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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
Advice can be sought from: Your supervisor; and the legal department of your indemnity insurance. You are under no obligation to provide counselling notes to legal parties unless you are subpoenaed to do so by a court or under police warrant. Most therapists will submit notes if the client wishes it, has seen what is to be included and given their written permission. Ensure that you and your client are aware of who will see the notes. Notes become a public document and can be used by the defence or the prosecution, and will be seen by legal support staff. Counsellors usually opt for a summary rather than full notes, and need to ensure that no third parties are mentioned without their permission.
This guidance is provided to assist health and care organisations to determine whether or not to share information with the police for crime related purposes. It covers circumstances where personal information must be disclosed (i.e under Prevention of Terrorism Act (1989) and Terrorism Act (2000); The Road Traffic Act (1988); The Female Genital Mutilation Act (2003). It also discusses when there is a choice to disclose and the requirements under the Data Protection Act. Examples pertaining to duty of confidentiality are given. The six page document concludes with a summary flow chart to work through should a request be made to you.
The professional body for everyone who works for the police service in England and Wales has developed APP (Authorised Professional Practice) which can be accessed online. This is the official source of professional practice on policing.
It is a reference document, with information, guidance and standards relating to various areas of offending. Within the section: ‘Managing sexual offenders and violent offenders’ examples of topics covered are: Notification requirements, Home Visits, Travelling Abroad. There are sections on Child Abuse, Child Sexual Exploitation and Rape and Sexual Offences. Links to relevant documentation is given throughout.
Produced by the CPS to implement the Speaking up for Justice Report recommendation that vulnerable or intimidated witnesses should have emotional support pre and post a trial. It is primarily for the assistance of therapists, those who commission or arrange therapy and lawyers involved in making decisions about the provision of therapeutic help. The guidance complements the good practice guidance for child witnesses which was published in February 2001.
Advice for Therapists and Practitioners about the court system. From the initial letter from a solicitor, through report writing to appearing as a witness is covered in Part 1. The second part discusses counselling of witnesses and the legal system. There are many examples given of typical Initial Statements; Disclosure Documents; and several different Court Reports which may be requested under different circumstances. This is a user-friendly handbook.
For information on relevant law and policy on record keeping in counselling practice you may find another publication by Tim Bond, written with retired solicitor and psychotherapist, Barbara Mitchels (www.therapylaw.co.uk) of interest. ‘Confidentiality and Record Keeping in Counselling and Psychotherapy’ 3rd Edition 2021. SAGE Publications Ltd.
The Disclosure Calculator is a web tool that can be used to find out when a criminal record becomes spent under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (ROA). https://hub.unlock.org.uk/disclosure-calculator/ This applies to England and Wales