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Pre-Trial Therapy (PTT) 

A brief history & key challenges.

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For many years the criminal justice system has been criticised for side-lining victims/witnesses, despite their crucial role in the process, successful prosecutions being dependent on their cooperation & evidence-giving often being intimidating or demeaning.  Long investigations & court delays threaten victims/witnesses welfare & limit their ability to give 'best evidence' as memories fade, are suppressed or tainted.  

'Speaking up for Justice' (HO, 1998) stated that victims/witnesses "should not be denied the emotional support & counselling they may need both before & after the trial".  

 

The original 'Pre-Trial Therapy' (PTT)  guidance was introduced by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in 2001 to enable children/young people & adult victims/witnesses to access appropriate therapeutic support before & whilst attending a criminal court in England & Wales. It provided a framework for good practice & highlighted the key issues critical to therapists meeting the needs of victims/witnesses, working ethically, in clients' best interests & balancing their recovery with getting justice.  It advised not to talk about the details of what had happened in therapy.

 

However, due to a lack of PTT promotion & training over the years, many therapists have been unaware of or ill-informed about PTT & the legal/ethical implications of being involved in such forensic practice, so inadvertently practicing unethically & possibly failing their clients.  Some therapists, who were aware of PTT, wrongly believed that clients were not allowed to talk about what had happened to them at all - not even about their feelings or the impact on them.

 

​Therapy, including PTT, was often advised against by both criminal justice system (CJS) stakeholders & some therapists until after the trial or when the case failed to proceed to court; whilst other therapists avoided such work for reasons, such as the fear of breaking confidentiality, therapy notes being requested, compromising the therapeutic relationship &/ perceiving PTT as too restrictive. 

 

Achieving Best Evidence Guidance' (DOJ, 2010) recognised delays can worsen the prognosis & recommended support, including PTT, should begin as soon as possible for those deemed 'vulnerable & intimidated' & in need.

 

From a legal perspective, the concerns were about therapists discussing with their clients the details of what happened & possibly contaminating the so-called 'evidence' or coaching the client - both risk cases being thrown out of court.  

 

The combination of all these factors created a perfect storm, often leaving victims & witnesses without much needed support. ​

The original guidance (CPS, 2001) which recommended limited discussion about what had happened was finally updated in 2022.     Now such discussion can take place, but any key disclosures need to be carefully documented; also when therapy notes are requested, specific rules need to be followed to ensure disclosures are limited to what is relevant to the case.

Read the new PTT guidance (CPS (2022)

Given the poor understanding & general resistance PTT has suffered over the last 20 years, within both the CJS & counselling/therapy world, the time is ripe for both to embrace PTT to better meet victims needs with timely & appropriate therapeutic support. 

 

Therapists need to be familiar with the PTT guidance to inform their own practice, polices & procedures as well as being able to identify & challenge anyone in the CJS or other therapists not following the new guidance - either continuing to advise against it or not following key aspects.

For the past 10 years QUAL Consultancy has been providing 'Pre-Trial Therapy' training workshops , PTT articles & resources 

for counsellors/therapists/other interested parties across England &Wales.

Read about QUAL Consultancy's PTT training workshops

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