A NEW service to help cognitively impaired and vulnerable people in the court system has been overwhelmed with work since it started.
Bronny Hodgson is no stranger to the justice system, having been a case worker with the CREDIT program in Tamworth. Now, she's heading up the local arm of the Justice Advocacy Service, a new initiative by the Intellectual Disability Rights Service (IDRS).
"Importantly, it can be in any court; it's for victims, witnesses and perpetrators, so anyone participating in the criminal justice system, whether they're juveniles or adults," Mrs Hodgson said.
"I'm already flat out, absolutely flat out in Tamworth, Gunnedah and Armidale, so I've been travelling quite a bit."
The IDRS will work with people who have an intellectual disability or an acquired brain injury; as well as people with conditions including autism, dementia or fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.
The advocacy service will support those vulnerable people as they come into contact with the criminal justice system: from when they go into custody at a police station, or are interviewed as a witness or victim, right through the court process.
The support person will work with those in need to ensure they exercise their rights, and will provide the necessary support as they go through the police and court process.
Funded by the state's Department of Justice, the service will eventually go 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
"We need volunteers; we need them to assist in the program. They'll get training and be supported throughout the process," Mrs Hodgson said.
It provides services for suspects and defendants with a cognitive impairment in police custody; and supports those victims and witnesses with an impairment when they are in contact with police or attending court.
Mrs Hodgson urged anyone looking to join the service as a volunteer to contact IDRS on Facebook or 9265 6300.
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