Statement: Pre-Trial Therapy
As service users – not service providers – we, members of the Survivors Manchester Expert Reference Group, are disappointed by the CPS updated guidance on access to pre-trial therapy notes. We are a diverse representation of male survivors of abuse, with varying levels of experience in reporting our experiences to the Police.
The introduction to the guidance includes the statement “The primary purpose of therapy is therapeutic not investigative”. What is therapy, if not an investigation? To suggest otherwise deliberately negates the purpose of our journey; we seek closure through therapy by investigating our trauma. Those notes should be ‘clinically investigative’, not criminally investigative.
Therapy notes lack a level of context. These interpretive versions of events are kept by our therapists, a very personal checklist of things to explore in future sessions alongside notes on the outcome of those investigations. They are not a verbatim recollection of events, which in itself negates any criminal investigative value. By their interpretive nature, they can only introduce reasonable doubt.
The CPS acknowledge that “Inconsistencies in accounts, gaps in memory and self-blame are commonplace”. It is the work we put into resolving those inconsistencies, those confused timelines and those moments where we do wonder if we were to blame or somehow deserved it which are recorded in our therapy notes.
Knowing that our therapists who are professional, caring, diligent, yet fallible could be one missed word away in making or breaking a court case – when the prosecution success rate is already so low – can only have one outcome. To cause us to keep things to ourselves, to self censor our thoughts. Fearful of how our attempts to understand what has happened to us will be viewed by the defence. Reinforcing the shame, leaving unresolved trauma in its wake.
We strongly echo Dame Vera Baird’s calls to exclude therapy notes from criminal trials, and urge the CPS to reconsider the expert testimony, the voices of victims and survivors, which seem to have been overlooked in this guidance.
Callum, Gary, Michael, Chris, Abdul, David, Paul, Trung