The complaint against the above individual member was heard at a Disciplinary Proceedings Hearing in line with the Professional Conduct Procedure.
1.1 The Member failed to maintain appropriate records and failed take into account the extent of his personal and professional interests, including his health and work commitments, and the impact this would have on his ability to act in the client’s best interests in providing the agreed services to the Complainant to the required standard in that:
a) On 29 January Year 1, without notice, he missed an appointment due to a diary error; and/or
b) rearranged the appointment on 30 January Year 1 at short notice as a result of his work commitments that were “doing his head in” and/or;
c) On 31 January Year 1, missed the appointment without notice, as a result of a stated health condition and a problem with his doorbell.
1.2 The Member thereby failed to meet professional standards, including in particular acting in a way which was inconsistent with the following paragraphs of the Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy 2018: 7 (We will make each client the primary focus of our attention and our work during our sessions together); 8 (Any professional or personal interests that conflict with putting a client’s interests first will be carefully considered in consultation with a supervisor, an independent experienced colleague or, when appropriate, discussed with the client affected before services are offered); 13 (We must be competent to deliver the services being offered to at least fundamental professional standards or better. When we consider satisfying professional standards requires consulting others with relevant expertise, seeking second opinions, or making referrals, we will do so in ways that meet our commitments and obligations for client confidentiality and data protection) and 15 (We will keep accurate records that: are adequate, relevant and limited to what is necessary for the type of service being provided, comply with the applicable data protection requirements – see www.ico.org.uk).
Allegations 1.1 a), b) and c) amount to professional misconduct as defined in the Professional Conduct Procedure.
2.1 The Member failed to respect the Complainant’s dignity and/ or failed to maintain proper standards of honesty and probity, including financial probity in that:
a) On 4 February Year 1, he emailed the Complainant to deny responsibility for the missed appointments on 29 and 31 January Year 1; and/or
b) The Member refused to honour his previous offer of a full refund of fees and offered a 50% refund instead and/or
c) He sought to pathologise and diagnose the complainant.
2.2 The Member thereby failed to meet professional standards, including in particular acting in a way which was inconsistent with the following paragraphs of the Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy 2018: 21 (We will respect our clients’ privacy and dignity.); 35 (We will not exploit or abuse our clients in any way: financially, emotionally, physically, sexually or spiritually); 43 (We will maintain high standards of honesty and probity in all aspects of our work; and 52 (We will ensure candour by being open and honest about anything going wrong and promptly inform our clients of anything in our work that places clients at risk of harm, or has caused them harm, whether or not the client(s) affected are aware of what has occurred by: a. taking immediate action to prevent or limit any harm b. repairing any harm caused, so far as possible c. offering an apology when this is appropriate).
Allegation 2.1 b) is an allegation of dishonesty.
Allegations 2.1 a), b) and c) amount to professional misconduct as defined in the Professional Conduct Procedure.
3.1 Between the 29 January Year 1 and 4 February Year 1, the Member failed to treat the Complainant with respect or to maintain the appropriate personal and professional boundaries between himself and the Complainant in the tone and content of the emails he sent.
3.2 The Member thereby failed to meet professional standards, including in particular acting in a way which was inconsistent with the following paragraphs of the Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy 2018: 21 (We will respect our clients’ privacy and dignity) and 33(a) (We will establish and maintain appropriate professional and personal boundaries in our relationships with clients by ensuring that: a. these boundaries are consistent with the aims of working together and beneficial to the client).
This is an allegation of professional misconduct as defined in the Professional Conduct Procedure.
4.1 The Member:
a) On 31 January Year 1, missed the appointment, without notice, as a result, in part, of a known health condition; and/or
b) Re-arranged a planned appointment on 30 January, at short notice, due to his other work commitments.
4.2 The Member thereby failed to meet professional standards, including in particular acting in a way which was inconsistent with the following paragraphs of the Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy 2018: 18 (We will maintain our own physical and psychological health at a level that enables us to work effectively with our clients – see 91 Care of self as a practitioner) and 91(b) and (d) (We will take responsibility for our own wellbeing as essential to sustaining good practice with our clients by: b. monitoring and maintaining our own psychological and physical health, particularly that we are sufficiently resilient and resourceful to undertake our work in ways that satisfy professional standards and d. keeping a healthy balance between our work and other aspects of life).
Allegations 4.1 a) and b) amount to professional misconduct as defined in the Professional Conduct Procedure.
Mr Bangard had informed BACP that he did not intend to attend any hearing in relation to the complaint against him. Accordingly, BACP informed Mr Bangard by letter dated 20 February 2021, that the Panel would consider, under paragraph 5.9 of the Professional Conduct Procedure, whether to proceed with the hearing in his absence, whether to adjourn the hearing to a new date, or whether to dismiss the allegations. Mr Bangard did not respond to that letter.
