Today I published the story that Stuart Macfarlane, a psychotherapist registered with the Guild of Analytical Psychologists and UK Council for Psychotherapy, had been suspended for two years due to serious sexual misconduct with a mentally ill patient. The normal sanction for this kind of misconduct is a striking-off, not a suspension.
Earlier in the week I’d e-mailed the UKCP. This is what I asked them.
Thanks for your e-mail. I was just about to contact you as it happens. The story is regarding Stuart Macfarlane, who is currently suspended for two years by the Guild of Analytical Psychologists (formerly the Guild for Analytical Psychology and Spirituality).
Can you confirm that this was for serious sexual misconduct with a patient (a vulnerable adult with mental health issues)?
Does the UKCP have an opinion on GAP’s decision to suspend rather than strike off Mr Macfarlane?
Is there a reason why Mr Macfarlane’s case is not on the UKCP complaints archive?
Will Mr Macfarlane be allowed to re-register with the GAP/UKCP at the end of his suspension?
I’ll be aiming to publish on this story on Friday, so I’d appreciate any response from the UKCP before then.
The UKCP’s response arrived Friday lunchtime, so wasn’t included in my original post. That said, it’s quite a long response, so it’s probably worth giving it a post of its own.
The complaint against Stuart MacFarlane was handled by a UKCP member organisation. I am sure you will address your questions about the detail of the case to that organisation. We are unable to comment on their complaints process or details of the case because we are an appeals body.
We do not publish decisions made by other organisations because this falls outside our policy on the publication of decisions. This policy is available on our website:http://www.psychotherapy.org.uk/ukcp_standards_and_policy_statements.html
We are unable to make speculative comments on whether a named individual would be allowed to re-register. We have a proper process for cases to be considered. What we can say is that for any member wishing to re-register at the end of a sanction, UKCP’s Registrar would consider the possibility in light of whether the sanctions were complied with, along with other factors.
The UKCP member organisation that has made decisions about Mr Stuart MacFarlane, has issued public statements about the case which you can find here:
We are utterly in favour of strong regulation. We have regulatory systems to protect the public and the privacy of those involved. Those systems include controls on qualifications, entry to our register and fair systems for dealing with those cases where there is reason to question whether someone should be allowed to continue on the register. And within these strict processes we have lay and professional involvement, and access to appeals where someone feels a case has not been handled properly. For that reason we can’t engage in speculation about cases or trial over the internet.
So, if a UKCP-registered therapist is disciplined by a UKCP member organisation, this doesn’t get published by the UKCP? That’s surprising, to say the least. I looked up their publications policy for fitness to practise decisions, and there it indeed is.
Decisions of Member Organisations
22. UKCP will not publish the determination of an organisational member, where complaints had originated from the organisational member complaints process.
The policy is dated 29th November 2012. I presume this must be a change in policy, because they’d previously published the determination for Geoffrey Pick, suspended by the Arbours Association in May 2011, also for serious sexual misconduct (he was subsequently allowed to re-register both with Arbours and UKCP, and then resigned when the media started to take an interest).
Admittedly this is an issue that eventually should become moot for future cases as all the member organisations sign up with the UKCP’s new centralised Complaints and Conduct Process. However, that doesn’t protect the public in this particular case.
I think I’ll address their final comment about “trial over the internet”. I’m not a fan of trial by internet either. I’m a fan of trial by…well, trials. Or at least trial by fitness to practice hearing. And Mr Macfarlane has indeed had a hearing where there was a finding of fact. I’ve e-mailed the GAP, the UKCP and Macfarlane, and so far none of them have disputed the facts that I’ve queried. Admittedly that’s partly because they didn’t tell me much anyway. Even so, none of them have e-mailed me back saying, “No, no, it definitely wasn’t serious sexual misconduct!”
What concerns me here isn’t so much the fact finding as the way it was published (or wasn’t), and the kind of sanction imposed. At the risk of repeating myself from previous posts, here is the indicative sanctions guidance that the Nursing and Midwifery Council uses.
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.
Given that this is not only a case of serious sexual misconduct, but one in which significant harm was inflicted on a vulnerable adult, it seems inconceivable that this wouldn’t have resulted in a striking-off anywhere else. And even if it was conceivable, there’s that line about how panels should be “particularly careful in explaining clearly and fully the reasons why they made such a determination.” The GAP’s statement is clearly not particularly careful to explain this. If anything, it’s particularly vague. If I hadn’t gone digging, it wouldn’t be clear at all that it was a case of this severity.
For that reason, what I’m engaging in here is not trial by internet, but the use of Google as safeguarding by other means.