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7.2 Pre-Trial Therapy Guidance Protocol

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This protocol seeks to assist those working with child witnesses to clarify the role of individuals and organisations involved in making decisions about pre-trial therapy and to set out a framework for good practice.


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. The effect of Therapy on the Legal Process
  3. Therapy
  4. Recording
  5. Further Evidence Disclosed during Therapy


1. Introduction

This protocol seeks to assist those working with child witnesses to clarify the role of individuals and organisations involved in making decisions about pre-trial therapy and to set out a framework for good practice.

It is also intended to provide practitioners with advice and guidance regarding the management of those issues associated with the provision of therapy for abused children who are, or likely to be, witnesses in a forthcoming trial.


2. The effect of Therapy on the Legal Process

It is important that the initial joint investigative interview with the child is undertaken prior to any therapeutic work in order that the original disclosure is not undermined.

However, where a disclosure relating to the commission of an offence/abuse is made subsequent to therapeutic work being undertaken, this will not of necessity negate the ability for a case to proceed before a criminal court.

The decision to offer therapy will be made following a professional assessment of need and a recommendation that the service is in the best interests of the child. The decision will be made by those responsible for the welfare of the child.

The Police should communicate that recommendation to the Crown Prosecution Service using a named contact point for the case relating to the child. Direct consultation between the professionals may be advisable in some cases and should be arranged through the officer in the case.

Where it is considered that therapeutic intervention is appropriate, a strategy meeting will be convened of all relevant professionals concerned with the case for the purposes of discussing an assessment and treatment strategy.

The strategy meeting will involve relevant personnel from Children and Young People, Police, and other appropriate professionals. The inclusion of parents/carers in this process should be considered where appropriate. Where a therapist has already been identified to undertake this role it may be appropriate for that individual to attend the meeting, and the child, if of sufficient age and understanding.

The Crown Prosecution Service has a responsibility to consider those factors likely to impede a successful prosecution and to advise the meeting regarding the potential impact of proposed therapy on criminal proceedings and other relevant issues.

The strategy meeting will agree the parameters and nature of any proposed therapy, ensuring that the process is subject to regular review and consideration. It will further agree lines of communication between the therapist and other professionals.

In those circumstances where the therapist is not present at the strategy meeting an individual will be nominated to brief the therapist regarding the agreements reached concerning the nature of the referral to that individual, the amount of information to be provided, the nature and extent of the therapy to be undertaken and any constraints on the process.

A formal record will be made of the conduct, decisions and recommendations of the strategy meeting. This document may be disclosable.


3. Therapy

Following agreement at the Strategy Meeting that therapeutic interventions is in the best interests of the child (including the child's right to justice) the provision of the specified therapy may commence with the following general restrictions:

  • Therapy is on an individual basis, i.e. no joint or group therapy sessions;
  • The same therapist provides the therapy for the duration of the therapy sessions.

Where a child refers to the abuse they have suffered during a therapy session, the therapist should listen and acknowledge what has been said. The therapist should not seek clarification or ask probing or investigative questions.


4. Recording

Care should be taken in the recording of therapeutic sessions. The therapist must make immediate, factual and concise and accurate notes relating to each session which must be retained in their original format so that they can be produced at a later date if required. Any notes, video or audio recordings, pictures etc. used during the therapy sessions must be similarly maintained.

A pro-forma document will be completed following each therapy session and will include:

  • Date and location of session;
  • Duration of the session;
  • Details of therapist;
  • Details of child;
  • Details of other persons present;
  • Confirmation that records of the therapy sessions have been made.

Those pro-forma documents will be copied prior to any criminal trial and the original document forwarded to the Crown Prosecution Service via the Police.

Where therapeutic work is being undertaken, the therapist needs to ensure that the child is of sufficient age and understanding and, where appropriate, parents/carers are aware that records are kept and that confidentiality cannot be guaranteed.


5. Further Evidence Disclosed during Therapy

It will be the responsibility of the reviewing Crown Prosecution Service lawyer dealing with the case: to send a letter to the Police asking for confirmation as to whether therapy has been undertaken if so, whether the witness said anything inconsistent with the disclosure to the Police and what sort of therapy was undertaken.

Any disclosure of materially new allegations by the witness undergoing therapy, or any material departure from or inconsistency with the original allegations, should be reported to the Investigative Team. A further Strategy Meeting will be convened at the earliest opportunity to determine and agree the best course of action in the light of the new information or allegations.

End