West Lancashire MP Rosie Cooper has urged the Attorney General, Suella Braverman, to reconsider “misguided and dangerous” new rules, which she says will put off survivors of rape and sexual assault from seeking counselling before their cases come to trial.
In a letter sent this week, MP Rosie challenged the Attorney General’s decision to change disclosure rules so that – in almost all cases – the therapy notes taken in survivors’ counselling sessions will have to be disclosed to the lawyers defending their rapists.
The government proposals, published on 26 May, have reversed a legal precedent in place since 2004 which says that therapy notes only need to disclosed if they undermine the prosecution’s case. Under the new guidelines, any notes considered ‘relevant’ will have to be handed over.
In response, Rosie Cooper MP says in her letter, “the deeply personal, private information from those counselling sessions will not just be exposed for the world to see, but be used to try and intimidate, humiliate and discredit women and girls who are simply trying to bring the men who raped or assaulted them to justice.”
The Attorney General’s new guidelines have been criticised by the Victims’ Commissioner, Dame Vera Baird, and a wide range of campaigners and experts on violence against women and girls, as well as survivors themselves. With the plans set to come into effect on 25 July, Ms Cooper has urged the Attorney General to “withdraw and re-write” the proposals before it is too late.
West Lancashire MP Rosie Cooper said:
“For survivors of rape and sexual violence, the support available from trained counsellors can be a lifeline, and I have written to the Attorney General demanding that it is not put at risk.
“No-one should have to choose between getting the support they need and putting their abuser behind bars, but the government’s new guidelines risk making that decision a reality for thousands of survivors.
“The government must listen to survivors and urgently rethink these misguided and dangerous plans before they come into effect in July.”
Rosie Cooper MP has also joined with fellow prominent Labour women signing an open letter to the Prime Minister, calling on him to intervene following recent PMQs where the matter was raised.
Signatories include Shadow Attorney General Emily Thornberry, Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper and Deputy Leader of the Labour Party Angela Rayner.