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Statement – Baroness Newlove welcomes moves to better protect victims’ counselling records

The government has announced that it is backing an amendment to the Victims and Prisoners Bill that will provide extra protections for victims’ counselling notes during criminal investigations.

Baroness Newlove has issued a statement welcoming the move.

Tabled by Baroness Bertin, the amendment has the backing of the Keep Counselling Confidential campaign, as well as the support of the Victims’ Commissioner.

Hailing the “long-fought-for” change in the law, the Victims’ Commissioner’s statement emphasises how it “removes a significant barrier to seeking help,” and singles out the work of campaigners “who have tirelessly advocated for the dignity and safety of survivors”.

It goes on to call for the Victims and Prisoners Bill to strengthened, and the Victims’ Commissioner is backing further amendments to the Victims and Prisoners Bill, set to be debated in the House of Lords on 23 April.

The Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales, Baroness Newlove, said:

“I welcome this long-fought-for change in the law to protect victims’ privacy.

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.

“This victory belongs to the campaigners who have tirelessly advocated for the dignity and safety of survivors and marks an important step forward in protecting victims’ privacy. There is further to go still.

“Rape victims frequently endure invasive scrutiny of their personal lives when they report to the police, with officers trawling through personal records held by third parties, such as doctors’ notes and educational records. I’m backing amendments introducing legal constraints on this practice, and the guarantee of free, independent legal advice for rape survivors.

“The Victims and Prisoners Bill is much strengthened, but further action is crucial to truly safeguard victims’ rights.”

Additional changes the Victims’ Commissioner backs include Amendment 88A, which introduces legal constraints on the use of third-party materials in rape investigations.

She is also backing Amendment 77 and Amendment 78, introducing free and independent legal advice for victims of rape.

Briefings on these issues can be found on the Victims’ Commissioner’s website. Including a Q&A document on third-party materials.