In June 2014 I was alarmed to hear that the Health and Care Professions Council had declined to strike off a clinical psychologist who had committed serious sexual misconduct with someone who had recently been in therapy with him. Despite John McCarron not even turning up to the hearing, he was issued with a one-year suspension instead.
The Professional Standards Authority subsequently appealed the decision to the High Court. Today I’m pleased to hear that the High Court has upheld the appeal (see page 6) and ordered that McCarron be struck off.
I’ve criticised some of the professional bodies in psychotherapy for failing to strike off therapists who commit serious sexual misconduct. For example, in January 2014 the UK Council for Psychotherapy gave Rob Waygood a six month suspension for having sex with a client. That said, they subsequently did strike off Ray Holland for a similar offence. (Incidentally, despite his legal threats, Holland still hasn’t sued me. Cluck cluck.) I’ve always regarded the Health and Care Professions Council in high esteem for their decisions, so I was surprised that they’d show such leniency.
The HCPC decision seemed to involve a theme that keeps coming up in therapy misconduct cases – a tendency to minimise boundary breaches as a product of transference and counter-transference. I have a view on such statements, and it rhymes with fullspit. I’m not saying that transference doesn’t exist, but it’s simply not an excuse. Transference or not, it really isn’t difficult to not have sex with your clients.
I welcome the High Court’s decision here. It sends a clear message that in nearly all cases of serious sexual misconduct, the only correct sanction is a striking-off.