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Pre-Trial Therapy

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This guidance sets out the procedure for providing therapy to young witnesses prior to a criminal trial. It is designed to complement the joint Home Office/Crown Prosecution Service/Department of Health Practice Guidance. See Provision of Therapy for Vulnerable or Intimidated Adult Witnesses Prior to a Criminal Trial - Practice Guidance (CPS, Home Office and Department of Health).

Any person who is to conduct therapy with such a young witness must be conversant with the above Practice Guidance. If there are concurrent civil proceedings in the family court, guidance should be sought as to whether leave of the court is required.


Prior to a case being allocated to a therapist, the Social Worker/Consultant Social Worker should liaise with the Police Officer in the case/Detective Inspector from the Protecting Vulnerable People Unit involved with the matter. The purpose of this liaison is to establish whether there are any investigative matters outstanding or/and any other issues that might affect the advisability of commencing therapy.

The identified Police Officer should inform the Crown Prosecutor with responsibility for the case that a need for therapy has been identified and should ascertain if the Crown Prosecution Service has any views on the possible impact of the proposed therapy upon the criminal proceedings.

The identified Police Officer should then inform the Social Worker/ Consultant Social Worker of any views that may have been expressed as above, and a decision made as to whether it is in the best interest of the child to proceed with the therapy at that stage.

If therapy is to commence, the therapist should be made aware of any pending criminal proceedings and should be provided with a document prepared by the identified Police Officer setting out a summary of the allegations made by the young witness. Click here to view the Young Witness Pre-Trial Therapy Summary of Allegations Form (found in the Documents Library section of this manual).

Before therapy commences the therapist must inform the child and their parents / carers that confidentiality cannot be guaranteed in advance and should reach an understanding with them of the circumstances under which material obtained during the therapy sessions may be required to be disclosed.

Therapy may then commence under the following conditions:

  • The child receives individual sessions with the same therapist;
  • The child is not involved in any group sessions prior to giving evidence;
  • The therapeutic process should follow the guidelines in part 5 of the CPS / Home Office / DoH Guidance and should represent a child focused way of working e.g. no direct questioning of the child about his/her experiences, and should go at the their pace;
  • When/if a child chooses to talk about his/her abusive experiences for which the perpetrator is awaiting trial, the therapist should acknowledge what the child has said and make appropriate generalised comments but should not ask probing or investigative questions. It is recognised that the disclosure by a traumatic event rarely occurs as a one off event and is seen, in practice, as a process in which facts and details evolve over a period of time;
  • After each session, the therapist should complete report in which the following data is included: date and location of the session, name of therapist, names of anyone else present, length of session, confirmation whether written records were made, an indication as to whether any disclosure of materially new allegations was made by the child, an indication as to whether the child gave any details of the allegation against the alleged perpetrator and, if so, whether anything was said by the child which was inconsistent with the allegations as outlined in the summary provided to therapist by the Police before the start of the therapy;
  • Should a child/young person disclose further abusive experiences, the therapist should contact the Police Officer in the case to inform them of the further disclosures.

A copy of the completed form should be forwarded to the Police Officer in the case who will keep a copy and forward a further copy to the Crown Prosecution Service.

Upon receipt of the form, any further details as may be disclosed as above, the Crown Prosecutor will then have to consider the question of disclosure of such information to the Defence. It may thereafter be necessary for an application to be made to the court, as outlined in of the Practice Guidance.

N.B. Where a young witness is an inpatient in a therapeutic unit; all members of staff need to be made aware of this guidance, and, in the event of a discussion relevant to the criminal proceedings taking place, should follow the same notification procedure.

Click here to view the Young Witness Pre-Trial Therapy Summary of Allegations Form.

Click here to view the Young Witness Notification of Pre-Trial Therapy Form.


Further Information

Achieving Best Evidence in Criminal Proceedings: Guidance on Interviewing Victims and Witnesses, and Guidance on Using Special Measures (Ministry of Justice, 2011)

Provision of Therapy for Child Witnesses Prior to a Criminal Trial – Practice Guidance

Code of Practice for Victims of Crime (Ministry of Justice, October 2013)

Guidelines on Prosecuting Cases of Child Sexual Abuse (CPS, revised 2017)

End.