Counselling notes (rape and assault cases)

This is a very sensitive issue and it is vital that victims have complete confidence in the justice system and trust that they will be treated with the utmost fairness in court.

A victim should never be discouraged from seeking emotional support through therapy or counselling before a criminal trial. The CPS has released comprehensive guidance on this topic: https://www.cps.gov.uk/legal-guidance/therapy-provision-therapy-vulnerable-or-intimidated-adult-witnesses. The guidance encourages the provision of any therapy that a victim or witness may need pre-trial, and lays out the strict criteria which needs to be met for evidence obtained from therapy sessions to be admissible in court.

It is widely recognised that maintaining trust is central to the provision of therapy, and as a result access to a victim's counselling notes would not be permitted unless the court directly allows it. In deciding this, the court will consider any views given by the defence and prosecution and will only order the disclosure of the material if there are real grounds to believe that the evidence could affect the outcome of the case. Those aspects of the therapy that have no material relevance to criminal proceedings should not be disclosed, and even relevant evidence may be excluded if it is considered to be prejudicial.

The launch of the cross-government Victims Strategy outlines the Government's commitment to launching new guidance on pre-trial therapy, and existing CPS guidance makes it clear that victims should never be discouraged from seeking such support.