The complaint against the above individual member/registrant was taken to Adjudication in line with the Professional Conduct Procedure.
The complaint was heard under the BACP Professional Conduct Procedure and the Panel considered the alleged breaches of the BACP Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy.
The focus of the complaint, as summarised by the Pre-Hearing- Assessment Panel, was that the Complainant and his wife attended counselling with Ms Haywood on various dates from August 2013, before the Complainant chose to cease attending at some point towards the end of 2014. The Complainant's wife continued in individual counselling with Ms Haywood.
The relationship between the Complainant and his wife allegedly became more acrimonious and according to the Complainant, his wife was arrested and charged with stalking and harassment. The allegations relate to a character reference that Ms Haywood wrote for his wife in July 2014, to be submitted at his wife's court appearance for the criminal charges she faced. Although this letter was intended for his wife's solicitor and the court, it was addressed, ‘To interested parties' and not marked ‘private and confidential'. The letter was sent to his wife, and was allegedly open to misuse by her. The Complainant alleged that the letter was defamatory and malicious, since it contained allegations about his sexual orientation and his behaviour, which he alleged were not true. He alleged that the letter breached his confidentiality and that no consent was obtained from him to divulge details about himself as a former client. Although he received an explanation from Ms Haywood as to the purpose and intention of her character reference, the Complainant requested that she withdraw the letter, which she said she could not do. The Complainant also alleged that Ms Haywood did not respond to his request for her organisation's official
The Panel, in accepting this complaint, was concerned with the allegations made within the complaint suggesting contravention of the Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy, and those in particular as follows:
1. It is alleged that Ms Haywood did not give careful consideration to the limitation of her training and experience and work within these limits, in that she wrote what purported to be a character reference for her client, in which it was unclear as to the purpose and intention of the letter. It is alleged the contents did not distinguish clearly whether statements made relating to the Complainant were the opinions of his wife, or Ms Haywood's own personal view, and therefore could be open to misinterpretation. The letter was allegedly for the wife's solicitor and the Court, but was addressed, ‘To Interested Parties' and was not marked, ‘Private & Confidential'. As a consequence, Ms Haywood did not retain control over the dissemination of the letter, nor could she subsequently withdraw it.
2. It is alleged that Ms Haywood failed to honour the trust placed in her, in that she failed to pay careful attention to the Complainant's consent and confidentiality. In particular, the letter she wrote for the Complainant's wife allegedly referred to information concerning their joint counselling sessions, including, but not limited to the fact that the Complainant had been a former counselling client of Ms Haywood, and information which related to his alleged sexual orientation.
3. Ms Haywood allegedly failed to respond to the Complainant's request for information relating to his counselling sessions with her, in that the Complainant alleges that at a counselling session, he asked Ms Haywood for all dates of sessions he had attended and the details of items discussed, and she advised there were no records held in his name.
4. Ms Haywood allegedly failed to inform the Complainant, as a former client, of the existence of the Professional Conduct Procedure, when it became clear that the Complainant was unsatisfied with her response to the complaint he made regarding the letter she had written on behalf of his wife.
5. It is alleged that Ms Haywood failed to foresee the conflict of interest that arose when she was instructed by the Complainant's wife to write a character reference on her behalf. In writing the letter it is alleged that Ms Haywood used information gained from joint counselling sessions, failing to protect the Complainant's interests or maintain the trust which he placed in her as his former counsellor, during the joint counselling sessions.
In reviewing the report prepared by the Pre-Hearing Assessment Panel (PHAP), it was noted that it contained an omission.
Allegation three of the PHAP's report relates to paragraph number 16 of the Ethical Framework. However, as will be noted, paragraph 16 is not listed as one of the paragraphs alleged to have been breached as set out in allegation six of the PHAP report.
It is clear that the PHAP intended that allegation three relate to paragraph 16 of the Ethical Framework and therefore both the Member Complained Against and the Complainant
were put on notice on 5 April 2016, that the hearing will proceed on the basis that whilst paragraph 16 has not been specifically listed within allegation six in the PHAP report, paragraph 16 will be considered by the Panel at the hearing.
Therefore allegation six will be amended and reflected to read in the adjudication report as follows:
6. Ms Haywood's alleged behaviour, as experienced by the Complainant and as identified in the numbered paragraphs referred to above, suggests a contravention in particular of paragraphs 2, 11, , 46 and 63 and the Ethical Principles of Being Trustworthy, Autonomy, Beneficence and Non-Maleficence of the Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling & Psychotherapy (2013), and showed a lack of the personal moral qualities of Empathy, Wisdom, Integrity, Respect, Competence and Fairness to which counsellors are strongly encouraged to aspire.
