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Government amendment enhances protection for victims’ counselling records during criminal investigations, promoting privacy and confidence

Government amendment enhances protection for victims’ counselling records during criminal investigations, promoting privacy and confidence


The government has backed an amendment to the Victims and Prisoners Bill, championed by Baroness Bertin, to provide extra protections for victims’ counselling notes during criminal investigations

This amendment aims to safeguard the privacy and confidentiality of victims, particularly those who have experienced sexual assault, by imposing stricter guidelines on when law enforcement agencies can access counselling information.

Under the proposed legislation, police will need to demonstrate that accessing counselling records is essential to their investigation and that it will significantly contribute to the case before requesting such information from victims. Additionally, a new statutory Code of Practice will be introduced to ensure that police requests for counselling notes are both necessary and proportionate, with a starting assumption that such requests are not warranted unless proven otherwise.

These measures are designed to encourage victims to seek professional help without fear of their private information being used against them. By raising the threshold for accessing counselling records, the government aims to restore confidence in support services and the justice system for victims of crime.

Lord Chancellor Alex Chalk KC emphasised the importance of ensuring victims feel confident in accessing support services like counselling, which are crucial for their recovery and well-being. He thanked Baroness Bertin for her dedication to improving the experience of victims within the justice system.

Baroness Bertin expressed her delight at the government's acceptance of the amendments, highlighting their potential to significantly improve the well-being of victims and survivors. She emphasised the importance of changing the approach to supporting rape survivors and investigations, marking this as a positive step forward.

Organisations such as the End Violence Against Women Coalition and Rape Crisis England & Wales welcomed the government's recognition of the sensitive nature of counselling notes and the need for better protection. They emphasised the importance of proper implementation to ensure that victims' privacy is respected in practice.

In addition to the amendments to the Victims and Prisoners Bill, the government is committed to strengthening victim support services, including quadrupling victims' funding by 2024/25 and increasing the number of Independent Sexual Violence and Domestic Abuse Advisors.

Overall, the government's endorsement of this amendment signals a significant advancement in protecting the privacy and rights of victims during criminal investigations, reinforcing its commitment to supporting those affected by crime.