In 2013 I reported on the case of Geoffrey Pick, a psychotherapist who was found to have committed serious sexual misconduct with a mentally ill client. The allegations were found proven by the Arbours Association of Psychotherapists, a member organisation of the UK Council for Psychotherapy, and he was dismissed from his NHS post. Disgracefully, Arbours gave him a one-year suspension instead of a striking off, and then he was allowed to re-register as a psychotherapist. He subsequently resigned his registration after being contacted by a broadsheet journalist. The UKCP has since changed its rules so that member organisations are no longer allowed to investigate complaints themselves. All complaints now have to go through a centralised Complaints and Conduct Process.
I’ve since been told that a criminal prosecution of Mr Pick has been dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service, for reasons that seem both shocking and farcical.
Mr Pick was to be prosecuted under Section 38 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003.
38 Care workers: sexual activity with a person with a mental disorder
(1)A person (A) commits an offence if—
(a)he intentionally touches another person (B),
(b)the touching is sexual,
(c)B has a mental disorder,
(d)A knows or could reasonably be expected to know that B has a mental disorder, and
(e)A is involved in B’s care in a way that falls within section 42.
There seems to be no doubt that the sexual misconduct took place. He admitted this in his hearing at the Arbours Association. The NHS admitted full liability in a civil settlement. They issued the following press statement.
“Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust dismissed Geoffrey Pick from his role as a psychotherapist with the organisation on 27 January 2011 following an inappropriate relationship he had conducted with a client.
“We take our duty to protect the people that we serve very seriously and reported Geoffrey Pick to the local authorities, the Independent Safeguarding Authority and to the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapists. We also undertook an investigation into the practice of Geoffrey Pick which included talking to his manager and other team members to identify any lessons to be learnt.
“We have spoken directly with the client and continue to offer her our sincere apologies.”
There also seems to be no doubt that she was under his care for a mental disorder. She was a patient of a Community Mental Health Team, who referred her to Mr Pick for psychotherapy. Over the years she has experienced suicide attempts, self-harm and hospital admissions, including detentions under the Mental Health Act. After his misconduct, her mental health deteriorated sharply. She made two further suicide attempts, and spent several months under the care of a home treatment team. She subsequently had to access specialist psychotherapy to come to terms with her experience.
When the client reported him to the police, she alleges that her complaint was poorly handled from the start. According to the client, her case was initially dealt with by an inexperienced police constable who had not even completed interview training. At one point, an officer told her that she could not be mentally ill because she had a professional qualification, and that she presented too well to have a mental illness. Although she reported the offence in May 2013, it took until October 2014 for the police to even interview the defendant. At times the alleged victim felt as though she was the one under investigation rather than Mr Pick.
Despite this, a prosecution was begun and Mr Pick was charged under the Sexual Offences Act. However, at the beginning of June 2015, the client was informed by the Crown Prosecution Service that their intention was to attend the Crown Court and offer no evidence, an action which would force the court to find Mr Pick not guilty.
The reason given was that there had been some disagreement between psychiatrists over her exact diagnosis, which the CPS felt would make it difficult to prove that she had a mental disorder. Note that none of the psychiatrists felt that she had no diagnosis, just that they differed as to what the diagnosis was. The police had two witness statements, one from a court appointed expert witness and one from a psychiatrist within the Surrey and Borders Trust who both agreed the client suffered from a mental illness.
The client states that key witnesses were not interviewed, including her care worker and her psychiatrist at the time of the alleged offence. The client also states that the police did not get her medical records and eventually six months after the initial report to the police the client handed the medical records from the civil case to the police herself. The police did not offer an explanation as to why they were ineffective at gaining the medical records themselves. She was told by the Crown Prosecution Service that health services destroy their records after two years. When she contacted the NHS trust, they told her records are kept for 20 years, not two, in line with Department of Health guidelines.
There was a last-minute scramble by the client to try to prevent the dropping of the case, hiring a barrister to present her objections. She objected in the strongest possible terms to the CPS decision. Her former consultant psychiatrist was contacted, who agreed that she would be willing to testify that the client has a mental disorder. In a letter to the CPS seen by Unsafe Spaces, the client’s barrister states, “If the prosecution is terminated when it ought not to have been then that is a denial of our client’s right to justice as well as a failure properly to uphold the law in a case of real importance… we ask that nothing is notified to the defendant or the court until [the client] has had a chance to exercise her rights and to ensure that a (further) injustice is not visited upon her thus adding further to her difficulties.”
Her barrister also wrote, “there is no requirement for proof of any particular diagnosis and so the fact (if it be so) that the various doctors do not agree on a precise diagnosis is not to the point if it is generally agreed that [she] was at the time suffering a mental disorder…In any event, there would still appear to be a large body of evidence that supports the proposition that [she] suffered from a mental disorder including the perfectly obvious conclusion to be drawn from the fact of treatment.”
While these efforts were underway, the client discovered that on 11th June 2015 the CPS had attended Winchester Crown Court without notifying her, and offered no evidence. As a result Mr Pick was acquitted. The letter from the client’s barrister arrived a few hours too late.
The client is now seeking a Victim’s Rights Review of the case. However, the most this can secure is an apology. The prosecution now cannot be restarted because Mr Pick has been found not guilty.
The CPS has a woeful track record when it comes to handling sexual assault allegations, and this seems to be yet another example. It also shows how badly cases are handled when it involves a vulnerable adult with mental health problems. This is an absolute disgrace and a travesty of justice.