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Date Published
December 07, 2023

This week (4th December 2023) Maria Miller MP spoke in Parliament on her amendment to the Victims and Prisoners Bill, supported by the Lord Chancellor and former Secretary of State for Justice, Robert Buckland MP.

The amendment would provide greater protections for rape survivors’ private counselling notes – joining leading women’s organisations the Centre for Women’s Justice, the End Violence Against Women Coalition and Rape Crisis England & Wales and professional counselling bodies calling for survivors’ counselling notes to be kept confidential. 

The police and Crown Prosecution Service’s routine requests for rape survivors’ private and personal counselling records are forcing victims and survivors to choose between seeking justice and accessing vital therapeutic support.

Frontline services report that survivors are being deterred from getting support as their highly personal therapy notes may be shared with the defence and the courtroom – jeopardising the safety of the therapeutic space and undermining confidentiality.

Private and personal material contained in counselling records are being routinely requested by the police and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) at the pre-charge stage. A recent Home Office case file review showed that of 342 requests for survivors’ records (third party materials), nearly one third (29%) contained requests for counselling records.

These requests contribute to victims choosing to withdraw from the criminal justice system with victim attrition at 62% and one survivor describing her therapy notes being disclosed as “sick, invasive and perverse.” 

The amendment proposes a clear, tried-and-tested way to stop the routine violation of survivors’ privacy by transferring the decision to a judge and ensuring that counselling records are only disclosed when there is substantial probative value. The proposal has been supported by four of the largest counselling bodies: the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP), the National Counselling Society and the British Psychological Society. A similar model has successfully operated in New South Wales, Australia, for over 20 years, embedding best practice and ensuring protecting the rights of those engaged in the justice process. 

Conservative MP Sir Robert Buckland, Former Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice from 2019 to 2021, described the proposal as “an excellent safeguard which would protect the wellbeing of victims of crime”.

Andrea Simon, Director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW), said:

“Rape and sexual abuse are deeply traumatic, with wide-ranging and often life-changing impacts on victims. Safe and confidential therapeutic spaces are vital to healing. But current legislation does not appropriately reflect the uniquely sensitive nature of counselling material, nor prevent widespread requests for disclosure. This proposed change would stop survivors feeling they have to choose between healing and justice.” 

The Bill will now enter the House of Lords, where it is expected to have its second reading on the 18th December.

Media contact

Sinead Geoghegan, 07960 744 502,

Date Published
December 07, 2023
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