In her response to the CPS consultation on draft pre-therapy guidelines, Dame Vera Baird QC said she wanted to see "top-down cultural change" in the criminal justice system to deliver for survivors of sexual violence, who have in recent times been "severely let down".
The Victims’ Commissioner said she was pleased the CPS had redrafted its guidance and was encouraged that the draft guidance explicitly states that therapy should not be delayed due to concerns about criminal proceedings. She also endorsed the warning to police and prosecutors that therapy notes should never be sought as a matter of course and only where they might be a legitimate line of enquiry.
However, she expressed concerns that without comprehensive cultural change, victims may be encouraged to delay therapy, or feel disincentivised to get the help they need. She also highlighted several different but connected pieces of work currently taking place in government and across associated agencies in the criminal justice system which should all impact on one another. She recommended that the CPS wait for these connected pieces of work to be published before finalising the pre-trial therapy guidance.
Dame Vera Baird QC, Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales said:
“Rape and sexual violence are now well understood to be the cause of serious on-going trauma in survivors and for many there is a need to obtain therapy. I am pleased the Crown Prosecution Service has re-drafted its guidance on this topic and encouraged that this guidance states explicitly that therapy should not be delayed due to concerns about criminal proceedings.
“However, I remain concerned that without cultural change, victims may wrongly be encouraged to delay therapy, or the prospect of disclosure of counselling notes may act as a disincentive to getting the help they need. So, whilst I welcome new and improved guidance, I am interested to know what other measures are being put in place to ensure cultural change is actually delivered.”