500 pros­e­cu­tion staff sent for coun­selling over trau­matic cases

The Scottish Mail on Sunday - - News - By Vic Ro­drick

HUN­DREDS of Scot­land’s state pros­e­cu­tors and case­work­ers have un­der­gone trauma coun­selling be­cause of the deeply dis­tress­ing na­ture of the crimes they have to in­ves­ti­gate.

Three out of four ad­vo­cates de­pute, who pros­e­cute se­ri­ous vi­o­lent crimes such as mur­der and rape, have been given pro­fes­sional help to deal with per­sonal and psy­cho­log­i­cal prob­lems trig­gered by their jobs.

Two-thirds of spe­cial­ist case­work­ers who in­ter­view vic­tims of sex­ual abuse and ex­am­ine pho­to­graphs of mur­ders, fa­tal road ac­ci­dents and ac­ci­den­tal deaths have also been given coun­selling.

Scot­land’s Crown Of­fice and Procu­ra­tor Fiscal Ser­vice (COPFS) dis­closed that it has spent £40,000 on ‘vi­car­i­ous trauma’ coun­selling for nearly 500 staff since sup­port mea­sures were in­tro­duced in April 2016.

Staff who have been en­rolled in the pro­gramme, run by pri­vate firm Op­tima Health, in­clude 249 out of 339 High Court pros­e­cu­tors and 139 out of 221 spe­cial­ist case­work­ers.

More than 100 pros­e­cu­tors and over 50 case­work­ers opted to con­tinue the ther­apy af­ter their ini­tial re­fer­ral ses­sion.

Coun­selling was orig­i­nally only avail­able to COPFS staff deal­ing with in­de­cent sex­ual im­ages of chil­dren, but the re­mit was later widened to in­clude peo­ple in­volved in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion and pros­e­cu­tion of cases in­volv­ing deaths, sex­ual of­fences and se­ri­ous and vi­o­lent crimes.

Dis­tress­ing high-pro­file cases in re­cent years have in­cluded the ‘cold case’ pros­e­cu­tion of World’s End mur­derer An­gus Sin­clair, jailed for a min­i­mum of 37 years in 2014 af­ter he was suc­cess­fully pros­e­cuted for a sec­ond time.

The 69-year-old was con­victed of rap­ing and stran­gling 17-yearolds He­len Scott and Chris­tine Eadie af­ter a night out at the World’s End pub on Ed­in­burgh’s Royal Mile in 1977.

Grisly im­ages were also used in the pros­e­cu­tion of killer Alexan­der Pacteau, jailed for 23 years in 2015 for the mur­der of Karen Buck­ley. He bat­tered the Ir­ish stu­dent nurse to death then tried to dis­solve her body in acid.

Dis­tress­ing footage of a dead tod­dler ly­ing on his bed­room floor formed part of the ev­i­dence against les­bian cou­ple Rachel and Ny­omi Fee, who were both con­victed of mur­der­ing Fife tod­dler Liam Fee in one of the most dis­tress­ing cases to be heard.

The boy’s mother Rachel Fee, 31, was sen­tenced to a min­i­mum of 23 and a half years in jail and Ny­omi Fee, 29, a min­i­mum of 24 years in July 2016 for his mur­der and ill treat­ment

One ju­ror asked for coun­selling, say­ing he ex­pe­ri­enced flash­backs, woke up in the night and found him­self in tears.

COPFS says ‘vi­car­i­ous trauma’ arises from work­ers be­com­ing trau­ma­tised by ex­po­sure to the trauma ex­pe­ri­enced by oth­ers.

A guide for man­agers and staff states: ‘Con­tin­ued ex­po­sure to dis­tress­ing ma­te­rial can have a neg­a­tive ef­fect on some peo­ple.

‘The pro­vi­sion of trauma sup­port is nec­es­sary in as­sist­ing the ser­vice to meet its duty of care to in­di­vid­u­als who are work­ing with po­ten­tially trau­ma­tis­ing in­for­ma­tion, im­ages or sit­u­a­tions, and to mit­i­gate any long term ef­fects of such ex­po­sure.’

En­gage­ment with the Vi­car­i­ous Trauma Sup­port Ser­vice is ‘strongly rec­om­mended’ by COPFS for, amongst oth­ers, case­work­ers in homi­cide teams, road ac­ci­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tion teams and Crown coun­sel, the se­nior lawyers who de­cide if ac­cused per­sons should be pros­e­cuted.

‘Ex­po­sure to trauma suf­fered by oth­ers’

STRAN­GLED: Chris­tine Eadie

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