MP to feed into Victims’ Code in effort to boost therapy access

SARAH Champion is to work with ministers on improving access to pre-trial therapy for survivors of sexual abuse.

The Rotherham MP called for it to be enshrined in law that counselling before court must be available to all victims.

She drew on the experiences of Rotherham survivors when raising the matter in a House of Commons debate.

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Ms Champion gave one example of a constituent told by police that it would “complicate the trial” if she sought mental health support.

The victim was told to wait until the matter was dealt with – but this took another 18 months and left the constituent “utterly traumatised”.

Charities like Rape Crisis England and Wales report that this is happening too often, with victims being told their counselling notes could be accessed by the court if they go ahead with therapy.

In her speech, Sarah said the Rotherham survivor told her: “Despite it not being illegal to see a counsellor, it appears to be more convenient for the police if one is not seen.

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“When someone in such an immense position of trust indicates it would be better not to see a counsellor, the victim is so vulnerable and so strongly led by the police that I fear that it will continue, even if off record.”

Victims and sentencing minister Ed Argar responded: “The bill already includes the code principle that victims should be able to access services that support them, including specialist services.”

He went on to say he is happy to work with Ms Champion on the new Victims’ Code before it is consulted on and finalised.

The Rotherham MP said: “Despite the minister’s argument that access to support is already covered by the Victims’ Code, we know victims are still being dissuaded from receiving pre-trial therapy.

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“From speaking to survivors in Rotherham, I know that awareness and implementation of the Victims’ Code is a key issue the Government needs to resolve.

“We need an explicit requirement in law for victims to be able to access the therapy they need during the criminal justice process.

“I will be working with the Minister to strengthen both the revised Victims’ Code and the Victims and Prisoners Bill so that all victims are able to receive their rights as intended.”