We’ve co-signed a letter urging the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to reconsider new guidance on pre-trial therapy.
The letter to CPS Chief Executive Rebecca Lawrence highlights concerns that this guidance increases the likelihood that rape survivors’ private therapy notes will be accessed by prosecutors.
It says that fear created by this guidance could mean that people may not access therapy when they need it.
The call for a rethink into the guidance has been led by the British Psychological Society (BPS). We’ve signed the letter, along with the National Counselling & Psychotherapy Society, Royal College of Psychiatrists, and UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP).
The letter states: “Building a trusting relationship is essential to effective therapeutic support and is often particularly difficult to establish in cases of sexual violence. It is also essential that people feel able to be open about their thoughts and feelings. The proposed guidance will make the establishment of trust much harder as people will fear that the notes of therapy, which are likely to be extremely sensitive for them, will be seen by others and may even be used against them in court.”
The new guidance says that therapy notes should be secured if it is thought they may be “relevant” to the case. But the letter says this language in the guidance is too “broad” and allows for “unnecessary use of private medical information at the expense of survivors.”
Sarah Watson, from our Professional Standards team, has been involved in reviewing the guidance for BACP since it was published.
She said: “The broad terms used in this new guidance is of great concern to many therapists and clients.
“We’re extremely worried about the impact this could have on rape survivors – and that the thought of their therapy notes being used in court could prevent them seeking therapy when they need it.
“Confidentiality and trust is at the heart of what we provide as therapists and it’s vital that we stand up for this, for rape survivors and for our members by joining this strongly worded call to the CPS.”
We’re currently working on a new Good Practice in Action (GPiA) on pre-trial therapy to replace our previous guidance to members.
The letter to the CPS was featured on BBC's Newsnight programme on 5 August. You can watch it on BBC iPlayer. The section starts at 17:38.
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