Increasing privacy protection

Sexual assault victims now have their private counselling sessions protected from becoming public in court proceedings.

The commencement of the Sexual Assault Counselling Privilege (SACP) on 1 December 2017, seeks to ensure people who have been sexually assaulted are not deterred from therapy through fear of having their confidential counselling communications disclosed to others, including the accused, during legal proceedings.

In knowing that counselling communications are protected, the SACP may also encourage people who are sexually assaulted to report the crime to police.

The SACP limits the disclosure and use of confidential communications made between a victim of sexual assault and a counsellor during a criminal proceeding, related civil proceeding or proceeding under the Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 2012

The introduction of the SACP is a direct response to recommendation 130 of the Special Taskforce on Domestic and Family Violence in Queensland report, Not Now, Not Ever: Putting an End to Domestic and Family Violence in Queensland.

Following a procurement process, $1.588 million was allocated over 2017-20 to Legal Aid Queensland (LAQ) to deliver the statewide sexual assault counselling privilege legal assistance service in partnership with the Women’s Legal Service (WLS).

The service provides court representation to sexual assault victims who seek to prevent disclosure of counselling communications in court; and educates and trains the community (including counsellors) and the legal profession regarding the privilege.

LAQ and WLS have employed an in-house senior lawyer and administrative support, and LAQ will make grants of aid for representation, to claim the SACP, available to a statewide specialised panel of lawyers.