It was a perfectly chilly evening to be cosy at home, for a winter zoom talk.  The topic of Pre trial Therapy attracted a considerable number of members as expected.

Erene (ee – rene – ee) is a very experienced therapist, who has been and is involved in many aspects of supporting people through the criminal judicial system (CJS).  She is a published author, with a chapter of her book (referenced below) dedicated to this topic and has authored published articles too.  She has been heavily involved in the advocacy process.

The information shared this evening DOES NOT apply to Scotland as they have a separate system, so if you are supporting someone there, you will need to enquire about the Scottish legal system.

As well as educating us on some of the systems involved, Erene really gave a broad spectrum insight into what is available to us as therapists and the clients.

 

For example the CPS often do public consultations and the details are available on their website when these go out.

In 2022, there were significant changes in the legal system which now allow

  • All victims/survivors/accusers to speak freely of what they have been through, this includes therapy
  • Accused perpetrators ARE allowed therapy too.
  • False memory syndrome has been discounted (in theory)

Erene informed us that often people involved with the legal system may try to sway us otherwise in many facts, using incorrect information.  A huge lesson for me was to stop, wait, make enquiries about what is a legal requirement.

 

Under no circumstance, should therapy be stopped or not offered because of a current or impending legal case.

 

Erene educated us on some legal jargon that our clients and us may come across for eg NFA – No further action – this may apply either at the start of a process when there may be deemed not enough evidence.  The CPS will only take a case forward if they a) feel there is above 51% chance of a conviction (based on evidence) and b) if it benefits the public.

A client may have a Video Recording Interview (VRI) where a specially trained police officer interviews and there is a hidden camera (assume to not overwhelm client) to record it.  This can often be used later in court when providing evidence.

Regardless of the outcome for the client/injured party – they can claim through CICA, link below.

https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/criminal-injuries-compensation-authority

Also through CICA – they may enlist this support of a

Independent Sexual Violence Advocate (ISVA) or

  • Independent Domestic Violence Advocate (IDVA)

To liaise with the police and the CPS and to be accompanied to court.

Whilst Erene specialises in the area of sexual assault, all the legalities around freedom of speech pre trial, applies to any victim of any crime.

Note-taking and Note requesting by legal system

Note-taking is an area that Erene deemed significant to focus a little time on.

As the client may be required to given accounts of their story to many people, any slight change of detail from one story to the next, could be used by the prosecution to weaken the case in court.  So to ensure our clients are best supported, using Umbrella terms such as

  • Sexual abuse/violence
  • Domestic abuse/violence

Equally significant – CPS colleague advised Erene, that if the client is feeling any blame, shame or guilt and this is being documented – it is IMPERATIVE to include ‘whilst acknowledge they are not responsible’ in the notes too.  Again this is to save any doubt in court as to where the responsibility lies.

 

Also if you are the point of first disclosure – include – ‘client has said they have not told anyone before’.  If extreme circumstances you may be called to give evidence, but this is unusual in the UK.

Offer a broad spectrum understanding of the offence involved, rather than a very detailed account of what happened.

ONLY a judge can issue a court order – there is no choice is this situation but to comply and hand over notes.

If the police or CPS request notes – both counsellor and client can enquire for what purpose they are required.  Notes should only be requested when there is significant reason and not when there is ‘speculative’ reason.  You and client ARE NOT obliged to hand over notes.  Sometimes a summary will suffice.  Sometimes some information will be redacted (eg if there is information in there that may put the person in further jeopardy….eg if a domestic violence case and there is information about a new relationship).  Often the police will work with a counsellor and client to ascertain what is important to include.   It is always advisable to liaise with the client to discuss the sharing of notes.  The police and CPS should attempt to get their evidence elsewhere in the first instance.  A request CAN also be refused.

 

The CPS do acknowledge now that people can remember things that previously have been locked away in their memory – it is worth treading carefully with wording in any notes taken.

There were so many valuable learnings in the training.  Erene’s very personable demeanour made a very heavy and detailed subject, more readily digestible.

There was much interest to have further training with Erene, as we clearly only skimmed the surface last night, so do watch out for further opportunities to train with her.

Whilst Erene is hoping her book is widely available in indie book stores, it is also available online.  Chapter 7 is dedicated to the topic of the talk.

https://www.routledge.com/Psychotherapy-with-Survivors-of-Sexual-Violence-Inside-and-Outside-the/Hadjiioannou/p/book/9780367429515

Thank you Erene

..Review by Sinead Mitchell