The restrictions that had been imposed on therapy for rape victims before trials about two decades ago are to be revoked.
Officers, lawyers and charities had warned that if abuse victims discussed their experiences during their abusers` trials they could be accused of being coached hence evidence could be “tainted”. This prompted the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to impose restrictions on therapy in 2002.
A number of victims had been daunted to seek therapy as they had been notified that police could request records of sessions, and conceivably pass them to the defence.
Following the release of the guidance, several women`s groups campaigned for the reversal of the guidance as the number of prosecutions dropped rapidly and delays to court cases increased.
On Thursday, the CPS announced a new guidance for consultation which clearly states that “no one should be prevented from accessing therapy”.
The document states that all victims must be aware that they can “access therapy to ensure that their emotional and psychological needs are met before, during and after the trial”, both for sexual offences and other offences.
In a statement, the director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, Sarah Green, expressed that the schism between police reports and convictions had caused the “effective decriminalisation of rape”.
“This range of measures is likely to feel too little, too late for the thousands of rape survivors failed by the criminal justice system in recent years,” she added.
“The government’s end-to-end rape review is ongoing, so while this pre-emptive strategy is unlikely to meaningfully address all that needs to be done, it is nonetheless a welcome step in the right direction.”
The CPS said it has been aiming to improve communication with complainants, balance the right to a fair trial with privacy, as well as to enable more victims to pre-record evidence to avoid traumatic experiences in court.