Here’s a bit further about Palace Gate Counselling Service (also known as Phoenix Counselling) in Exeter. As I commented last week, a long, bizarre post appeared on their blog. They state they are involved in a bitter dispute with two therapists who are accusing them of running a “therapeutic cult”. According to their director Lindsey Talbott, Palace Gate have been reported to a slew of agencies, including the police, Adult Safeguarding, the Employment Tribunal Service and the Advertising Standards Authority.
To date no findings of misconduct have been made against Palace Gate, and they strongly deny any wrongdoing. There remains a forthcoming hearing with a psychotherapy organisation. Palace Gate refuse to say which one, but it appears to be the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy.
The episode seems to have triggered a decision by Palace Gate not to renew their BACP membership. They also make a number of counter-accusations against the complainants, alleging a commercial motive on their part to destroy Palace Gate’s business.
This dispute seems to have been going on a long time. On Ms Talbott’s personal blog I found a post from 28th July 2012, entitled, “The Battle”. She talks about, “People behaving in indefensible and profoundly unjust ways without – apparently – pausing to reflect or taking any responsibility for what they are doing. I don’t like it.”
If these complainants are acting out of a commercial motive, they’re pretty persistent about it. The date of the blog post suggests this dispute has been going on for nearly two years, at the very least. Talbott also makes a rather thinly-veiled threat.
I’m not going to name the people I am talking about, or include any information that might identify them. I would STRONGLY ADVISE them to take the same line, if they decide to make public comment – otherwise I will take immediate steps around defamation (and being on the wrong end of a defamation action is a short step to living in a cardboard box or on a doorstep, if you are a regular person with a house to lose). So consider yourselves duly warned.
This may be a personal bias on my part, but I tend not to be too impressed by libel threats – not least because I’ve had some experience of these things. Last year a UKIP activist threatened to sue me after I broadcast some offensive comments he made on Twitter about the family of Lee Rigby. I never heard from his lawyers. If he ever consulted one, I suspect he would have been told that it would cost him tens or even hundreds of thousands of pounds, just to discover it’s not libel to accurately report what you’ve posted on social media.
Fast forward to 27th February 2013, and there’s a follow-up blog post by Talbott, “Battle P.S.” There’s no suggestion any legal action actually took place, but it does appear that somebody took issue with her comments about “living in a cardboard box or on a doorstep”.
The challenge was about the “cardboard box” bit of that. To an extent I can see the person’s point. Obviously it’s a strong statement – it was meant to be. But what it actually says – if you read it – is:-
- “If you make defamatory statements; and
- the person you are defaming avails themselves of the English justice system; and
- wins their court case;
- you might stand to lose your house or other assets”.
Surely the short, easy, ETHICAL answer is not to make defamatory statements in the first place. Or, if you believe your statements are not defamatory, to stand behind them – in which case the person on the receiving end will presumably NOT win their court case.
I agree with Talbott that one should not make defamatory statements, and stand by those comments they believe are not defamatory.
That said, I note that in the same blog post, she states,
I have no reason to think they are truly motivated by what’s ethical, but I thought they might be motivated by self interest.
I hope that’s something Talbott can stand by. Otherwise, that could be a potentially defamatory statement. Particularly in the light of all the other comments that Talbott has repeatedly made online – not least her “The Conflict” post that she recently added so dramatically to the Palace Gate blog.
Clearly only one side in this dispute can be telling the truth, and one side must be engaging in a spectacular and repeated defamation of the other.
But which side? Hopefully time will tell.