Today (26th May 2022) the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) released their Annual Review of Disclosure and amended Disclosure Guidelines 2022, which come into force on 25th July 2022.
As part of this review, the Attorney General’s Office looked into third-party data requests that victims and survivors are routinely subjected to, such as requests for their medical records, school history, and concerningly their counselling and therapy notes. Although the review acknowledges the harmful impact that these requests have on survivors, it fails to implement any measures that will counteract this harm.
Rape Crisis England & Wales (RCEW) are therefore incredibly disappointed by the guidelines, and the effect they will have on the long-awaited pre-trial therapy guidance from the Crown Prosecution Service.
The AGO Guidelines offer no enhanced protections to ensure confidentiality and victims’ rights to privacy. Rather, the AGO have stated that the current standard for accessing third party materials does not need changing. This means that victims' and survivors’ third-party materials will remain disclosable, in spite of the clear calls for reform from many in the Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) sector.
Our concern is that the focus from police and CPS will remain on investigating victims and survivors and that so-called victim credibility will continue to be used to undermine a case. [SK2] What’s clear is the need for independent legal advice for those who report rape or a serious sexual offence, so that they can appropriately challenge unreasonable requests for information and have the knowledge and support to do so.
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RCEW’s Chief Executive Jayne Butler notes: