Following the godawful decision by the UK Council for Psychotherapy to impose a 6 month suspension for serious sexual misconduct (after which the therapist was allowed to re-register), there’s been another hearing outcome, again involving serious sexual misconduct. This time however, the registrant has been struck off.
Obviously, that represents an improvement on the terrible decision-making in the Rob Waygood case. But does it mean that the UKCP’s complaints process is becoming more robust? Personally, I’m not convinced.
Let’s look at the findings from the latest outcome. It concerns Raymond Spencer Holland, an Exeter-based psychotherapist. Here’s what the UKCP found proved.
The Fitness to Practice Tribunal determined that Mr Holland’s fitness to practise is impaired by reason of serious misconduct and that UKCP remove his name from the UKCP register. Mr Holland failed to maintain appropriate boundaries; allowed his own need for gratification to become dominant in the therapeutic relationship; failed to take care not to exploit his current client, sexually or emotionally; had sexual relations with his client; and failed to contain the dynamic or maintain therapeutic clarity and distance.
In other words, the kind of appalling case that absolutely, without a shadow of a doubt, warrants a practitioner’s removal from the register.
There’s further details in the Panel determination that only compound matters. It refers to “an evidently vulnerable client”. Holland allegedly “threatened [the client] in order to prevent her from reporting the matter” and “spoke with the absence of empathy towards [the client] whom he said he believed was ‘a fantasist’.” The Panel also found that he kept no records at all about the therapy, and showed no evidence of remorse or insight.
So far, I’m feeling perfectly satisfied that the UKCP Panel has made an entirely appropriate decision in striking him off. But here’s why I still have doubts.
Holland makes for only the second therapist that the UKCP has struck off since the notorious “therapist” (cult leader would be a more accurate description) Derek Gale in 2009. The other one was Julia Eastwood, removed from the register in October 2013 for working while suspended. Incidentally she’s still advertising her services for counselling and psychotherapy. She also advertises herself as a “conscious channel for the Archangel Gabriel”, though to be fair, I don’t think anyone’s campaigning to make that a protected title.
Here’s the thing. Both Eastwood and Holland resigned their registrations prior to the conclusion of proceedings. After Eastwood was suspended for one year, it came to light that she was still advertising her services despite the suspension.
UKCP invited the respondent to address the evidence in relation to her continuing practise. The respondent did not refute nor address the allegations. She stated that she is no longer a member of UKCP and that UKCP are not to write to her again.
And here’s what happened after the allegations against Holland were found proved.
The Panel was informed by Mr Butler [Holland’s counsel] that following the decision on the facts Mr Holland had purported to resign his membership by virtue of his solicitor sending an email at approximately 11.55am. The Panel has not seen the email and accepts the word of Mr Butler that it was sent to UKCP and it has assumed that such an email sent by Mr Holland’s solicitor amounts to sufficient resignation.
In other words, both of these decisions are easy strikings-off, because the registrant has indicated that they’re not going to defend their registration.
And what of those therapists who have committed serious misconduct and did defend their registration?
In the UKCP’s Complaints and Conduct Process, the two parties are the UKCP and the registrant. The complainant is not a party to their own complaint, although they may be called as a witness.
The Rob Waygood case also involved serious sexual misconduct. The complainant wasn’t present at the original hearing, where he was given a written warning. She also wasn’t present when the UKCP appealed their own decision as “unduly lenient” and increased it to a 6 month suspension (but not a striking-off – by comparison my own regulator, the Nursing and Midwifery Council, has a presumption in favour of a striking-off for all cases of serious sexual misconduct). When Waygood and his representative argued that, “the harm to the complainant had not fallen into the category of serious harm” the complainant wasn’t there to give a reply.
To be fair to the UKCP, there is some suggestion from the original determination that this may have been by choice of the complainant.
The Panel further noted the e-mail from Ms A dated 28 June 2013 at page 102, that Ms A “did not intend to pursue the complaint” and that it is the responsibility of the UKCP to take responsibility for public safety.
Even so, the idea of the complainant not being a party to the complaint is one that raises alarm bells in my mind.
I’m not saying that the UKCP’s Complaints and Conduct Process isn’t an improvement on their old complaints procedures (though, frankly, it would be hard to imagine anything worse than the bad old days when all sorts of rogues were able to get away with all kinds of misconduct). Even so, I’m yet to be convinced that their new system is robust when the only two people they’ve struck off in the last 5 years are those who effectively struck themselves off.