On 20 August 2021, the Panel considered their options under paragraph 5.9 of the Professional Conduct Procedure and decided to proceed with the hearing in Mr Bangard’s absence, having concluded that he had voluntarily absented himself and had disengaged from the proceedings.
Mr Bangard was not present and was not represented. Since the events giving rise to the complaints, he had resigned his membership of BACP. In various emails sent by Mr Bangard to the Complainant and BACP in the course of processing the complaint, Mr Bangard did not make any admissions as to any of the factual allegations.
Evidence before Panel
In coming to its decision the Panel carefully considered the following:
• The Association’s bundle of evidence and exhibits;
• The written and oral evidence of the Complainant;
• The email correspondence between the Complainant and the ex-Member.
• The Panel heard oral evidence from Person A, the Complainant.
Summary of Evidence
The Complainant, Person A, complained about BACP ex-member, Mr Tristan LeMasson Bangard. In his witness statement, Person A stated that he had first contacted Mr Bangard by email on the 10 January Year 1 and they arranged for the free consultation to be on the 15 January Year 1. The sessions were held at his house, in his office. After the first session Person A was happy with the service he provided and wanted to continue, so he booked in another session for the 22 January Year 1.
At the end of their session on Tuesday 22nd January Year 1, they spoke about when would be suitable for them to meet next. Person A suggested the same time the following week and Mr Bangard agreed that they would make Tuesdays at 1pm their regular slot. Person A put this information into his iPhone calendar then and there. There was a problem with Mr Bangard’s iPad · the battery was flat· so he was unable to put it in his diary.
On Wednesday 23rd January Year 1, Person A made a bank transfer of £105 to Mr Bangard’s account to cover their next three sessions (each session being £35) and sent him an email confirming the payment and also that they would meet the following Tuesday. Mr Bangard replied acknowledging receipt of payment and also confirming their appointment for Tuesday 29th January at 1pm.
On Tuesday 29th January Person A arrived at Mr Bangard’s house for his arranged third appointment, He rang the doorbell at 12:55, however there was no reply. He rang the doorbell another few times and also called Mr Bangard on his mobile, but there was no response. Person A waited until 1:30pm and then decided to leave. He sent Mr Bangard an email at 1:33pm informing him that he had been waiting for half an hour and was disappointed by the service. He also asked if everything was ok. Mr Bangard replied at 1:39pm saying that he had Person A in his diary for Saturday at 1pm and that he doesn't answer his phone because his numbers had been wiped when he upgraded. He informed Person A that he wasn't home and was with family. Person A sent him his email from Wednesday 23rd January in which he had confirmed the date and time and asked him if he was able to rearrange. Mr Bangard apologised and they arranged to meet the next day (Wednesday 30th January Year 1) at 3pm.
At 12:15pm on Wednesday 30th January Year 1, Mr Bangard emailed Person A asking if they could make it 5pm as he was "so behind on administrative work it's kind of doing my head in". Person A couldn't make 5pm so asked if Thursday would suit Mr Bangard better. Mr Bangard replied offering Person A either 10am or 5pm on Thursday 31st January Year 1. Person A chose 10am and they agreed to meet at 10 am.
On the 31st January Year 1 Person A arrived early for the session and waited for a couple of minutes before to ring the doorbell which he rang at around 9:57am and waited. Yet again he was left waiting outside with no response and he decided to leave at around 10:25am.
Person A then sent Mr Bangard an email at 10:27am expressing his anger and disappointment and requesting to terminate their contract and receive a full refund. Mr Bangard replied at 11:17am telling Person A that he was entitled to a refund. Mr Bangard also said that he suffered from a [ . . . ] which means that he sometimes overslept, and also said that his wifi doorbell sometimes plays up. Mr Bangard offered Person A the chance to come and speak to him about the events. Person A replied saying that he would rather just move on and gave him his bank details to proceed with the refund.
Person A did not hear back from Mr Bangard so on Saturday 2nd February Year1, at 10:12am he emailed him asking when he could expect the refund. Mr Bangard replied at 8:42pm saying that he would reply to his query on Monday and that he "must try to understand that I work very long hours 6 days a week and have only just finished. I would like to enjoy at least some semblance of a weekend...".
On Monday 4th February Year 1, at 9:57pm Person A received an email from Mr Bangard which stated the following:
“Dear, [ . . . ].
As promised, I am responding to your email which raised your concerns regarding events that took place last week. It is unfortunate that you have decided to end treatment before we really got off the ground. However, I do understand that you feel disappointed regarding those events. Disappointment being the precursor to anger...
