Should Counsellors Give Evidence At Trial?
At Themis Chambers, we believe client confidentiality and privacy are of utmost importance. Client privilege can sometimes come into question however when psychologists or counsellors are called to give evidence at trial. Generally, counsellors can legally keep their sessions confidential. But what happens when the person being counselled is on trial for murder?
This was a topic heavily debated in the Gerard Baden-Clay case in 2013. As barrister for Relationships Australia, I argued that Baden-Clay's counsellor Carmel Ritchie could legally keep her sessions with the Baden-Clays confidential, and that her evidence was not admissible in the trial.
Whether the evidence was admissible lay on the balance of public interest and confidentiality. Would allowing Ms Ritchie to testify at the murder trial of Gerard Baden-Clay discourage openness in counselling sessions in the future? Or would this be overwhelmed by the interests of the murder trial and the need for full access to all the evidence?