Time for instalment number……sorry, lost count…..in my ongoing analysis of the Smalley case, a long series of calamities and cock-ups in a fitness-for-practice hearing before the UK Council for Psychotherapy.
Time for me to take a deep breath as I once again run through….
The story so far…The UKCP took over three years to investigate complaints about John Smalley, a Jungian analyst with the Independent Group of Analytical Psychologists. At the end of a long sequence of delays, they decided that seven allegations had been proven. These included smoking during therapy, inappropriately setting two clients up in a business relationship with each other, and making a sexual suggestion about one client to another. Despite this they decided not to sanction him. The fact that he admitted in the hearing that he destroyed his notes doesn’t seem to have prompted a sanction. The UKCP’s laughable response to this is that they didn’t sanction him for destroying his notes because there wasn’t a complaint about destroying his notes. Just as laughably, the UKCP still hasn’t published the hearing outcome, and doesn’t intend to until Spring 2013, a year after the hearings were concluded.
Now let’s look at the manner in which the complainant was represented during the hearings.
Until recently people wanting to complain against a UKCP-registered psychotherapist had to go through a “two-tier” system. First, they would have to complain to the therapist’s member organisation. If the complaint was rejected, they could then appeal to the UKCP’s Central Final Appeals Panel (CFAP). At present the UKCP is trying to replace this with a “single-tier” Central Complaints Procedure (CCP).
The complainant, a former client of Mr Smalley, made a complaint to his member organisation, the Independent Group of Analytical Psychologists (IGAP) which was promptly rejected as “no case to answer”. The complainant disputed this and took it the Central Final Appeals Panel. Fitness-for-Practice hearings are conducted like a court hearing, with opposing lawyers for the two sides arguing over the case.
Unfortunately this doesn’t seem to have been shared with the complainant. He alleges that he turned up at the CFAP to find Mr Smalley represented by a solicitor and barrister provided by his indemnity insurance. The complainant, on the other hand, states that he quickly realised he was expected to present a case against the opposing barrister.
The complainant is a vulnerable adult with mental health problems. He suddenly, without training or even the opportunity to prepare, found himself in the position of a litigant-in-person, fighting it out with a professional pit bull.
Despite this he seems to have done a good job. The CFAP ruled that IGAP’s rejection of the complaint had been “perverse and incorrect”. They further ordered that a new hearing be scheduled under the UKCP’s new Central Complaints Procedure.
The complainant was, unsurprisingly, pretty angry about the position he’d been put in at the CFAP. He then wrote to the UKCP demanding that this wouldn’t be repeated.
The reply back didn’t assuage his fears.
Sunita Thakore is the Professional Conduct Officer for the UKCP, but as far as I can tell she doesn’t appear to be a lawyer. I searched the online registers of the Solicitors Regulation Authority and the Bar Standards Board, and she doesn’t seem to be registered with either of those. I e-mailed the UKCP asking what qualifies her to present cases against trained lawyers, but the UKCP declined to comment.
The case went before the Central Complaints Procedure. As with the CFAP hearing, Mr Smalley was provided with a solicitor and a barrister by his indemnity insurance. The complainant was not willing to be represented by Ms Thakore and paid for a barrister out of his own pocket, costing him several thousand pounds.
So, the lesson would appear to be that if you want to make a complaint against a UKCP-registered psychotherapist, you’ll be up against a barrister, and you could be representing yourself, or have your case presented by a lay member of UKCP staff, or have to pay for your own lawyer.
Hardly seems fair.