End to intrusive fishing expeditions of rape victims’ therapy notes

Victims and Prisoners Bill will stop unnecessary and invasive access to personal materials such as therapy notes

  • move to empower victims to access therapy without fear of infringements on their privacy
  • robust new guidance for police on how and when to request access to personal records

Victims of rape will no longer face unnecessary and invasive requests from the police to access their therapy notes or other personal records thanks to new legislation announced today (15 May 2023).

For the first time ever, an amendment to the government’s Victims and Prisoners Bill will set out clearly in law that police should only request material that is absolutely necessary and proportionate to ensure that vulnerable victims aren’t put off seeking vital support.

This will end expansive fishing expeditions for information that is often not relevant to the investigation and used to undermine the credibility of the victim.

This change gives greater clarity to victims and the police about when information can be requested and provides survivors of the most heinous crimes with the confidence to access therapy earlier without fear notes could be used against them in court.

Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary, Alex Chalk MP KC, said:

"This important reform will end invasive unnecessary requests for therapy notes for rape victims and give them the confidence to seek the help they need earlier, free from the fear that what they share in the process of healing could be weaponised against them.

"The Victims and Prisoners Bill is ensuring victims are treated as participants in, not just spectators of, the justice system - improving support for them while overhauling the parole system to better protect the public from the most dangerous offenders."

Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, said:

"It is simply unacceptable that victims of some of the most traumatic crimes have had significant amounts of their personal records unnecessarily requested.  

"We have been clear that this issue must be addressed through legislation and that’s why we’re making this vital amendment to the Bill. This is just one of the ways we are working across government to improve how the criminal justice system deals with these horrendous crimes."

The changes follow a Home Office consultation in 2022 which showed almost 90% of respondents were in favour of introducing a statutory duty on police forces to only make necessary and proportionate requests for the disclosure of third-party information. To ensure police are abiding by the new law, the government will also publish a new robust code of conduct – with forces who fail to abide by the new rules to face consequences including possible legal action.

Justice Minister, Edward Argar MP, said:

"The Victims and Prisoners Bill will ensure that victims feel listened to and are treated fairly, properly, and with dignity when they come forward to bring their offender to justice.

"The reforms we are announcing today will mean that rape victims know their rights when they are asked to provide personal information like therapy notes."

The new legislation forms part of the Victims and Prisoners Bill which will transform victims’ experience by putting the principles underpinning the Victims’ Code on a statutory footing - sending a clear signal about what they can and should expect from the criminal justice system.

The bill will also overhaul the parole system by allowing ministers to block the release of the most dangerous offenders including murderers, rapists, and terrorists - putting public protection back as the overriding focus of the parole process.

Ministry of Justice
Alex Chalk KC MP
The Rt Hon Edward Argar MP
The Rt Hon Suella Braverman KC MP