Therapist who sexually exploited patient allowed to re-register with UK Council for Psychotherapy

[Trigger warning: sexual exploitation]

Last year I noticed that the UK Council for Psychotherapy had this listing on its online complaints archive.

Geoffrey Pick of The Association of Arbours Psychotherapists (AAP) has been found to be in breach of Article 6 of the AAP Code of Practice. Article 6 of AAP’s Code of Practice provides that ‘a member should maintain appropriate boundaries with their patients and take care not exploit their patients in any way, financially or sexually’.

In view of the above decision Mr Pick is:

1) suspended from the membership of AAP (and UKCP) for a period of one year from 16 May 2011;

2) required to enter therapy at least once a week with a therapist approved by AAP’s Ethics Committee and reports from the therapist are to be submitted to the AAP’s Ethics Committee once a quarter;

3) required to engage in further professional development as agreed between him and the AAP’s Ethics Committee liaison; and

4) required to meet a member of AAP’s Ethics Committee once a quarter.

There wasn’t any more detail than that, which left me wondering what he did.

At the end of his suspension period the above entry disappeared from the UKCP website, and Mr Pick’s name was put back on the UKCP’s online register of therapists. He was free to practice again.

I can now reveal that Pick was having a sexual relationship with one of his patients, a vulnerable adult under the care of mental health services.

I have a media statement from Surrey and Borders NHS Foundation Trust, which reads.

“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.”

The patient in question reports having been severely traumatised by the episode. She suffered a catastrophic deterioration in her mental health, spent several months under the care of a Home Treatment Team and took two overdoses. She subsequently sued Surrey and Borders for the damage inflicted upon her. The NHS trust admitted liability and paid a significant sum in an out-of-court settlement. She continues to receive mental health treatment, but does so from a neighbouring NHS trust, and is still in psychotherapy to come to terms with what happened.

The UKCP sent me this press statement.

In January 2011 Mr Pick was dismissed by his employer for gross professional misconduct. Following on from this his UKCP organisation, the Arbours Association of Psychotherapists (AAP) considered the matter in relation to his fitness to practise, and found Mr Pick to be in breach of Article 6 of the AAP Code of Practice, and Mr Pick was suspended from the membership of AAP and UKCP for a period of one year from 16 May 2011.

AAP notified us of the decision and this was published on the UKCP website.

At the end of the suspension period AAP confirmed that Mr Pick had complied with the conditions imposed during his suspension and that it was now permissible for Mr Pick to resume membership of AAP and UKCP.

In April 2013 Mr Pick informed us that he was resigning from AAP and UKCP with immediate effect. In compliance with this notification his name was removed from the UKCP Register.

I’m absolutely shocked that the Arbours Association, and by extension the UKCP, didn’t strike him off. I was curious to see what my own regulator, the Nursing and Midwifery Council, has to say about such acts of misconduct. I looked up their Indicative Sanctions Guidance.

In all cases of serious sexual misconduct, it will be highly likely that the only proportionate sanction will be a striking-off order. If panels decide to impose a sanction other than a striking-off order, then they will need to be particularly careful in explaining clearly and fully the reasons why they made such a determination, so that it can be understood by those who have not heard all of the evidence in the case.

Well, this was certainly within the category of serious sexual misconduct. Even worse, it was sexual misconduct with a vulnerable adult. Worse still, the patient endured significant harm as a result of his misconduct, and her life was endangered due to the overdoses. I don’t have any doubt that if this was heard by the NMC instead of the UKCP this guy would have been struck off.

I decided to find out whether Pick was still accepting patients, so I created a bogus e-mail account under the name “Clare Stiller”. On 21st March 2013 I sent him an e-mail posing as a vulnerable adult looking for a therapist.

Dear Mr Pick

I found your details from the UKCP website.
I have a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder, though I feel that my main issue is a period of sexual abuse that happened when I was a child. I don’t think think I’ve ever properly come to terms with it, and this is what I’d like to work on in therapy.
Do you work with these sorts of issues? If so, in what way do you do so?
I’m still “shopping around” and trying to work out what sort of therapist I want, so it would be helpful if you could send me some information on your qualifications and experience, and in what ways you tend to work.
regards
Clare Stiller
On 23rd March I received a reply:

Dear Ms Stiller

I do have experience of working with the issues you describe but, unfortunately I do not have a vacancy now until the end of May. If you are still looking for a therapist then contact me again . In the meantime if you let me have your address I will post details of my practice to you.
yours sincerely
Geoff Pick

In late March 2013 Pick was contacted by a journalist from a national newspaper. He responded by announcing his resignation from both Arbours and the UKCP, and stated that he would now retire from psychotherapy.