As mentioned, I always place the patient's next appointment in my diary in front of them at the end of session. This avoids any confusion or misunderstandings.
It is curious that I had you in my diary for a Saturday when in fact you claim that it was the Tuesday, and I cannot argue this point, since, in my haste when I received your email it would appear that I automatically responded with the day you had stated without cross-referencing it with my diary. It may have simply been a technical error with the software. Perhaps it was your error. We may never know the truth.
I work extremely hard and essentially spent 20 years building up to this point, where I have an ever-thriving practice. I can say with no conceit that my books are always full, and I have confidence in my skills and ability. These are factors which you presumably also sensed in the two sessions we spent together.
However, I am also only one man. Managing nearly 40 cases at any one time, not to mention the management required to actually maintain such a workload. I offer psychotherapy at very generous rates, because it is my mission statement to reach out to members [ . . . ] and beyond, and not just the well-heeled. This requires a vast amount of administration, and there is a considerable amount that occurs behind the scenes that those who use my services are either not aware of, or do not consider. Requesting that we move our session the following day by a couple of hours was to facilitate that process, and I also gave you the option of not taking that later session, but remaining with the planned appointment.
You offered me the option of simply rescheduling- for the next-day, and I in turn, accepted this offer and proposed with 10:00hrs or 17:00hrs. You went for the 10.00 hrs appointment, and I agreed. This was perhaps not the best judgement on my part, given that I do, as also mentioned, a [ . . . ], which has blighted my entire life.
Therefore, agreeing to sessions any earlier than 11:00 hrs, when I often work into the small hours of the morning, isn’t a great idea. I suppose I felt guilty about the event which had taken place the day before. That was my error and I have certainly learned something from that.
However, as you know, I have a security camera outside my house, and it appears that you had actually arrived for the alleged Tuesday appointment a quarter of an hour late. You did not disclose this fact. And even given the vast flexibility I offer my patients, which also forms a part of my accessibility mission statement, I would have had every liberty not to attend that session, since I received no messages informing me of any lateness, across any number
I should also point out the contract which you specifically agreed to:
"All scheduled sessions are £60 for couples and £35 for individuals. Fees are due the day before or at least before the sessions begin, also bearing in mind that sessions are paid for an appointment in advance; not a week. This means that although the initial consultation is free of charge the first payment is now due. Another condition around payment is that I have a 48 hour cancellation policy, which means that if sessions are cancelled by the client within 48 hours of a scheduled session, then that appointment is still payable by the client to the value of 50%. If sessions are cancelled within 24 hours before scheduled sessions, the full payment will be due still. You may pay for as many sessions as you wish, (people tend to find paying monthly the most convenient) and I will provide you with formal documentation in the form of receipts/invoices, provided that you understand I cannot give refunds. Sessions cancelled within the 24 hour window, but at the last few minutes of that hour, will still be charged the full fee."
So, we have something of a conundrum. And it would appear that we both had our roles to play. But, and this is the thing; we actually have a golden opportunity here, believe it or not. As you yourself mentioned, [ . . . ].
[ . . . ]. What we have here is an opportunity to explore that [ . . . ] from a therapeutic standpoint and really see what was being played out there. For both of us. Your lateness, my sleeping in; things like this have the potential to offer us a glimpse into unconscious motivations or avoidance. However, if you walk away at this point, nothing but my practice and my life's work will go on.
Since you agreed to a contract that stated we must meet for at least two sessions if treatment lasts for less than a month, it is my honestly held and professional belief that you will benefit from those. As such, I once again invite you back for those two sessions. Otherwise, what you are left with is yet another unhealthy separation and a confirmation of [ . . . ]. And nothing more is gained.
I will leave this choice with you, but given the formal and legally binding contract vis-a-vis my role to play, if you should choose not to return, I will provide you with 50% of what you paid. Which seems fair under the circumstances.
But [ . . . ], my practice is successful for a very good reason. And it's not about money or flexibility. It's about the enduring ability I am able to provide. And I urge you to consider this very carefully, since this may well represent an important turning point in your life...
Person A was quite annoyed by the tone of that email and by the fact that even though on Thursday 31st January Mr Bangard had said Person A was entitled to a refund, he now seemed to be changing his mind and was also suggesting that Person A had arrived late which Person A regarded as untrue. There was a further exchange of emails between Person A and Mr Bangard prior to the complaint being made to BACP.
Decision and Reasons for Findings
The Panel carefully considered the Complainant’s oral evidence and the exhibits provided. The Panel found that the Complainant was a credible witness who remained calm and thoughtful throughout his evidence and sought to assist the Panel. The Panel did not discern any exaggeration, malice or ill will on the Complainant’s part.
