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The guidance simply aims to support this process by providing information based on current thinking about these issues.1.13 In particular the guidance which follows seeks to:1.14 Until now, there has been no guidance on the provision of therapy for vulnerable or intimidated adult witnesses prior to a criminal trial.2.1 The term "therapy" covers a range of treatment approaches, including counselling, but in this context it does not include any physical treatments.2.2 A precise definition of psychotherapy is not straightforward, but the definition used in the guidance for child witnesses came from Kazdin (Psychotherapy for child and adolescent (1990) Annual Review of Psychology 41, 21-5) and is set out below:"Psychotherapy includes interventions designed to decrease distress, psychological symptoms and maladaptive behaviour, or to improve adaptive and personal functioning through the use of interpersonal interaction, counselling or activities following a specific treatment plan.
The jury, in a Crown Court trial, or the magistrates in a summary trial decide the weight to be attached to the evidence when assessing whether guilt is proved.3.3 Discussions prior to a criminal trial with or between all types of witnesses have been held by the courts in a number of cases to give rise to the potential for:– become aware of gaps or inconsistencies in his or her evidence, perhaps when compared with that of others;– become more convinced, or convincing, in his or her evidence, but no less mistaken.3.4 Therapy is one kind of discussion which may take place prior to a trial.
Other examples of discussions which may give rise to the evidence of adults (and children) being challenged include; At court, witnesses other than experts are not permitted to sit in court before giving evidence (so that they do not hear the accounts of other witnesses) and they are not permitted to discuss their evidence until the case in concluded.3.5 The key issue with regard to pre-trial discussions of any kind is the potential effect on the reliability, actual or perceived, of the evidence of the witness and the weight which will be given to in court.
Treatment focuses on some facet of how clients feel (affect), think (cognition) and act (behaviour)."2.3 Psychotherapies and counselling can be grouped in a number of ways; for example, psychodynamic, cognitivebehavioural, systemic, experiential.
They are underpinned by different models of understanding and techniques, and vary in the context in which they are given (individual, family, group, etc.) and frequency of session.2.4 Two broad categories of therapeutic work with vulnerable or intimidated adults prior to a criminal trial can be identified: This will address a number of issues, including; Both counselling and psychotherapy may require long term involvement with the vulnerable or intimidated adult.2.5.1 A vulnerable or intimidated adult witness may have no previous experience of giving evidence in court and some preparation work prior to the criminal trial is likely to be of considerable value.2.5.2 The purpose of this work will be to:2.5.3 Any information provided will need to be available in forms accessible for the particular witness taking account of such issues as language, literacy, communication (including British Sign Language, use of Braille etc.), cultural understanding and disability.
Therapists will generally be third parties for this purpose.
Those responsibilities mean that all material that may be relevant to the issues disputed in the case must be preserved.3.8 At some stage during the trial process the prosecution must provide the defence with such of the information and evidence as may undermine the prosecution case or assist the defence case.
These sections provide for a range of special measures, for example the giving of evidence by means of a live TV link (section 24 of the Act) and the giving of evidence by way of pre-recorded video interview (sections 27 and 28 of the Act), to enable a vulnerable or intimidated witness to give their best evidence.
However, it will be for the court to decide which, if any, of the special measures will be made available to the particular witness.1.5 As mentioned in paragraph 1.4 above, one of the special measures to be introduced by the Act will be the possibility of admitting, as evidence, a video recorded interview with an adult vulnerable or intimidated witness.
The Department of Health, The Crown Prosecution Service and the Home Office have worked together to produce this practice guidance.
The guidance is issued as part of the Home Office led Action for Justice programme, which said that good practice guidance on the provision of therapy prior to trial for vulnerable or intimidated adult witnesses would be issued.