The Stuart Macfarlane case – the UKCP responds

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We do not publish decisions made by other organisations because this falls outside our policy on the publication of decisions.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:

http://www.analyticalpsychology.org/simpleblog/upload/file/Decision%20regarding%20Stuart%20MacFarlane%282%29.pdf

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.

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11 Comments to “The Stuart Macfarlane case – the UKCP responds”

  1. People post on this site because the complaints procedure is unfair, inadequate and does not support transparent processes and outcomes – for anyone. It is a professional embarrassment that this organisation are unable to build a fit for purpose procedure to which their membership can sign up so that the Professional Standards Authority can validate them. It is a shocking debacle and lets down psychotherapists and the public. No wonder people are rushing to validate themselves through other mechanisms. What a let down. This is not a matter of trial by the internet – it is a matter of an total inadequacy on your part as an organisation.

  2. “It is a professional embarrassment that this organisation are unable to build a fit for purpose procedure to which their membership can sign up so that the Professional Standards Authority can validate them.”

    Sorry, I’m losing track of what is happening here. Does the above mean that GAP can be a UKCP member but simultaneously opt out of PSA accreditation by not being subject to the CCP?

    Sorry if my question seems a bit thick but I haven’t been able to give all the time to reading around this that I wanted. I thought the UKCP Big Bosses had said no to a dual track policy a few months ago. Is this what is going on?

    Please advise someone as a tad confused.

    Thanks in anticipation, Jo.

  3. David Pink 2012:

    For UKCP to be approved by the Council for
    Healthcare Regulatory Excellence, (CHRE,
    soon to become the Professional Standards
    Authority, (PSA)) we will probably need to
    implement a central complaints process
    (CCP). Our Board does not think we should
    attempt to defend a system of 70 different
    ethics codes and complaints systems under
    the UKCP registration umbrella. Modern
    regulatory practice demands that the public
    sees a clear, consistent and independent
    system for handling their complaints and
    concerns. While the public has a great deal
    of respect for practitioner professionals,
    they no longer accept that concerns and
    complaints should be handled by a small
    group of fellow professional colleagues.

    Now the UKCP website says “Some of our members belong to organisations that deal with complaints themselves. Others choose to use UKCP’s Complaints and Conduct Process (CCP).”

    WTF is going on? Are they going to have a CCP or not?

  4. I’ve lost track of the progress of regulation – but remain interested in these ‘developments’.
    Perhaps Z will grace us with a brief review of where we’re at in the next post?

    Continuing on – I’ll just make an unqualified opinion, cos I can….

    I think they [UKCP] are probably stuck betwixt the lands of – how do we purport good standards – but without alienating everyone from joining up to us cos we uphold good standards with consequences?
    Trying to keep a wide-as-possible target membership without the risk of becoming a scary ‘authority’ figure.

    That’s the alternate beauty of adminstrative legislation for accountablity [via registration] – there is no opt-in/out dilemma. You must be signed up – or forget it.
    I hope the UKCP simply stick to the developing good standards and the rest will follow. Possibly even make a niche for themselves and be granted the lawful role when it becomes a legal safeguarding requirement.

    Might be worth starting up a ‘blame = claim’ culture now so when these respondents are eligible to re-register, the voluntary regulators also become accountable for sanctioning their ‘approval’ onto their register.

    I wonder what would the legal response might be to therapists taking sexual advantage of a client?
    Perhaps there’s grounds to extend the concept of ‘statutory rape’ – as happens for any person engaging in sexual behaviour with an under 16 – and extending that priori to include a client (victim) who, by nature of the therapy relationship, is a vulnerable person and the perpetrator is in a privelidged position of authority and power.

  5. This is harder than trying to do my maths homework used to be. The problem is that all individual members may now be signed up to the CCP but not all members of UKCP are individual members – are they? Well at least I don’t think so but I could be wrong and so perhaps someone could clarify. So since it is very hard to establish what is going on I can only wonder at how the membership feel? and also how the general public would understand this situation. So hopefully David Pink – or is it David Bird or somebody will clarify the situation for us ordinary confused mortals. Or is there a special equation for working out what is going on – just like there used to be with my maths homework. Always was a bit slow at maths.

  6. I also filed a complaint with GAP against Stuart MacFarlane for serious sexual misconduct whilst I was his patient. The complaint was filed twelve months ago and GAP, having reassured me that they would process my complaint despite the fact that the misconduct occurred in 2006, then rejected it as being ‘out of time’.

    As GAP had failed to respond, my next recourse was the UKCP. However they could not act against Stuart MacFarlane as he had resigned his membership of the UKCP in September 2012, or so they told me.

    So I am amazed, and relieved, that the UKCP has successfully prosecuted SM but am left with these two questions:
    1. When did the misconduct occur that resulted in this successful prosecution occur?
    2. When did SM rejoin the UKCP?

    In January 2012, the UKCP told me that they would keep my complaint on file and should Stuart MacFarlane ever attempt to become a member again, his attempt to reactivate his membership would be barred… so you will understand my confusion and frustration.

    However, I am incredibly relieved that he has been suspended – and yet it does seem incredible that even now the UKCP has not struck him off. It is a totally feeble organisation.

    • Hi Jasmine

      Just to clarify, Macfarlane hasn’t rejoined the UKCP or GAP at this stage, though his suspension will lapse in September 2014 and I for one will be taking a very keen interest in what happens next.

      If you want to chat further about it, feel free to give me an e-mail on thus_spake_z at hushmail dot com

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