An application was made to submit late evidence on behalf of the Member Complained Against. Having listened to the objection put forward by the Complainant and the oral explanation put forward on behalf of the Member Complained Against, the Panel was satisfied that the reason for late submission was good and sufficient and therefore, allowed the application to submit late evidence.
On balance, having fully considered the above, the Panel made the following findings:
1. The Panel accepted the written evidence given by Ms Haywood that what she had written for the Complainant's former wife was a report and not a character reference. On questioning, Ms Haywood stated that whilst she had experience of writing reports on behalf of clients, this was the first time that she had written this type of report. The Panel heard evidence from Ms Haywood that she felt rushed to submit the report as she was aware that it was required for a Court hearing which was scheduled to take place within the next few days.
Having considered all of the evidence, the Panel found that there was sufficient evidence to demonstrate that in writing, whether it was a character reference or report, Ms Haywood failed to give careful consideration to the limitation of her training and experience and work within these limits. In particular, the Panel noted that this was Ms Haywood's first experience of writing such a report and she felt rushed to write it. The Panel agreed that whilst Ms Haywood may have discussed the report with her colleague, the BACP ethics department and the Chair of the organisation for whom she worked, who was not a practitioner, she did not discuss the matter with her supervisor. Given that this was Ms Haywood's first experience of writing such a report and her own evidence that it would not have been possible for her to have written the report without referring to the Complainant, the Panel agreed that Ms Haywood should have sought specific guidance from her supervisor.
Ms Haywood stated that the report was intended to convey the emotional state of the Complainant's ex-wife. Ms Haywood insisted that the first page of the report contained the views of the Complainant's ex-wife, whereas the second page contained Ms Haywood's own view of the Complainant's ex-wife, and stated that it was clear from the report the opinions which she herself expressed and the opinion of the Complainant's ex-wife. The Panel did not accept the evidence of Ms Haywood that it was clear from the report those opinions which were hers and those which were of the Complainant's ex-wife. The Panel found that given that the report was to be submitted in criminal proceedings and Ms Haywood had signed off the report in her professional capacity as a counsellor, she should have been clearer as to whose opinion was being expressed so that the reader would be in no doubt. In failing to do so, the Panel found that the contents of the report were such that it could not be distinguished clearly whether the statements contained within the report were the opinions of the Complainant's ex-wife or the personal views of Ms Haywood, and that this was further evidence that Ms Haywood did not give careful consideration to the limitation of her training and experience and work within these limits.
Ms Haywood accepted that the report was not marked private and confidential and was addressed to interested parties. She explained that an email attaching the letter had been sent on her behalf by her administrator, who did not include the confidentiality disclaimer to the email. Further, Ms Haywood stated that the report was addressed to interested parties because she did not have the names of the Police officer, Sheriff and Solicitor to whom she was intending on sending her report. The Panel agreed that as the letter was written by Ms Haywood, she was responsible for ensuring that the letter was correctly addressed and marked private and confidential. Further, the Panel found that the report which Ms Haywood wrote was unclear in that it contained no information on the purpose or intention of the report.
The Panel further found that as Ms Haywood's report had been emailed to the Complainant's ex-wife without making it clear for whom it was intended, Ms Haywood did not retain control over the dissemination of the letter nor could she subsequently withdraw it.
For all of the reasons stated above, the Panel was satisfied that Ms Haywood did not give careful consideration to the limitation of her training and act within this limits. This allegation is therefore upheld.
2. Ms Haywood in her evidence said that she did not obtain the consent of the Complainant prior to writing the report, as she did not consider that she needed to do so, as her motive was to protect her client, the Complainant's ex-wife, from harm. The Panel was not satisfied with this explanation as the purpose and the content of the letter written by Ms Haywood did not reflect the harm Ms Haywood stated was present. The Panel went through the report with Ms Haywood and highlighted that the Complainant had been identified by name, the report stated that the Complainant had been in therapy with her and reference had been made to an incident that had happened in [ . . .] concerning the Complainant. Given all of these references to the Complainant, the Panel was satisfied that there was sufficient evidence that Ms Haywood failed to pay careful attention to the Complainant's consent and confidentiality. The Panel agreed that Ms Haywood owed an equal duty of care to the Complainant to protect his identity and that by referring to the Complainant within the report without his consent, this amounted to a breach of confidentiality. The Panel also found that the report written by Ms Haywood referred to the Complainant's alleged sexual orientation; information which was taken from the joint sessions when the Complainant was a client. For the reasons stated, this allegation is upheld.
