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Vulnerable need pre-trial counselling, say experts

Date:7 JUL 2014
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Journals Manager + Online Editor
Counsellors need more support to ensure they feel able to give victims of sexual abuse pre-trial counselling, experts will say at an event at The University of Manchester on July 8.

Peter Jenkins, a Senior Lecturer in Counselling at The University of Manchester and St Mary’s Sexual Assault Referral Centre’s counselling team, say vulnerable witnesses are at risk of not getting the care they need before giving evidence.

Counselling, however, will improve their overall well-being. The team hope the event will give counsellors greater confidence in working with clients therapeutically before a trial takes place.

It will bring together some key players - including police officers - to think about how best to improve knowledge and develop good practice. The lecturer plans to conduct research, into official guidance and the extent to which pre-trial counselling is made available to victims of alleged rape and sexual assault.
He said:

'We hope this event will raise awareness of good practice which is helpful to vulnerable people who are going through the court process.

We hope it will dispel the myths that counselling could potentially undermine the credibility of the witness’ evidence, when that is not the case.

Indeed, there are many misconceptions and anxieties among professionals working in this field about what support therapy clients can receive prior to a criminal trial taking place.'

The conference will provide delegates with information on the latest guidance and provide practical sessions through case study discussion on how St Mary’s SARC delivers its specialist pre-trial therapy service to clients.

Bernie Ryan, St Mary’s Centre Manager, explained:

'St Mary’s SARC counsellors have developed a considerable amount of expertise in working with clients prior to going to trial. We want to share our good practice and experience with other counsellors so they can gain confidence in providing pre-trial therapy to their own clients.

Victims of rape and sexual assault are often vulnerable and find the prospect of a court case daunting and difficult. By providing support prior, during and after trial we can help minimise some of the anxiety and trauma the criminal justice process often brings.'

More details are available from the St Mary’s Sexual Assault Referral Centre website.