Assisting Children to Communicate in Criminal Proceedings in Hong Kong: Assessing the Case for Introducing an Intermediary Scheme

Project: Research

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Children can face many difficulties communicating in criminal proceedings, be theyinvolved as a victim, witness or defendant. They may lack the capacity to understand thelanguage used by police, lawyers and judges and may be unable to effectively explainevents, articulate responses to questions or give effective directions to their lawyers.Children’s more limited communication and language skills can affect their ability tounderstand procedural rights and the legal protections afforded to them. This may leavechildren feeling intimidated, confused, distressed and unsupported in criminalproceedings. More importantly, their ability to effectively participate in criminalproceedings and consequently their right to a fair trial can be negatively impacted. Inrecognition of the communication difficulties children face, many jurisdictions haveadopted special measures to support children involved in criminal proceedings,particularly as victims and witnesses. These measures are designed to improve theirability to communicate and give reliable evidence. One method is to provide anintermediary to facilitate communication between the child and the criminal justiceprofessionals. Intermediaries assist children to give cogent testimony, to fully understandquestions asked of them, accurately communicate their responses to criminal justiceprofessionals and assist them to understand questions asked. Such support can helpensure children’s effective participation in criminal proceedings and alleviate the stressfelt by children. This project will examine why children face difficulties communicating in criminal trialsin Hong Kong and what impact this has. It will review the measures that are available tohelp children communicate during criminal proceedings in Hong Kong, assess the needfor reform and explore the desirability of introducing new measures, particularlyintermediaries. To determine whether and, if so, what sort of intermediary scheme HongKong ought to adopt the project will explore and evaluate the intermediary schemesintroduced in other jurisdictions, including England, New South Wales and theAustralian Capital Territory. It will seek and incorporate professional stakeholder viewsabout the effectiveness of these schemes. It will then assess and make recommendationsabout whether intermediaries should be introduced in Hong Kong and about the designdetail of such a scheme. The overall aim of this project is to improve criminal justiceoutcomes for children in Hong Kong. 


Project number9043620
Grant typeGRF
StatusNot started
Effective start/end date1/01/24 → …