On 3rd April 2013 I took this screenshot from the UKCP online register.

PickScreenshot from 2013-04-03 18:59:30redacted

The day after I took the screenshot, Pick’s details were removed from the register. On 6th April I sent Pick another e-mail from “Clare Stiller” asking for further details of his practice. I received a reply back stating that he has now retired from psychotherapy.

I’ve previously covered the ways in which the UKCP’s fitness-to-practice procedures are utterly failing to deal with complaints effectively. The John Smalley case, which I’ve covered extensively, wasn’t so much shocking for what he did, but for the myriad ways in which the UKCP procedures failed.

This case is of a different order altogether. The misconduct involved is far more serious. Mr Pick was found to have abused his position of trust in the worst possible way. Terrifyingly, he was allowed to return to practice. It would seem that the only reason he has now retired is because the media started taking an interest.

Unbelievable. Utterly unbelievable.

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The Socialist Workers Party: Sex, Power and the Abuse of Trust

[Trigger warnings for rape and sexual exploitation]

I’ve blogged a couple of times about the scandal engulfing the Socialist Workers Party, an organisation I regard as closer to a cult than a political party. Just to recap, a senior figure in the SWP was accused of rape by a female party member. Rather than call the police, the SWP held an internal inquiry by a “Disputes Committee” made up of the accused’s friends, who completely exonerated him. Details have been published on the internet, prompting an internal revolt.

There’s been intense discussion of this on various left-wing blogs. This has resulted in details emerging that paint the whole affair in an even more disturbing light, bringing to bear issues over possible abuse of power dynamics.

To summarise these details, here’s a post by former SWP member Anna Chen. She replied to an exhortation by one of the SWP leadership not to listen to “filth” on the internet.

WHAT IS FILTH?

“Filth” is an alleged rape taking place when a woman is nineteen, 2 years after she and her party leader meet, at which time he is forty-six and she seventeen.

“Filth” is an appeal to the party’s internal disciplinary body being met with a kangaroo court run by several of the party leader’s friends, who then exonerate him.

“Filth” is the woman denied access to his evidence while he sees hers: the game is surely “I’ll show you mine IF you show me yours.”

“Filth” is a woman ostracised, cast out as unclean with a scarlet letter “A” carved into her forehead.

“Filth” is her friends put under heavy manners by the party’s attack dogs, fresh from their two-minute hate.

What particularly concerns me here – quite aside from what sounds like allegations of disgraceful treatment of the woman by her party – is the age difference between the two people involved. When they met he was 46, and a party leader, and she was only 17?

Given the widespread discussion of the case on various blogs, I don’t think it’s breaching any secrets to say that the accused is Martin Smith, former SWP secretary, and currently the national organiser of Unite Against Fascism. My understanding is that he denies rape – not that the truth can now be established either way. The SWP’s kangaroo court will have massively prejudiced any attempt at a criminal prosecution. However, he admits to having had a consensual sexual relationship with the girl in question.

There’s references to this in the transcript of the Disputes Committee report, which was leaked onto the Internet.

We also however thought it was important to be clear that the disputes committee doesn’t exist to police moral, er, bourgeois morality, so we agreed that issues that weren’t relevant to us were whether the comrade was monogamous, whether they were having an affair, whether the age differences in their relationahip, because as revolutionaries we didn’t consider that should be our remit to consider issues such as those.

Trouble is, this isn’t just about “bourgeois morality” but power relations. Let me draw an analogy. Normally, the age of consent for sex is 16. However, if the older person is classed as being in a “position of trust” over a younger person, then the age of consent runs up to the 18th birthday, for the simple reason that trust can be abused. Teachers are an example of this, and I previously made this point while discussing the Jeremy Forrest Case. As a nurse in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, I too would be classed as being in a position of trust. Hence if I slept with a 17 year old patient I wouldn’t only be committing gross professional misconduct. I’d also be committing a crime under the Sexual Offences Act.

Obviously, leaders of Trotskyist sects are not subject to the same legal obligations as teachers and nurses. Even so, the power relation still exists. When considering the power relation, remember that the SWP is absolutely notorious for authoritarianism, control-freakery and groupthink.

