Emily Thornberry responds to the outcry from campaigners, survivors and experts over new CPS and AG guidelines on rape case disclosure
Emily Thornberry MP, Labour’s Shadow Attorney General, responding to the outcry from campaigners, survivors and experts on violence against women and girls over the new CPS and Attorney General’s Office guidelines on disclosure in rape cases, said:
“The Attorney General is at risk of making a serious mistake with these new guidelines, and I urge her to rethink them as a matter of urgency before they take effect in July.
“At present, survivors of rape are typically having to wait more than 1,000 days for their cases to be completed in court, making the stress and trauma they are enduring even worse. It is vital that those survivors should have the freedom and confidence to seek therapy and counselling before trial without worrying what will happen to the notes from that treatment.
“Since 2004, the legal precedent has been that the notes from those counselling sessions must only be disclosed where they would actively help the defence case, and damage the prosecution’s. The Attorney General’s guidelines depart from that precedent and propose that notes must be disclosed if they are considered relevant to the case in any way.
“That risks opening the door for the disclosure of almost all counselling notes, and the widespread use of those notes to invade the privacy and attack the credibility of rape survivors. Worse still, it will deter thousands of survivors from even attending counselling, for fear that whatever feelings they share behind closed doors will end up being disclosed in court.
“Far from giving rape survivors the confidence to seek therapy, these changes risk doing the exact opposite, and leaving them to endure the wait for their trials without any professional support. The Attorney General must listen to the survivors groups who are speaking out against these new guidelines, treat their concerns as seriously as they deserve, and urgently agree to think again.”
Notes to editors
- The rape charge rate is still 1.3%, according to the latest crime stats: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/crime-outcomes-in-england-and-wales-year-to-december-2021-data-tables (table 2.2).