Pre-trial therapy is offered to a victim or witness while the criminal justice process is on-going and a trial may be possible.
We are committed to empowering and supporting you to recover and take back control of your life regardless of whether you wish to report the offence/s against them to the authorities.
We are mindful of the distress and potential for re traumatization that may be experienced by anyone involved in lengthy criminal justice investigations and court procedures, and we can offer trauma informed pre-trial counselling and support to you when appropriate.
Pre-trial therapy allows you to talk about your emotions and feelings and what triggers them and to develop the skills and confidence to articulate a narrative of your experience.
Our counsellors will jointly agree with you what type of therapy is best and when is the right time for such therapy. Neither the police nor the CPS may decide this. Certain therapeutic approaches may present challenges for the criminal justice process, and you will be informed of this by your counsellor.
In the latest guidance published in December 2022 the CPS has made the following commitment:
You may be having or thinking about having therapy or counselling to help you recover from your experiences. We are clear that you should receive, as soon as possible, effective treatment and therapeutic support to assist your recovery.
Therapy should not be delayed for any reason connected with a criminal investigation or prosecution. If you receive therapy before a trial the police must only collect notes from your therapist or therapy provider in pursuit of a reasonable line of enquiry.
It will only be a reasonable line of enquiry if there is some reason to believe that the notes will contain material relevant to the case. This is important in making sure there is a fair trial process. The information may also help us to build the case or be in a better position to respond to issues raised by the defence.
If you want to discuss your abuse in therapy, this will not be stopped, however we will remind you that any new information about the allegation or new disclosures need to be recorded.
Counsellors record minimal session notes during pre-trial counselling and all our counsellors have received training and guidance with respect to pre-trial therapy.
Therapy notes can be requested by the police or prosecution if justification is given that they form part of a reasonable line of enquiry and with the consent of the service user (or their parent/carer).
Therapists, investigators, and prosecutors must comply with data protection legislation when processing therapy notes. We would only share with your consent (subject to any safeguarding issues)- Only in exceptional circumstances can a court order the release of notes against the wishes of the service user (or their parent/carer).
Independent Sexual Violence Advisers
The Birchall Trust operates a Wellbeing Service that provides emotional and practical support to people principally to enable them to stabilise their lives, engage with other services they need (including counselling) and re integrate with their communities. The service is focussed on enabling people to develop the personal strength and resilience they need to overcome the trauma they have experienced form rape and sexual abuse.
There is a significant overlap with the services that an ISVA can provide e.g., safety planning, referrals to other services etc. However, the focus for an ISVA service is to provide advice and advocacy for service users in their engagement with the criminal justice system, specifically in relation to dealing with the Police and the Courts.
The role of the ISVA is to provide practical and emotional support including support in attending court. An important aspect of the ISVAs work is in helping the vulnerable or intimidated witness to prepare for court in accordance with guidance contained in "Achieving Best Evidence in Criminal Proceedings: Guidance for Vulnerable or Intimidated Witnesses including Children". The purpose of this work is to:
Provide information about the legal process, for example the respective roles of judge, advocates, jury.
Act as a single point of contact to reduce anxiety for the client.
Liaise with key personnel to acquire information on the progress of the case to relate back to the client.
Address any concerns or fears which the client may have in relation to giving evidence.
At present The Birchall Trust does not have a dedicated ISVA service but enjoys a strong partnership with Victim Support in Lancashire and Cumbria who are commissioned by the Police and Crime Commissioners in each area to provide a County Wide ISVA service.
Pre-trial therapy and ISVA support are complementary services offering a wraparound approach to support for vulnerable or intimidated witnesses and the Birchall Trust consider it good practice for all service users accessing pretrial therapy to have access to an ISVA.