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5.25 Pre-trial Therapy or Pre-Proceedings Protocol

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

The chapter seeks to detail the protocol and practice in respect of providing children with the relevant support they need whilst ensuring the careful balance is maintained in that this does not prejudice the outcome of any other court proceedings.

It chapter should be carefully read by all professionals involved in situations where a child needs to have therapy as a result of abuse and where there are ongoing criminal and/or care proceedings.

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

ACKNOWLEDMENTS

The following documents were used to help develop these guidelines. Particular thanks are given to the organisations that produced the source materials.

North East Lincolnshire LSCB (2011) Protocol Pre-Trial or Pre-Proceedings Therapy.

This chapter was introduced into the manual in March 2015.


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Key Points
  3. Process

    Appendix A: Young Witness / Child Pre-Trial / Care Proceedings Therapy (Summary of Allegations Form - Police)

    Appendix B: Young Witness / Child Pre-Trial / Care Proceedings Therapy (Summary of Allegations Form - Child’s Social Worker)

    Appendix C: Young Witness / Child Pre-Trial / Care Proceedings Therapy (Summary of Allegations Form - Therapist)


1. Introduction

This is an interagency protocol for Lincolnshire Local Safeguarding Children’s Board (LSCB) and is designed to assist and guide all practitioners working with children and young people with regard to the agreed process for pretrial therapy for children and young people. The aim of this protocol is to set out steps in relation to young witnesses who are to be provided with therapy prior to a criminal trial or children/young people subject to ongoing Care Proceedings within the family or magistrates court. It is designed to complement the CPS practice guidance for, Provision of Therapy for Child Witnesses Prior to a Criminal Trial. It is relevant to any agency offering a therapeutic service to young witnesses or children subject to ongoing care proceedings.

(See ‘CPS, Provision of Therapy for Child Witnesses Prior to a Criminal Trial’).

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


2. Key Points

This protocol will not include private family proceedings and custody of children related matters.

Concern has been expressed that child witnesses and children subject to ongoing Care Proceedings have been denied therapeutic support and intervention pending the outcome of the proceedings or criminal trial for fear of tainting evidence and losing a prosecution/case. This concern may conflict with the need to ensure that child victims of abuse, (whether in criminal or care proceedings), are able to receive, as soon as possible, immediate and effective intervention to assist their recovery and stabilize their placement.

In the context of the potential conflict, the following matters should be considered:

  • Many child victims state that they want their abuser convicted and punished;
  • There is a wider public interest in ensuring that abusers are brought to justice to prevent further abuse;
  • All accused persons are entitled to a fair trial.

Any person who is to conduct therapy with such a young witness must be conversant with the 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.

Initially 6 sessions will be undertaken between the child and therapist before the intervention is reviewed between the therapist and the family/carer. The meeting shall be convened by the therapy provider and a clinical decision will then be made as to whether it is appropriate for further therapy/crisis intervention to continue. The Social worker/other referring professional, and Police may be invited where appropriate but will in all cases be informed of the outcome in writing.

Prior to commencement of any agreed therapy a comprehensive discussion should take place between the investigating Police Officer and the therapy provider sharing details of the case as required. Throughout the course of therapy it is imperative that an open and constant dialogue is maintained with the investigating Police Officer. This is particularly important in relation to any doubts or ambiguity about what to record or how to proceed.

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


3. Process

Click here to view the Process Map.

On identification of the need for pretrial therapeutic support and intervention, if the child is an open case to Children’s Services, the child’s social worker will liaise with the Local Authority’s legal advisor allocated to the case, the potential therapy provider and the Police.

Where the child is an open case, the Social Worker/Service Manager will liaise with the Police Officer in the case/Detective Inspector from the Public Protection Unit (PPU) involved with the matter. Where the child is not an open case, the referring professional will liaise with the Police Officer/Detective Inspector from the P.P.U. 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 will then inform the Crown Prosecutor with responsibility for the case that a need for therapy had been identified and will 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 will then inform the Social Worker/Service Manager or other referring professional of any views that may have been expressed as above and a decision can then be made as to whether it is in the best interest of the child/young person to proceed with the therapy at that stage.

