Police contact with therapists and the importance of making specific requests
Where a therapist is working for an agency and access is sought to the material generated, it is important that an approach is made to the agency.
If the police believe that the therapist holds material that may be relevant to the investigation, the therapist should be told of the investigation and alerted to the need to preserve relevant material.
Investigators are not required to provide extensive operational details to a therapist but it is important that any request for information is specific (e.g. spanning a specific time period and related to a particular issue), and the officer must be able to demonstrate to the therapist the relevance of their specific inquiries to their investigation. The therapist may refuse a request if they would be unable to comply with their own data protection obligations in meeting it, the data sought is not specific enough and/or there is no rationale for seeking it.
Where the therapist refuses to comply with the police request
If a therapist has refused a police request for material within therapy notes, the prosecutor should be informed. Investigators and prosecutors should request that the third party preserve the material and this request should be documented.
Tackling victim credibility myths
For detailed guidance on tackling common myths and stereotypes arising in RASSO cases see Chapter 4 and Annex A of the RASSO Legal Guidance.
When considering the impact of any apparent inconsistency between accounts provided by the victim to a therapist and to the police, prosecutors should note that therapy is not an investigative process and that, as such, there is no expectation that a therapist should take verbatim notes in relation to victim disclosures of potential criminality for the benefit of criminal justice agencies. The limitations of note taking during therapy should be considered by prosecutors when assessing the impact of any apparent inconsistencies.
The courts have long recognised that an inconsistency in accounts provided by a victim does not necessarily mean that a victim is not telling the truth – see the Crown Court Compendium Part 1: Jury and Trial Management and Summing Up Section 20-1 ‘Sexual offences – The dangers of assumptions’ Paragraph 14 (December 2020).
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