Rape Crisis Network Ireland calls for Ireland to end the sharing of counselling notes in the criminal justice process

April 23 2024  

For immediate release 

Rape Crisis Network Ireland is calling for urgent action in Ireland following the amendments to British law announced today that will raise the legal threshold for when rape survivors’ counselling notes can be requested in investigations. 

This now means the British police can only request notes if they deem them to be of ‘substantive probative value’ to the case.  

Shockingly, in Ireland, counselling notes are routinely requested in sexual offence cases. These notes are deeply private, of little evidential value and should not be considered admissible.  

The practice of accessing these counselling notes reflects the criminal justice system’s inappropriate focus on victims’ perceived credibility. Instead, it should focus on perpetrators and their actions. 

“We have huge concerns about the number of survivors who are being deterred from counselling for fear that what they say in the privacy of the counselling room will be shared with An Garda Siochana, the DPP, defence, the jury and others in the courtroom,” says Rape Crisis Network Ireland’s Clíona Saidléar. “This is in breach of victims’ rights to freely access support and puts them in the impossible position of being forced to choose between pursuing justice or healing from trauma.” 

The practice of compelling counsellors to hand over notes also puts unreasonable pressure on counsellors. Counsellors serve survivors, their first duty is to create safety and confidentiality for survivors and they should not be forced into the role of evidence gatherer for the criminal justice system.  

The law as it currently stands risks re-traumatising survivors, undermines the ethical practices of counsellors and does not serve the upholding of justice through the courts.  

The recent Council of Europe report on Ireland raised this as a concern that the Irish State must address with urgency, urging the authorities to eliminate such a practice without delay.