Boris Johnson urged to revoke new guidelines that release rape victims’ therapy notes

Boris Johnson urged to revoke new guidelines that release rape victims’ therapy notes
‘It will force many women to choose between therapy and justice,’ letter says

Boris Johnson must revoke new guidelines which result in rape survivors’ therapy session notes being revealed when their attackers go on trial, dozens of female Labour MPs have said.

A letter, signed by 98 female Labour MPs, said Mr Johnson was probed about this issue by Sarah Champion, the Labour MP for Rotherham, at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday but the prime minister appeared oblivious to the dispute which has surfaced since the new guidelines were published three weeks ago.

The letter, seen by The Independent, urges Mr Johnson to “intervene and instruct” Attorney General Suella Braverman to rethink this “dangerous and ill-considered guidance” before it comes into force on 25 July.

Signatories, who include Jess Phillips, the shadow minister for domestic violence and safeguarding, and Emily Thornberry, the shadow attorney general, noted: “For tens of thousands of survivors of rape and sexual assault, that counselling is a crucial step on the road to recovery.

“And one which they should feel confident about seeking, especially during the increasingly long delays many are having to endure waiting for their day in court.”

The letter said the new measures risk “opening the door for the disclosure of almost all notes from pre-trial counselling sessions received by survivors of rape and sexual assault. And sadly, the history of such trials in our country has told us what will happen next”.

Signatories warned the “deeply personal, private information” from therapy sessions will be “exposed for the world” to witness, as well as wielded “to try and intimidate, humiliate and discredit women and girls” striving to obtain justice against their attackers.

“That prospect will cause many survivors to avoid seeking therapy, and make it more likely that cases will collapse when the prolonged stress of waiting for trials becomes too much,” the letter added. “As Sarah said to you on Wednesday, it will force many women to choose between therapy and justice.”

The proposals have been criticised by Dame Vera Baird QC, Victims Commissioner for England and Wales, as well as a number of campaign groups who specialise in violence against women and girls.

Signatories, who also included Angela Rayner, the Labour Party’s deputy leader, added: “At a time when incidents of violence against women and girls are the highest on record, when the charge rate in rape cases has dropped to a historic low of 1.3 per cent, and when rape survivors are typically having to wait more than 1,000 days to have their cases completed in court, it cannot be right to make it harder for rape survivors to access therapy.”

Rape still has the lowest charging levels of all types of crime – with Home Office data showing only 1.3 per cent of 67,125 rape offences recorded by police in 2021 resulted in a prosecution.