Requests for child abuse therapy notes ‘worrying’

Hospital units treating child victims of sexual abuse are concerned over a growing number of requests for therapy notes, especially for use in court cases.

Therapy interview video sessions have been played in some courtrooms.

The disclosure emerged at a joint conference of St Louise’s and St Clare’s Units from Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital Crumlin and the Children’s University Hospital. The Government was urged to address the issue.

Rape crisis centres had previously raised their fears about therapy notes being requested via the DPP or by defence counsels in court cases, amid fears it could bring further trauma for a victim and impinge on their process of recovery.

Dr Imelda Ryan, a consultant child and adolescent psychology clinical director at the St Clare’s unit in Crumlin, said: “If clinicians cannot establish a sense of privacy, trust and confidentiality in the therapeutic relationship the child client cannot take the risk of engaging [in therapy].”

She said staff at the units viewed the therapy sessions as “a process” but children were now caught up in legal situations and could be “further traumatised” by the growing number of requests for the interview material.

Children’s Ombudsman Emily Logan echoed those concerns and Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald said the Government was examining the issue. The DPP and HSE are currently working on a memorandum of understanding on the subject with particular reference to the Scottish model.

Ms Logan also revealed her office had received approximately 1,400 complaints last year, an increase of almost 200 from 2010.

Ms Fitzgerald also raised the issue of child neglect, saying the HSE had informed her of a growing number of referrals.

The minister said she had visited a creche this week where a 15-month-old child was being weaned off crisps, and was aware of cases where children did not recognise foods such as mashed potato.

She also said the Government would proceed with the referendum on children’s rights this year.

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