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The recent High Court Case of West Northamptonshire Council v KA & Ors [2024] lays down the law on Family Court intermediaries and what the court should consider when deciding whether or not to appoint one. 

An intermediary is a person with specialist communication skills, who will work to support vulnerable people who are participating in a court hearing.  Vulnerable people who may require the support of an intermediary include children, and those who have either a physical, neurological, or mental health condition that affects their ability to participate fully in a court hearing. 

An intermediary may assist by communicating questions put to people, communicating to those asking the questions the answers given by people and/or explain such questions or answers so far as necessary to help people understand and follow what is happening during a court hearing.  

However, intermediaries are generally only appointed in exceptional circumstances, and the court, in the above case, therefore felt it appropriate to provide some guidance on the use of intermediaries in the Family Court:

  1. It will be extremely rare for an intermediary to be appointed for a whole trial, and they are not to be appointed on a “just in case” basis.
  2. The judge in question must give careful consideration not only to the circumstances of the individual, but to the case as a whole.
  3. An intermediary will not be appointed simply because the process would be improved – there must be compelling reasons to do so.
  4. The judge must consider whether there are other adaptations available to help people understand what is happening, such as taking regular breaks and using simple language.
  5. The recommendation by an expert for an intermediary does not mean that one will be appointed.
  6. If every effort has been made to find an intermediary for a case but one hasn’t been found, it will be unusual for the case to be adjourned on that basis. 
  7. Where no intermediary is appointed, all advocates should be familiar with The Advocate’s Gateway Toolkits.  If you are wondering what The Advocate’s Gateway Toolkits are, then stay tuned for further information. 

The judgment in this case will no doubt provide great assistance to legal representatives who are considering whether or not to apply for an intermediary to assist their client.  However, clients should be advised from the outset that an intermediary isn’t always guaranteed; it is ultimately a decision for the court to make. 

For further information or advice, please contact our child law specialists on 01924 431774 or send an email to

The above article is for illustrative purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.  It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any part of the information given.