At its most extreme, the sycophancy appears cult-like.  A number of [Central Committee] members are big fans of jazz music. Under their leadership over the past few years, the party has organised a number of (mostly loss-making) jazz gigs as fundraising events.  Regardless of their own musical tastes, comrades were told they were disloyal if they didn’t purchase tickets.  This elevates the cultural tastes of the official leadership to a point of political principle; and clearly is not in any way a healthy state of affairs.

This is an organisation that claims to speak truth to power. Yet they seem incapable of understanding the potential for abuse of power when a middle-aged party leader is having sex with a teenage volunteer barely old enough to be out of school.

Then again, maybe their relationship had nothing to do with power relations, and Mr Smith cuts a dashing Robert Redford-style figure?

 

Jeremy Forrest and the Abuse of Trust

A couple of years ago, I was working as a nurse in child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) with a 16 year old girl. One day, out of the blue, she confessed an attraction to me.

My immediate response – other than to put in a referral to an optician’s, obviously – was to politely but firmly remind her that I was her nurse, that there was no prospect of anything but a professional relationship, and to suggest to her that she look for a boyfriend her own age. I also made sure that I didn’t work with her again unless there was a female colleague present.

Despite what you may think from Mills and Boon novels (those aren’t grounded in social realism? Who knew?) sexual relations between nurses and patients are strictly verboten under the Nursing and Midwifery Council Code.

20. You must establish and actively maintain clear sexual boundaries at all times with people in your care, their families and carers

If I hadn’t kept my boundaries, I wouldn’t have only been committing serious professional misconduct. I would also have been committing a criminal offence. The girl was 16, and therefore over the age of consent. However, she was in my care, and that would make it a crime under the Sexual Offences Act of “abuse of a position of trust”, which runs up to the 18th birthday. There are good reasons for this. The power of a teacher, nurse, social worker or children’s home worker over a young person can be enormous. With that comes the capacity to do enormous damage to vulnerable kids if boundaries aren’t respected and trust is abused.

I mention this because of a depressing slew of responses – often left in the comments threads to online newspaper articles – accusing the police and media of “hounding” a “young couple in love”. Some of those people seem to think if Jeremy Forrest had waited a few months then it all would have been fine – and for the reasons listed above, it wouldn’t. Others seem to regard the girl as some sort of teen seducer.

Have a look at this comment piece in the Independent. The author, quite rightly, takes the Daily Mail to task over a tacky, voyeuristic article that dissect’s Forrest’s relationship with his wife and with his pupil, by trawling their social networking accounts. If the Independent piece is good and well-argued, the comments left underneath are…..Oh dear.

As his lawyer said, his only crime was that he fell in love with a 15yr old…he was stupid the way he went about it, but I don’t think there will be any more than 5-10% of anyone who knows about this story that thinks he did it with any malice or force/manipulation of the girl, and that she didn’t know what she was doing. Again we’re casting judgement…but all I’m said is that I agree with Martin – love has no boundaries.

Was this a manhunt for murderers and war crimials or just a besotted couple? ………….Sad sad journalism indeed.

There’s been a few surprising voices added to this chorus. Peter Tatchell, for example, is someone I often agree with.

I subsequently had a Twitter exchange with Mr Tatchell. In all fairness, he was very clear that his view was that he’s not defending Forrest, and if he had a sexual relationship with his pupil, then he should be prosecuted for it. Mr Tatchell insisted his only objection was use of the word “abduction” for taking her to France.

Fair enough, but does Mr Tatchell really think any parent would agree that a teacher should be allowed to take their 15 year old daughter out of the country without their knowledge or permission?

Ironically, it’s the tacky Daily Mail article that gives a few hints that describing them simply as a couple in love is dubious to say the least.

[The girl], who describes herself on Twitter as a ‘self-loathing, music-loving, art and fashion-obsessed nostalgic loner’ was reported missing last Friday after failing to turn up at her school in Eastbourne.

A “self-loathing loner”? Admittedly it’s entirely possible to read too much into somebody’s Twitter profile. Even so, it does beg the question of whether that sounds like the self-description of a confident, beckoning Lolita.

One could argue – and admittedly this is speculation on my part – that it  sounds more like a girl who may be quite vulnerable. Perhaps even someone who might be susceptible to grooming.

Ultimately these are questions that will be decided in a court rather than in blogs, tweets and online comment threads. Even so, it ought to give those who depict the girl as an equal partner – or even a teenage seducer – some pause for thought.