Independent Third Persons (ITPs) provide assistance and support to people with disabilities during police interviews when giving statements and participating in other police procedures. ITPs work specifically with people of all ages who have cognitive impairment such as an intellectual disability, acquired brain injury, dementia or mental illness.
An ITP must be committed to promoting the rights and dignity of people with disabilities. An ITP is independent of police and the investigation, is objective and without judgement or bias.
This is a voluntary position supported by program staff within the Office of the Public Advocate.
The role is located within the context of criminal investigations conducted by Victoria Police. Decisions regarding the conduct of an investigation are the responsibility of police members.
An ITP participates in the process to actively facilitate communication and assist the person to understand. The ITP does not provide a professional opinion regarding a person’s mental state or capacity to participate in the interview, but may express a recommendation about such matters.
Role of the ITP
Effective ITPs make sure that a person with cognitive impairment is not disadvantaged during a police interview, statement or other process. ITPs make a significant difference to the clarity and accuracy of communication and dignity of a person with a cognitive impairment.
The core tasks of the role are to:
- Facilitate communication – by participating in the interview or other process in order to facilitate the exchange of information between the parties, without judgement of a person’s guilt, innocence or the relevance of information.
- Ensure the person understands their rights – by assisting a person to understand their legal rights, the interview process and the questions asked by police in a way that is meaningful.
- Ensure the person understands procedures – by explaining processes and procedures and their implications. ITPs ensure that the person they are supporting understands what they are giving or refusing consent for.
- Provide emotional support – by identifying the needs of the client as they may arise during the interview.
- Address immediate welfare needs – by considering the person’s capacity to participate in the interview, any immediate medical needs or by facilitating rest periods.
Essential knowledge, experience and skills:
- A professional or personal understanding of cognitive disability, or capacity to learn.
- Sensitivity to the differences and individuality of each person.
- Excellent communication skills to engage with both police and people with disabilities and complex needs in stressful situations.
- Capacity to apply skills developed in training, and flexibility to adapt this learning to the variety of situations that arise.
- Ability to remain objective and independent at all times.
- Assertiveness and confidence in raising issues and concerns on behalf of the person being interviewed.
- An ability to be self-reflective and receive and respond to feedback from ITP staff.
Additionally, it is required that ITPs will:
- be contactable during the days and times they have nominated
- perform their role according to program guidelines and policies
- manage their wellbeing and safety
- express any concerns or views assertively and in a way that respects the views of all parties and promotes positive outcomes
- keep records which they will submit to the ITP program within five business days
- attend court to give evidence about a particular call-out if required.
The ITP program at OPA provide the following:
- access to 24-hour support and advice from program staff
- opportunities for debriefing and/or formal counselling
- ongoing training opportunities and other events of interest
- regular information and practice updates through our monthly ITP Bulletin
- personal accident and public liability insurance
- a small honorarium for each interview to cover out-of-pocket expenses (paid bi-annually)
- reimbursement for mileage or public transport costs.
The process to become an ITP:
- Applicants are required to complete the Volunteer Application form and return it to OPA.
- The OPA Volunteer Coordinator will discuss your application with you.
- Applicants deemed suitable for the program will be required to attend an interview either in person or by telephone.
- Applicants who are successful at interview will attend the two-day induction training, followed by a practical assessment.
- Successful applicants are required to undergo a National Police Check and a Working with Children Check before becoming an ITP.
- New ITPs must agree to the ITP Code of Conduct and Confidentiality Agreement.
- Applicants must be over eighteen years of age.
- Applicants with disabilities are encouraged to apply.
- Lawyers and barristers admitted to practice are ineligible for the role.
- Applicants who are or have been a sworn or unsworn police member in the past five years are also ineligible.
- Applicants must be willing to commit for at least two years.