The Panel received and accepted advice from its Clerk who advised the Panel to consider the wording of each allegation including their “stems” in deciding whether they were proved to the civil standard, a balance of probabilities. The Clerk also advised the Panel as to the legal definition of dishonesty approved by the Supreme Court in the case of Ivy v Genting Casinos  UKSC 67.
The Panel bore in mind all of the above and was particularly mindful that the burden of proving each allegation, including dishonesty in respect of Allegation 2.1 b), was on the BACP.
The Panel also took into account that, whilst there had been no admissions, the content of the emails sent by Mr Bangard to the Complainant and to BACP clearly indicated that the factual matters alleged were not substantially in dispute. What was disputed was not that the factual matters had occurred but why they had occurred and Mr Bangard’s intention/state of mind at those times.
Accordingly, the Panel found the factual allegations alleged in Allegation 1.1 a) b) and c) and Allegation 2.1 a) b) and c) proved.
In respect of Allegation 1.2, the Panel found that Mr Bangard had not made his client the focus of his attention, had failed to discuss with his client how other factors could affect services being offered by him and had not offered services to the fundamental professional standards or better. It also found that Mr Bangard had failed to keep accurate records adequate to what was necessary for the type of service being provided. Accordingly, the Panel was satisfied that Mr Bangard had failed to meet professional standards/failed to act in a way consistent with the Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy 2018 paragraphs (7), (8), (13) and (15).
In respect of Allegation 2.2, the Panel considered that Mr Bangard had not been candid and did not promptly inform his client of matters which might affect his ability to keep appointments, thereby putting the Complainant at unwarranted risk of harm. Accordingly, the Panel was satisfied that Mr Bangard had failed to meet professional standards/failed to act in a way consistent with the Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy 2018 paragraphs (52).
In respect of Allegation 2.1 (b), whilst the Panel found it proved as a matter of fact, the Panel did not find that it amounted to dishonesty. Applying the relevant legal test, the Panel was not able to discount the possibility that Mr Bangard had acted out of a mistaken interpretation of his contract with the Complainant. Further, the Panel was not satisfied that there was any credible evidence of deception/misleading behaviour.
The Panel next considered Allegation 3.1, which it found proved. The Panel had regard to the content of the emails sent by Mr Bangard to the Complainant. The Panel noted that on 30 January Year 1, Mr Bangard emailed Person A asking if they could make it 5pm as he was "so behind on administrative work it's kind of doing my head in" and on 2 February Year 1, at 8:42pm saying that he would reply to his query on Monday and that he "must try to understand that I work very long hours 6 days a week and have only just finished. I would like to enjoy at least some semblance of a weekend...".
In respect of Allegation 3.2, the Panel was satisfied from the tone and nature of these communications that Mr Bangard had failed to respect the Complainant’s dignity and to maintain appropriate professional and personal boundaries consistent with the aims of working together and beneficial to the client. He therefore had failed to meet professional standards/failed to act in a way consistent with the Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy 2018 paragraphs (21) and (33a).
With regard to Allegation 4.1 (a), whilst Mr Bangard had attributed his missing the appointment on 31 January Year 1 to his [ . . . ], the Panel did not find that a single such instance was evidence of any failure to meet professional standards on his part. The Panel found Allegation 4.1 (b) proved which is clearly evidenced by Mr Bangard’s email to the Complainant of 30 January Year 1, in which he asked if they could make it 5pm as he was "so behind on administrative work it's kind of doing my head in".
Accordingly, the Panel was satisfied that Mr Bangard had not kept a healthy balance between his work and other aspects of life and hence failed to meet professional standards/failed to act in a way consistent with the Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy 2018 paragraph (91d).
On receipt of the decision, the ex-member and the Association will have a right of appeal.
Given the ex-member’s non-engagement and the Panel’s decision to proceed in his absence, the Panel decided to proceed to consideration of Sanction without adjourning for the decision on facts to be sent to the ex-member.
The Panel had regard to the Sanctions policy, and to its findings of fact. The Panel was satisfied that cumulatively, the ex-member was guilty of professional misconduct. The panel’s findings in particular in relation to Allegations 2.1 (c) and 3.1 could warrant a sanction of suspension or removal from membership.
The Panel was concerned that Mr Bangard’s conduct towards the Complainant demonstrated a cavalier lack of regard for professional standards and he had shown no apparent insight into his behaviour. This raised real concerns as to the likelihood of repetition and the need for public protection. He had disengaged from the regulatory process and adopted a confrontational position in his dealings with the regulator, BACP, and its staff.
The Panel considered each available sanction and, having regard to these significant aggravating factors, decided that the only appropriate and proportionate sanction, had Mr Bangard retained membership, would be removal from membership.
The Panel considered that there were no reasons to interfere with the usual order for publicity of this decision.
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