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Last Updated: Saturday, 2 October, 2004, 08:27 GMT 09:27 UK
Speech therapists help witnesses
Reading Crown Court
Language experts will help witnesses during trials
Speech therapists are to be used by the police to help witnesses with communication difficulties give evidence to officers and in court.

The pilot scheme is being trialled in the Thames Valley, Devon and Cornwall, Merseyside, South Wales, Norfolk and West Midlands force areas.

The "intermediary scheme" sees the therapists help witnesses understand the questions put to them in a trial.

They will also be accessible to police during the course of an investigation.

Witnesses are an essential part of the criminal justice system
Francis Habgood, Thames Valley Police
A register of the trained experts has now been set up under the scheme, which is due to run for a year before it is set up nationally.

The scheme was first started in Merseyside and was launched in the Thames Valley on Friday.

Francis Habgood, assistant chief constable in charge of Specialist Operations for Thames Valley Police, said: "Witnesses are an essential part of the criminal justice system and this is the latest in a series of measures to ensure that vulnerable and intimidated witnesses are able to give their best evidence in court.

"The police service has an important role in identifying those who might benefit from the scheme and working with other agencies to support them through the process."

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