Dr Sarah Krähenbühl blogs on the 2016 Intermediaries for Justice Conference

Dr Sarah Krähenbühl (Lecturer in Forensic Psychology & Course Leader for Staffordshire’s BSc in Forensic Psychology) reports on a recent conference held at Staffordshire University for researchers, policy makers and professionals with interests in the use of vulnerable individuals as witnesses:

On March 12th 2016 a national conference took place at Staffordshire University called ‘Intermediaries for Justice’. Registered Intermediaries (RI) are professionals who facilitate communication with vulnerable witnesses (and now also with vulnerable suspects) who are participating in legal proceedings. An RI will have specialist expertise in an area of communication, will conduct an assessment with a vulnerable person, and then liaise with all other professionals involved in the legal proceedings (e.g. Police Officers, Barristers, Judge) to ensure that appropriate communication takes place. At this conference, in addition to Registered Intermediaries, there were a range of delegates including Police, Social Workers, charitable organisation representatives (e.g. Citizens Advice Bureau), academics and students from Staffordshire University. The speakers included Hon Ms Justice Russell, HHJ Sally Cahill QC, Dr. Sarah Krähenbühl, Gill Darvill, Dame Joyce Plotnikoff and Dr Richard Woolfson.

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Dr Sarah Krähenbühl (of Staffordshire University) and Gill Darvill (Registered Intermediary) gave a presentation on the UK findings of a Europe-wide research project conducted for the Fundamental Rights Agency (Vienna) regarding children’s experiences in the Criminal Justice System.

In addition there were a series of 6 discussion groups facilitated by professionals covering a range of topics related to legal proceedings such as witness interview training, pre-trial recorded cross-examination, pre-trial preparation, individuals with autism or mental health vulnerabilities, and fitness to plead issues.

The conference was a huge success and was greatly oversubscribed. You can get further information about the work of Registered Intermediaries from the ‘Advocates Gateway’ website http://www.theadvocatesgateway.org/intermediaries – and of course, look out for their next conference in 2017!


The School of Psychology, Sport and Exercise at Staffordshire University is a leading School in the UK for Psychology degrees and is situated in the heart of England.  We produce internationally recognized research which is driving knowledge in this area forward and we work with a variety of healthcare providers, charities, international sports teams and private sector organisations.

For more information or details of the wide range of Psychology degrees on offer at Staffordshire University please visit our website and our courses page.

Staffordshire University’s Psychology Department gives Year 12 students an insight into “Uni Life”

The Psychology Department at Staffordshire University took part in the “Uni Life Event” (23rd to 25th June) which offered year 12 students from the Midlands an opportunity to stay in the halls of residence at Staffordshire’s City Campus in Stoke-on-Trent, explore the state-of-the-art facilities and get hands-on experience of degree courses in subject workshops.

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Dr Claire Barlow giving her workshop on children’s drawings

Dr. Claire Barlow and Mel Hall, both lecturers in the Psychology Department at Staffs, ran a workshop about studying Psychology at Staffordshire University. In the session, they talked about the Psychology undergraduate degrees as well as running interactive activities on children’s drawing development, jury decision making and group behaviour.

CB Summer School 2Claire said “The session was really positively received by students, many of whom were introduced to Psychology for the first time. The activities gave students an opportunity to learn more about specialist and applied areas of Psychology and also an insight into studying for a Psychology degree at Staffordshire University”.

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Examples of different forms of drawing

Students who took part were asked for their feedback on the session, stating Psychology talks were very interesting and taught me lots about the teaching style at uni. The lectures were interesting’; ‘Psychology was interesting, I now know what I want to do at university’; ‘Sessions were interactive and I now feel more confident’ and Forensic Psychology suited my career aspirations and was really interesting.’


For more information or details of the wide range of Psychology related postgraduate degrees on offer at Staffordshire University please visit our website and our courses page.

The School of Psychology, Sport and Exercise at Staffordshire University is a leading School in the UK for Psychology degrees and is situated in the heart of England.  We produce internationally recognized research which is driving knowledge in this area forward and we work with a variety of healthcare providers, charities, international sports teams and private sector organisations.

New research explores how officers conduct investigative interviews with children

Dr Sarah Krähenbühl, Lecturer in Psychology and Forensic Psychology researcher at Staffordshire University, discusses her new research exploring the use of “ground rules” by police officers and social workers when interviewing children:

This study examined over 50 transcripts of investigative interviews conducted with children who were either witnesses to, or victims of, different forms of abuse. The particular focus was when, how and if ground rules were used by the interviewing officers (generally a Police Officer but a Social Worker may take this role) and then to establish the likely impact of this on the child’s understanding and the remainder of the interview.

Ground rules refer to explanations such as shutterstock_131453660 Resizedsay if you don’t know’, ‘tell me if I get something wrong’ and an agreement to tell the truth. The interviewing protocol (known as ‘Achieving Best Evidence’ 2011) states that ground rules should be included in all interviews with children. The study took a mixed methodological approach with numerical assessment of what ground rules were included, when this happened, were there any subsequent repetitions of the rules, and a qualitative approach as to the wording used and implications of this.

The results showed that there was a lack of consistency in ground rule implementation despite clear interviewing protocol guidance. Of greater concern was that when the ground rules were implemented the child’s understanding was not established and the relevance of the ground rules to the remainder of the interview was rarely established. So, this study has relevance not only to interviewing officers and legal professionals but also has implications in relation to assessments of child credibility when giving evidence.

Dr Krähenbühl’s study has recently been accepted for publication by Psychiatry, Psychology and Law and can be accessed via the journal’s website:

Dr Krähenbühl teaches on Staffordshire University’s Forensic Psychology degree – for more information about our degrees please visit the Forensic Psychology course page and the Psychology courses webpages.