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
Guidance on Character Witness statements
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.
© JUSTICE 2019.
Chair of the Committee HH Peter Rook QC.
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.
Debra Allnock, Pam Miller and Helen Baker. University of Bedfordshire and NSPCC. September 2019.
This review of research presents different aspects of the impact of disclosure of child abuse by a child, adolescent or adult. The different ways in which children disclose are covered. The mode of communication, may be verba (directly telling or indirectly – by e.g. saying does not want to go somewhere), or non-verbal by actions. Spontaneity or intent may be factors. Children may want teachers to notice signs such as self-harm, eating disorders, acting out in class, and being alone and withdrawn at school.
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.
The online world continues to be unacceptably dangerous for children with social media companies not giving thought to how safe their sites are. This report looks at children’s use of different social media platforms, what could be done to make this safer and lists the forms of online abuse.
Data for indicators are presented which examine the experience of abuse, give the crime statistics, and those from helplines and the internet watch foundation, knowledge around safety and what needs to be done to improve online safety. Each element is discussed by an expert, giving further insight into each topic area.
(Includes data on men and boys).
This crime report details areas of Domestic Abuse and Stalking; Rape; So-called ‘honour-based’ abuse, female genital mutilation and forced marriage; Child sexual Abuse; and Modern Slavery. Chief Crown Prosecutor leads for each of these strands are introduced. Context, Key CPS data and Analysis, Actions taken to improve prosecution performance, and Future Priorities are given for each of the groups of offences. Detailed data are given for each strand (with some breakdowns into different offences) which includes pre-and post-charge decisions, CPS consultation numbers, timelines, prosecution outcomes, reasons for non-convictions and equalities data.
Kirsten Asmussen, Freyja Fischer, Elaine Drayton and Tom McBride. The Early Intervention Foundation. February 2020.
This research charity focuses on promoting and enabling an evidence-based approach to early intervention. Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are traditionally understood as a set of 10 traumatic events or circumstances occurring before the age of 18 that have been shown through research to increase the risk of adult mental health problems and debilitating diseases. Five of these relate to forms of abuse. However, other adverse events exist and should not be ignored. The lack of evidence in several areas is highlighted.
© Barnardo’s, 2011.
The policy recommendations set out in this report are focused on England, but it is acknowledged that this is a UK-wide issue that needs to be addressed by governments across the UK.
The case is made for: Raising awareness to improve early identification of child sexual exploitation; Improving statutory responses and the provision of services universal to specialist services; Improving the evidence; Improving prosecution procedures.
© Barnardo’s, 2016
This inquiry determined to consider several aspects of harmful sexual behaviour (HSB) from it’s definition, prevalence and who is at risk, effect of internet, to whether current legislation, policy and practice are fit for purpose. It considers links between HSB and child sexual exploitation and explores how effectively the police, criminal justice system, health services and schools respond to HSB and whether changes in policy or practice are needed.
It’s main recommendations are:
1. Children who display harmful sexual behaviour (HSB) should be treated as children first and foremost.
2. The Government should work with relevant partners to develop a national strategy for preventing and responding to harmful sexual behaviour in children
3. The Government should work closely with schools, local government, the voluntary sector and others to: a. Improve support for parents in keeping their children safe from HSB; b. Increase children’s knowledge and understanding of safe and healthy relationships; and c. Restrict access to inappropriate online content. Improving responses to HSB and improving prevention will require a multi-faceted approach.
4. The Government should work with partners to commission research to further our understanding of HSB, in order to: a. Improve identification of children at risk; b. Improve prevention of HSB and CSE/A; c. Identify gaps in provision; d. Improve the effectiveness of interventions; e. Improve outcomes for children who display HSB.
The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse was set up in the wake of some serious high profile instances of non-recent child sexual abuse and because the government had concerns that some organisations were failing and were continuing to fail to protect children from sexual abuse. They are examining what went wrong and why, and will challenge those institutions responsible. The evidence gathered will inform recommendations to help protect children in the future. They have a research programme which will fill gaps in the knowledge about child sexual abuse.
They run ‘The Truth Project’ which offers the opportunity for victims and survivors to share their experience and be respectfully heard and acknowledged. By doing so, they will help us to better understand the long term impact of abuse.