime or who may have been accused of a crime to communicate effectively with police and give reliable evidence in criminal trials will fundamentally determine whether that person can gain access to justice. The Director of the Institute, Ms Terese Henning says that while there were some existing measures available to assist people with complex communication needs during their interactions with the justice system, an integrated intermediary/communication assistant scheme that operates from the point of contact with police through to criminal trials has the potential to enhance those measures and improve equal access across the system.
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