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Dame Vera calls upon National Police Chiefs Council and Home Office to take urgent action

3rd June 2019

Dame Vera Baird, Police and Crime Commissioner for Northumbria has expressed concern at reports in the press that rape complainants are being told by police that they ‘are not allowed’ to have counselling since it may prejudice them if their case goes to trial.

CPS guidance has allowed therapy since 2002. Rape can be hugely traumatising and victims can avoid longer term suffering if they get professional help early.

Dame Vera said ‘Northumbria police assure me that this is not happening within Northumbria, however that can’t be said elsewhere.’

‘CPS guidance is clear. Rape Crisis state on their website that the facts of the case will not be discussed  in counselling which is about recovery not re-visiting. Improving the wellbeing of the complainant can only strengthen her confidence and help her to support her case.  Both the Home Office and the National Police Chiefs Council need urgently to circulate all forces to stop this outdated practice which means rape complainants get a postcode lottery”

Dame Vera added  “It is shocking that this practice is continuing, even following the tragic suicide of Frances Andrade, who took her life after giving evidence of sexual abuse at trial and testified that police had denied her therapy before the trial”

This is a further assault on rape complainants following the ongoing scandal of intrusive unnecessary scrutiny of phone downloads and personal material such as health notes. This revelation comes in the context that victims of physical assault and other crimes who receive counselling to deal with the impact are not limited in what they can speak about to their therapist. And their notes are not routinely requested for disclosure by the police. Nor are they told not to have therapy before trial.

Dame Vera, who has led the campaign to end poor treatment of rape complainants called on the government to include a full examination of issues relating to therapy and disclosure in the ‘end-to-end review’ of sexual violence cases currently being spearheaded by the Cabinet Office.

The UK has one of the worst sex offence prosecution rates in the world.