If therapy is to commence the Social Worker will advise the local authority’s legal advisor of the intention to refer to a therapy provider.

The Social Worker/other referring professional will then consult with the therapy provider giving details of the case and the reason for therapeutic intervention. Upon conclusion of the consultation the Social Worker/other referring professional will complete the relevant agency standard referral form for therapy.

The therapist will be made aware of any pending criminal proceedings by the investigating Police Officer; where possible this should be at a face to face meeting. Consideration at this stage should be given to the appropriateness of the therapist viewing the child’s video interview. The therapist will be provided with a document prepared by the identified Police Officer setting out a summary of the allegations made by the young witness and any charges already made. (Appendix A: Young Witness / Child Pre-Trial / Care Proceedings Therapy (Summary of Allegations Form - Police)).

The therapist will be made aware of any pending/ongoing care proceedings and will be provided with a document prepared by the child’s social worker/other referring professional setting out a summary of the allegations made by the child/young person. (Appendix B: Young Witness / Child Pre-Trial / Care Proceedings Therapy (Summary of Allegations Form - Child’s Social Worker)).

Upon receipt of the referral, the therapy provider will complete their assessment and inform the Social worker/other referring professional of the intention to provide therapy or in the case of not providing therapeutic intervention the reason for not doing so. The assessment will include seeing the child and speaking to the parents/carer (where not the perpetrator) and may involve speaking to other agencies as appropriate in order to form an opinion. In the event of not accepting the decision, the Local Safeguarding Children Board Professional Resolution and Escalation Protocol (See Professional Resolution and Escalation Protocol) will be referred to.

Before therapy commences the therapist must inform the child/young person and carers that confidentiality cannot be guaranteed in advance and will 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/young person receives individual sessions with the same therapist. However if a child witness receiving therapeutic intervention from the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) then becomes accommodated by the Local Authority the case will be discussed with the Looked After Children CAMHS service. The therapy provider should be maintained wherever possible for issues of continuity and in the best interests of the child;
  • The child/young person is not involved in any group sessions prior to giving evidence;
  • The therapeutic process will represent a child/young person focused way of working i.e. no direct questioning of the child/young person about his/her experiences, and will go at their pace;
  • When/if a child/young person chooses to talk about his/her abusive experiences for which the perpetrator is awaiting trial, the therapist will acknowledge what the child/young person has said and make appropriate generalised comments but will not ask probing, investigative questions. It is recognised that the disclosure by adults of 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. Children/young people are no exception to this;
  • Should a child/young person disclose further abusive experiences, other than that already under investigation the therapist will follow the Local Safeguarding Children Board procedures as to reporting those allegations. (See Referrals Procedure);
  • The therapist completes a form after each session in which the following data is included:
    • Date and location of the session;
    • Name of therapist;
    • Name of anyone else present;
    • Length of session, confirmation;
    • Whether written records were made;
    • The therapist should also indicate as to whether any disclosure of materially new allegations was made by the child/young person, whether the child/young person gave any details of the allegation against the alleged perpetrator and if so, whether anything was said by the child/young person which was inconsistent with the allegations.

IMPORTANT: If the Therapist believes that there has been a new disclosure of allegations, or, further information on current allegations and/or any inconsistencies then they should discuss these first with the investigating Police officer to establish relevance and accuracy prior to recording. (Appendix C: Young Witness / Child Pre-Trial / Care Proceedings Therapy (Summary of Allegations Form - Therapist)).

A copy of the completed form will be forwarded to the identified Police Officer 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.


Appendices

Appendix A: Young Witness / Child Pre-Trial / Care Proceedings Therapy (Summary of Allegations Form - Police)

Appendix B: Young Witness / Child Pre-Trial / Care Proceedings Therapy (Summary of Allegations Form - Child’s Social Worker)

Appendix C: Young Witness / Child Pre-Trial / Care Proceedings Therapy (Summary of Allegations Form - Therapist)

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