In Scotland, there are several laws relevant to people who may be vulnerable because of mental illness, incapacity, infirmity or disability. 

This resource focuses on laws which may affect adults who come into contact with counselling and psychotherapy services. It will assist practitioners in Scotland in determining their legal obligations to vulnerable adults. It also highlights the importance of international human rights legislation in the development of these laws. 


  1. The Legislative Framework
    1.1 Introduction
    1.2 Adults with Incapacity (Scotland) Act 2000
    1.3 Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003
    1.4 The Adult Support and Protection (Scotland) Act 2007
  2. Principles of the Legislation and the Human Rights Framework
    2.1 Introduction
    2.2 The Principles
    2.3 The Human Rights Framework
  3. Key organisations
    3.1 Introduction
    3.2 The Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland
    3.3 The Office of the Public Guardian
    3.4 Mental Health Tribunal for Scotland
    3.5 The Care Inspectorate
    3.6 Adult Protection Committees
    3.7 Contact details
  4. Confidentiality
    4.1 Introduction
    4.2 Duty of Confidentiality
    4.3 Contractual Duty of Confidentiality
    4.4 Data protection and case records
    4.5 Information sharing
    4.6 Referrals and disclosures
    4.7 Human Rights and the Protection of Data
  5. Working with Vulnerable Adults in the Context of Social Care
    5.1 Introduction
    5.2 Accessing social care services
    5.3 The Care Inspectorate
    5.4 Services for people with a mental illness
    5.5 Duty of care
    5.6 The Adult Support and Protection (Scotland) Act 2007
    5.7 Dementia
    5.8 Human Rights and Social Care
  6. Disclosure and Protection of Vulnerable Groups
    6.1 Introduction
    6.2 Disclosure Scotland
    6.3 Protection of Vulnerable Groups Scheme
    6.4 Professional registration
  7. Vulnerable witnesses in court (and eligibility for ‘special measures’)
    7.1 Introduction
    7.2 Who is a vulnerable witness?
    7.3 Identifying a vulnerable adult witness
    7.4 Special measures
    7.5 Appropriate Adult scheme
    7.6 Human rights
  8. Pre-trial therapy with vulnerable witnesses
    8.1 Introduction
    8.2 Pre-trial therapy and evidence contamination
    8.3 Communication techniques in pre-trial therapy
    8.4 Records and confidentiality in pre-trial therapy
    8.5 Therapist qualities and qualifications for pre-trial therapy
  9. Adults with Incapacity (Scotland) Act 2000 and Cross-Border Issues – Mental Health
    9.1 Adults with Incapacity (Scotland) Act 2000
    9.2 Mental Health (Care and Treatment)(Scotland) Act 2003

Cover of GPaCP002

Using good practice across the counselling professions resources  

These resources are not contractually binding on members but provide general information on particular fields of work, in the context of BACP’s core ethical principles, values and personal moral qualities.

Individual practice issues are often complex and will vary depending on your clients, models of working, the context of the work and the kind of therapeutic intervention provided. We'd always recommend discussing practice dilemmas with a supervisor, a legal advisor or another suitably qualified and experienced professional.