3. Both parties accepted that a request was made by the Complainant for the dates of all of the sessions attended and the details of the items discussed. There was however, a differing account given by both parties as to what transpired next. The Complainant in his evidence stated that Ms Haywood had told him that she did not hold any records on him. Ms Haywood however stated that she told the Complainant that he would need to put his request in writing, in accordance with the Data Protection policy of the organisation where she worked. The Panel was not satisfied on the evidence before it, that there was sufficient evidence todemonstrate that Ms Haywood failed to respond to the Complainant's request for information relating to his counselling sessions with her. This allegation is therefore, not upheld.
4. Ms Haywood in her evidence accepted that she did not provide the Complainant with the details of the Professional Conduct Procedure. Ms Haywood stated that the Complainant had told her that he wanted to keep the matter internal and at her last meeting with the Complainant, she felt afraid and it was therefore not in her mind to give him the details of the Professional Conduct Procedure. The Panel found that as the Complainant was expressing his dissatisfaction with the response she had made to his complaint concerning the report, both verbally and in writing, it was her responsibility to make the Complainant aware of the existence of the Professional Conduct Procedure. Given that Ms Haywood failed to do this, the Panel found this allegation proven.
5. Ms Haywood in her evidence stated that she did not foresee the conflict of interest in her writing, what the Panel accepted was a report on behalf of the Complainant's ex-wife. Ms Haywood stated that she consulted a colleague, and spoke to the ethics help-line department at BACP and was satisfied that as she wanted to prevent any harm to the Complainant's ex-wife, she could write the report. In her oral evidence, Ms Haywood stated that she did not think that it would have been possible for her to have written the report without referring to the Complainant, but stated that in the future she would ensure that she did not specify the names of any third parties. Notwithstanding this, the Panel was not satisfied that Ms Haywood gave any consideration to the Complainant before writing a report which contained confidential information about him. The Panel found that Ms Haywood should have weighed up her responsibilities to both the Complainant and the Complainant's ex-wife, particularly given her evidence that she could not have written the report without referring to the Complainant. Further, the Panel found that the report contained information Ms Haywood gained information from the joint sessions with the Complainant, such as the fact that he had attended counselling, both as a couple and as an individual; circumstances surrounding the ending of his counselling; information around holidays the couple took or planned to take and information relating to incidents occurring on the holiday, and therefore, as a consequence, failed to protect his interests or maintain the trust that he had placed in her. The Panel therefore found that there was sufficient evidence that Ms Haywood failed to foresee the conflict of interest. For the reasons stated above, this allegation is upheld.
6. In light of the above findings, the Panel was satisfied that paragraphs 2, 11, 46 and 63 of the Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy (2013 edition) and the ethical principles of being trustworthy; autonomy; beneficence had been breached. It also found that Ms Haywood demonstrated a lack of the personal moral qualities of empathy, wisdom, integrity, respect, competence and fairness to which all practitioners are strongly urged to aspire.
The Panel did not find that paragraph 16 of the Ethical Framework had been breached nor the ethical principle of non-maleficence.
Accordingly, the Panel was unanimous in its decision that these findings amounted to serious professional malpractice on the grounds of Incompetence, Negligence and Recklessness, in that the service for which Ms Haywood was responsible fell below the standards that would reasonably be expected of a practitioner exercising reasonable care and skill.
Ms Haywood showed some insight in accepting that it was her responsibility to ensure that when sensitive letters were sent out in her name that appropriate procedures were in place regarding confidentiality and that the material was sent to the right recipients.
One of the aims of the Professional Conduct Procedure is to protect members of the public. The Panel, in considering what sanction may be appropriate in the circumstances of this case, has taken into account the interests of public protection.
In not less than one month and no more than 6 months from expiration of the appeal deadline, Ms Haywood is required to write and submit a report in which she details her reflections on and learning from and understanding of the issues raised and upheld in the complaint. This should include in particular her reflections on the importance of clear contracting, and an explanation of what steps Ms Haywood will take in the future, to ensure that her clients have given informed consent to her. These reflections should also include Ms Haywood's improved understanding of how impartiality is demonstrated when working with couples.
The above report should be discussed with Ms Haywood's current supervisor and signed off by the supervisor as confirmation that the above matters have been discussed in supervision.
In no more than 12 months from the expiration of the appeal deadline, Ms Haywood is required to complete a face-to-face couples training course of no less than one day's duration. Within one month of successful completion of this course, Ms Haywood is required to provide evidence of her successfully completing the course and submit a written report in which she demonstrates what she has learnt from her attendance on this course.
Having completed the above sanctions, Ms Haywood is required to take part in an interview with the Sanction Panel in order for them to gain a further understanding of her learning and understanding of the issues raised and upheld in this complaint.
Ms Haywood's membership of BACP should be suspended until she has completed all parts of the sanction as set out above.
These written submissions must be sent to the Registrar by the given deadlines and will be independently considered by a Sanction Panel.
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