View Working Together View Working Together

5.29 Pre-Trial Therapy Protocol for Children Standing Trial for Criminal Offences


This chapter seeks to establish a multi-agency protocol for professionals working with children who are alleged perpetrators and who are identified themselves to require therapy prior to a criminal trial. It is recognized that there is a tension between minimizing delay in meeting a child’s needs for such therapy against prejudicing / tainting evidence for a criminal trial. This chapter seeks to provide some key steps in these instances.

The chapter is not appropriate for private family proceedings.

This chapter was added to the manual in April 2018.


  1. Introduction
  2. Acknowledgements
  3. Key Points
  4. Process

1. Introduction

This is an interagency protocol for Lincolnshire Local Safeguarding Children Partnership (LSCP) and is designed to assist all practitioners working with children and young people with regard to the agreed process for pre-trial therapy for children and young people. The aim of this protocol is to set out steps in relation to alleged young perpetrators provided with therapy prior to a criminal trial. It is relevant to any agency offering a therapeutic service to alleged young perpetrators.

2. Acknowledgements

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 LSCP (2011) Protocol Pre-Trial or Pre-Proceedings Therapy.

3. Key Points

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

Concern has been expressed that alleged child perpetrators have been denied therapeutic support and intervention pending the outcome of the proceedings or criminal trial for fear of tainting evidence and prejudicing a case. This concern may conflict with the need to ensure that alleged child perpetrators of abuse are able to receive, as soon as possible, immediate and effective intervention to assist their recovery and stabilise their placement. In the context of the potential conflict, the following matters should be considered:

  • 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 perpetrator 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.

4. Process

(See Process Map.)

When the need for pre-trial therapeutic support and intervention is identified and 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, the police and the defence.

Where the child is not open to Children's Services, the referring professional will liaise with the Officer in the Case or the Detective Inspector from the Public Protection Unit (PPU) and the defence.

The purpose of this liaison is to establish whether there are any investigative matters outstanding and/or any other issues that might affect the appropriateness of commencing therapy. If yes, no further action should be taken. If no, the need for therapy is agreed.

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, update the Crown Prosecution Service, complete a referral and meet with therapy provider to provide details of the case.

Upon receipt of the referral the therapy provider will complete their assessment. This will include seeing the child and speaking to the parents/carer (if deemed appropriate and they are not witnesses in any criminal case), and may involve speaking to other agencies as appropriate in order to form an opinion. The confidentiality agreement will be discussed with the child/young person.

The therapist will 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. In the event of not accepting the decision the Local Safeguarding Children Partnership Professional Resolution and Escalation Protocol will be referred to where appropriate. 

Therapy may then commence under the following conditions:

  • The child/young person receives individual sessions with the same therapist. However, if a child perpetrator receiving therapeutic intervention from the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (C.A.M.H.S.) then becomes accommodated by the Local Authority the case will be discussed with the 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 pertinent to the criminal investigation 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 abusive experiences, the therapist will follow the Local Safeguarding Children Partnership procedures for reporting those allegations;
  • The therapist follows usual recording practice. The therapist should also indicate whether any disclosure of  allegations relating to the perpetrator also being a victim  were made by the child/young person and whether the child/young person gave any details of the allegation against the alleged perpetrator. Any such allegations should be reported to the Police;
  • 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.

IMPORTANT: If the therapist believes there has been a disclosure of allegations, then they should refer these to the police following normal safeguarding referral guidelines.

Process Map

Click here to view the Process Map.