As a therapist you may be asked to share your client notes.
These are some thoughts as a guideline.
Legally, you don’t have to share notes unless the court subpoenas them. Discuss this with your supervisor Get the client’s permission in writing Bear in mind that clients can be naive about sharing notes, and not think through who will gain access to them. Remember that the notes will be in the public domain, so that the defence and prosecution team would have access to all the notes. Consider going through the notes with client and blank anything out that isn’t relevant. Agree what is going to be used/said. (Check the legality of this) Consider writing a summary for the court. Don’t let the police re-write your summary without you signing it. Ask for notes to be collected and signed for. Add a note to each page stating that these are therapeutic notes and not verbatim, they are your own understanding/ interpretation/ memory etc. Talk to your governing body Your insurers will also give legal advice
This is intended to assist those who have never written a character witness statement before. Please don’t feel as though you have to follow this format to a tee, it is important that character statements don’t appear to be exactly the same. The following are some helpful pointers:
Write your reference as a formal letter. That is: a. Address the letter to the court: “Dear Sir/Madam” for the Magistrates or “Your Honour” for the Crown Court. b. Sign off the letter “yours faithfully” and then your full name. c. Date the letter. d. Sign the letter. e. Include your full address. f. Include your date of birth
Always state what your relationship is with the person, including details of how well you know the person and for how long.
If you want, you can state what you do for a living, but please try not to speak too much about yourself.
State that you are aware of the allegations and what the allegations are.
If you believe the person to be of good character say so and give specific character traits and examples that you have seen.
Try to make the letter personal and not bland, for example if you can remember any helpful anecdotes, please include these. However, try not to be over familiar or too informal. Remember criminal proceedings are to be taken seriously.
If the person has pleaded guilty or will be pleading guilty: a. Never suggest a suitable punishment for the offence. This is a matter for the court. b. If the person’s life has changed for the better (that is they have reformed their ways), please say so.
If the person has pleaded or will plead not guilty: a. Don’t suggest that the person is not guilty/would never commit such offences. b. Don’t say hope that they should be found not guilty/acquitted. c. Don’t question the character of the complainants/whether their evidence is reliable etc. All of these are matters for the court. d. If you were shocked to hear of the allegations you can state this.
Should you be happy to attend court, please state this at the bottom of the letter. Please note that it might be necessary to put your letter into official witness statement format. Therefore, please type your statement in word format in the first instance so it can be copy and pasted if necessary (and eventually signed in the new format). Should it be necessary to reformat it, this will be done in due course. If you are called to give evidence – please bear in mind the following: Whilst the experience is a little daunting, it is likely you will only be on the stand (the place where you will give evidence) for about 5 to 10 minutes. However, there may well be a long wait to get to that point, so bring something to read/do. The Magistrates/jury will expect that you will be a little nervous, please don’t worry if you are nervous.
When you come into the stand, the first thing you will have to do is to take an oath. This will be taken either on the Bible (or another religious book) or you can give a solemn affirmation (non-religious oath to tell the truth).
The advocate for the defence will ask you questions first. He will not be able to ask you leading questions, that is a question which suggests an answer. Therefore when you give evidence you will have to tell your story, in other words try not to give one-word answers. However, please try not to learn a script! A useful way of thinking about things, is to think of some headlines for your evidence. Then (a) explain, (b) develop and (c) and give examples of the point you are making.
When you speak, please remember to do the following: a. If something is wrong, be emphatic in your denial. Otherwise people are unlikely to believe you. b. Take your time when you give evidence. c. Keep your voice up and direct your answers to the jury. d. Listen to the question and answer the question. If you don’t follow this basic rule – you might say something that you shouldn’t! e. Remember court is a formal setting but at the same time, you can be personal to a degree.
Please remember to NOT do the following if you give evidence: a. Unless you are on trial – don’t say “he’s not guilty of the offence” – this is a matter for the court. b. Don’t get into an argument with the prosecutor. c. Don’t make personal remarks about the prosecutor or anyone else. d. If the prosecutor makes a mistake when asking a question – don’t be arrogant, gently correct if they are in wrong only if necessary. e. Don’t pontificate – that is, give straight forward answers and don’t give your own theories on general matters that you might be asked questions about. For example, if you are asked about child pornography, rather than speculating as to why certain people might indulge in this, just give a firm short answer with your views. f. Don’t excessively criticise people that the court might have sympathy with e.g. the family of a deceased person. People should be treated with respect, even if they have been in the wrong. g. Don’t be drawn into commenting on things you have no knowledge of. Stick to what you know. h. Don’t mark remarks about people’s appearance/other superficial matters unless it is 100% relevant.
After the defence advocate has asked you questions, the prosecutor will be allowed to ask you questions. It is unlikely that s/he will ask you that many, and there is even a chance s/he may not ask you any. Again, simply answer the questions and try not to get into an argument with the prosecutor.
Please dress appropriately; imagine that you are dressing for a funeral. In this way, you will be treating the court with respect.
You can claim you expenses of getting to court from the court by asking at the office for a form to complete. You may need to submit parking or train tickets.
Thank you so much for your help. In assisting you are proving the true value of a friend.
These guidelines are designed to set out the approach that prosecutors should take when dealing with child sexual abuse cases or all types. The decision to involve the CPS at an early stage is a matter for the police but experience has shown that early CPS involvement can help address some of the evidential or presentational issues that may arise at a later stage of a case. As well as considering the circumstances of child sexual abuse, supporting victims and witnesses, counselling and therapy are included. The credibility of the victim is considered and typical signs of those who are vulnerable to child sexual exploitation, or who have been abused are listed. Issues around sexting are given. The conduct of the trial is outlined.
They cover guidelines for the Magistrates Court and for the Crown Court. In the former you can search ‘Sexual Offences’ to obtain a list of such offences. For the Crown Court, the type of offence ‘Sexual Offences’ can be selected from the drop down list. Scroll down the list to find the offence title, click on that for further information.
MAPPA is the body which brings together police, probation, prison services and other relevant agencies (such as health and housing) to ensure successful management of violent and sexual offenders in the community.
This body work internationally to make the internet a safer place. They invite the public to report images and videos of child sexual abuse anonymously, and search themselves to identify then remove sites. Statistics are given as to the number of sites removed and their locations.
They include the sources used for determining their assessment and removal of content:
JUSTICE is an all-party law reform and human rights organisation. This Working Party set out to identify where the system could become more efficient (in view of the increasing numbers of offences and the criminal justice system struggling with the workload). However, they actually take a more holistic view. ‘An approach that understands what causes sexual offending and seeks to address this through efforts that prevent crime, divert from prosecution and reduce reoffending, is key’. Prevention through education for both perpetrator and children, voluntary risk management programmes, and how sexual offending may be reduced are examined. Improving witness evidence, and the legal process through to sentencing are considered and a revised approach to Sexual Harm Prevention Orders and notification requirements is recommended. The report’s recommendations are made with the aim of a greater focus on evidence based policies to seek to reduce the level of sexual offending.
Disclosure can be traumatic and have both short and long term effects on children’s emotional wellbeing and need to be handled correctly. Some children report feeling ‘relief’ and ‘pride’ after disclosing. However, children also report feeling embarrassment, anger and sadness.
Younger children are more likely to confide in a parent or family member, while adolescents are more likely to confide in a friend or peer. Professionals in universal settings such as health and education are well placed to identify children who are experiencing – or have experienced – abuse and may be trying to communicate this. Teachers are the professionals to whom children most commonly make initial disclosures. Seldom is it to police or social workers.
Professionals should consider appropriate support for children, and their families, in the immediate period following disclosure.