Understanding ground rules and intermediaries.

Obscured image of a child playing

Tuesday 9th May 2023

Half Day EVENT | 9:00 AM-1:00 PM


When should you conduct a ground rules hearing? How should it be done? And what is the role of an intermediary?

Ground rules hearings are designed to ensure fair treatment of vulnerable witnesses, namely children and adults with cognitive impairments. 

In this half-day, interactive session, you will learn how to conduct ground rules hearings – with and without intermediaries. You will hear from intermediaries about their role and experiences working in the courtroom. You will also have the invaluable experience of working alongside them in small groups as you learn to identify and re-draft improper questions.

Led by experienced judicial officers, you will explore:

  • what are ground rules hearings as well as when and how to conduct them
  • the ground rules process – both with and without an intermediary, including how to set ground rules for questioning vulnerable witnesses
  • when and how to intervene when ground rules are not followed, or the question is improper under s.41 of the Evidence Act 2008.


County Court of Victoria
Deputy Chief Judge Meryl Sexton
Deputy Chief Judge Sexton was appointed as a Judge of the County Court of Victoria on 21 August 2001. Her Honour was appointed as the inaugural Deputy Chief Judge of the County Court on 22 February 2022. Her Honour began her legal career in criminal law, having first appeared in criminal trials in 1987. In 1995 she was appointed as a Crown Prosecutor in the Office of Public Prosecutions, a position held until her appointment to the bench. Deputy Chief Judge Sexton lectures extensively on the practice and procedure of criminal law to a variety of groups, particularly in relation to sexual offences, and the evidence of children.
County Court of Victoria
Judge Amanda Chambers
Judge Chambers was appointed a Judge of the County Court of Victoria and President of the Children’s Court on 9 June 2015, holding the later position until 1 January 2021. Judge Chambers now sits in the Criminal Division of the County Court where she serves as Head of List Court Operations and Strategy at the County Court which encompasses oversight of the Sexual Offences List. Prior to her appointment to the County Court, Judge Chambers served as a Magistrate of the State of Victoria for over eight years where she was Supervising Magistrate of the Sexual Offences List for three years. Judge Chambers also served as a part-time Commissioner of the Victorian Law Reform Commission from 2008-2012 on references including Jury Directions, Sex Offender Registration, Child Protection and Guardianship laws.
County Court of Victoria
Judicial Registrar Rosalind Avis
Judicial Registrar Avis was called to the Bar of England and Wales in 2006. She completed her pupillage with the Crown Prosecution Service, and went on to become a Senior Crown Prosecutor. She was a Rape and Serious Sexual Offences specialist. In 2013, she moved to the Victorian Bar. Her Honour appeared for both the defence and the Commonwealth in the County Court, the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal.
Magistrates' Court of Victoria
Magistrate Jo Metcalf
Magistrate Metcalf became a magistrate in 2009 after a varied career specialising in criminal law policy and practice. She is currently assigned to the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court where she has been the Supervising Magistrate for Sexual Offences since 2020. She was previously the joint Supervising Magistrate of the Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal for 6 years. Magistrate Metcalf’s previous roles include practicing as a solicitor at Minter Ellison and at the Victorian Office of Public Prosecutions; advising on criminal law policy and developing legislation in the Victorian Department of Justice; establishing and running the Sentencing Advisory Council as its foundation CEO; and managing the provision of service delivery and policy support to Victorian Courts as Director of Court Services, Department of Justice.
Lead Intermediary, Victim Services, Support and Reform, Department of Justice and Community Safety
Dagmar Jenkins
Dagmar Jenkins has worked with the Victorian Intermediary Program since its commencement in 2018, initially as a contract intermediary and then full time in the program since 2021. Dagmar’s clinical background is in Social Work. Prior to working in the intermediary Program, from 2003 she worked at a Victorian sexual assault support service from in a variety of roles, including counselling, advocacy and leadership roles, and coordinated a program which worked towards reducing barriers experienced by victim/survivors with disabilities to counselling, the criminal justice system and the Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal.
Janet Wilson
Janet is an expert on working with people with complex communication needs. She is a registered Intermediary with the Department of Justice and Community Safety, having completed the specialised training program required to be a Victorian Registered Intermediary. She is accredited with Speech Pathology Australia and has more than 30 years’ experience in diagnosis and treatment of children, adolescents, and adults with a range of neurogenic, acquired, and developmental communication needs. In her role as a Court Intermediary, Janet has had extensive experience working with young people with neurodiverse abilities and specific learning needs.

Event resources.

  • Page

    Victims and witnesses.

    Understanding the diverse experiences, characteristics and needs of victims and witnesses, and reconciling these with legal and professional requirements, can assist in working with victims and witnesses in your courtroom.
    View Now
  • Video
    34 MINS

    How to Conduct a Ground Rules Hearing.

    Watch how to conduct a ground rules hearing with and without an intermediary. The video includes details of the judicial officer’s directions regarding questioning.
    Watch Now
  • Video
    22 MINS

    Managing the Questioning of Vulnerable Witnesses

    This video demonstrates how judicial officers can manage the questioning of vulnerable witnesses, both when an intermediary is present and when an intermediary is not present.
    Watch Now