We’re delighted that our campaign to protect sexual assault survivors' counselling notes during criminal investigations has finally received government backing.

The Government will now support amendments to the Victims and Prisoners Bill that will protect sexual assault survivors' counselling notes during criminal investigations. 

We’re also pleased that the additional safeguards we called for will be included in the new statutory Code of Practice. This will now state clearly that police must start with an assumption that a request for counselling notes is not necessary and proportionate to their investigation.

This will put an end to fishing expeditions for information that often aren’t relevant to the investigation and used to undermine the credibility of the victim.

Fantastic news

Our Children, Young People and Families lead, Jo Holmes, said:

“This is fantastic news for those seeking therapy following sexual assault. It will re-establish real trust and confidence in the counselling profession ensuring what is discussed during therapy remains confidential.

“We, alongside other professional bodies, have been advocating for this change throughout the lifetime of the Victims and Prisoners Bill. We’ve worked closely with Rape Crisis England and Wales alongside the End Violence Against Women Coalition in a campaign to Keep Counselling Confidential.

“Our campaign pushed for therapy notes only to be requested if ‘necessary and proportionate’. We’re glad to see the end of what can only be described as witness character assassinations adopted by the defence that can retraumatise survivors of sexual assault.

“We know this fear prevents survivors accessing therapy in the first place.”

Our campaign

As part of our campaign, alongside the National Counselling and Psychotherapy Society and the UK Council for Psychotherapy, we wrote to Dame Diana Johnson, chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee asking for the committee’s support to add these amendments to the Victims and Prisoners Bill.

Welcoming the news Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales, Baroness Newlove, said:

“Counselling serves as a vital space for victims to heal from trauma and explore their experiences in a safe and confidential setting. This change in the law recognises the importance of that privacy and removes a significant barrier to seeking help.”

We’ll continue to campaign, as part of a coalition with leading children’s charities, for additional amendments in the Victims and Prisoners Bill linked to offer more support and protection to children and young people who’ve been victims of abuse and exploitation.