More on the Exeter counselling service fighting “cult” allegations

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:-

  1. “If you make defamatory statements; and
  2. the person you are defaming avails themselves of the English justice system; and
  3. wins their court case;
  4. 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.

Advertisements

4 thoughts on “More on the Exeter counselling service fighting “cult” allegations

  1. Oh dear. I linked back to Linsey’s blog to get a clearer understanding of events as I suspected you weren’t putting her point across fairly, but I couldn’t make much sense of her blog. She seems to have double standards regarding her expectations of others and her own behaviour. I also find it interesting that she describes the people she’s against as making horrible allegations without giving any understanding of what these allegations are. Ultimately, though, I just became too tired reading it all. #puttingmetosleep

  2. Philip

    You have acknowledged you are in communication with one of the complainants. I personally do not see your stance in this as objective or open-minded. Seems to me you have a hostile agenda. There are likely to be severe limits to how much I or any of us choose to engage with you.

    However, I want to make a couple of points on your post.

    You state, with more accent on broad-brush sensationalism than accuracy:-

    ‘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.’

    Our own original post, ‘The Conflict’ http://palacegatecounsellingservice.wordpress.com/the-conflict/ sets out accurate accounts of these four processes.

    You do not say that:-

    – All four processes have concluded, with no finding in any of them against us, or any of our staff;
    – There was no finding in any of them in favour of the complainants.

    Do you think a responsible commentator would do well to make this clear?

    You may say you have only my word for this. However, you are in contact with one of the complainants. You could ask them about the police email, DCC Adult Safeguarding letter, and ASA email they have in their possession. These prove our statements here (and in ‘The Conflict’) are accurate.

    The complainant has possession of these documents in the context of a formal process. So they will presumably not provide you with copies, and will want to be sure their behaviour accords with relevant confidentiality requirements.

    However, we ourselves have no objection to that person giving you sight of these documents (solely for the purpose of verifying what we have said).

    The Employment Tribunal Written Reasons are also in the possession of that complainant. Obviously this is a public document. It would, I think, be fair to say that the language the judge uses does not support the complainants’ Tribunal claims. He finds for us on the merits.

    Your choices to post on this matter have the potential to harm our service and our clients. As a nurse therapist, you may not wish to cause distress or harm to the 160 or so clients each week choosing to come here.

    I suggest you amend this post to achieve a higher level of accuracy and fairness, and that you exercise a little more care in future.

    Lindsey Talbott, Therapist & Supervisor
    Palace Gate Counselling Service

    • Hi Lindsey, regarding your comment,

      You do not say that:-

      – All four processes have concluded, with no finding in any of them against us, or any of our staff;
      – There was no finding in any of them in favour of the complainants.

      Do you think a responsible commentator would do well to make this clear?

      I believe in my original post I said, “all these complaints have been apparently unsuccessful.” Is that not the same thing? I’m a little confused as to what you feel is the difference. Perhaps you could clarify this?

      Your choices to post on this matter have the potential to harm our service and our clients. As a nurse therapist, you may not wish to cause distress or harm to the 160 or so clients each week choosing to come here.

      I’m a little confused about this too. Pretty much all of what I have said on this matter is in reference to the statements that you placed on your own blog. To the best of my knowledge, I don’t think I’ve put any information into the public domain that wasn’t already there. Again, perhaps you would like to clarify what it is you feel I’ve done?

      I’ve made no secret that I’ve spoken to one of the complainants. Is there anything wrong with that? What would be the problem there?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s