Information was disclosed to BACP, which was considered under Article 12.6 of the Memorandum & Articles of Association.
The member, Martin Hempel, was notified of the allegations and sent a copy of the information submitted to BACP. A summary of the allegations was as follows:
It was alleged that in November 2008 Mr Hempel entered into a personal relationship with a former client. In addition he was allegedly asked to leave his employment at Organisation X and Organisation X1 and did not declare this to BACP on his application for membership or at any point during his period of membership. Further it was alleged that Mr Hempel discussed confidential information relating to clients to the informant in this matter and viewed child pornography online. Mr Hempel was convicted of four counts of making indecent photographs of children and stated that he was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment concurrently for each count, suspended for 12 months together with a 12 month supervision with the Probation service.
The nature of the information raised questions about the suitability of Mr Hempel's continuing membership of this Association and it raised concerns about the following in particular:
- Mr Hempel's alleged actions have brought, or may yet bring, not only this Association, but also the reputations of counselling/psychotherapy into disrepute.
- Mr Hempel's alleged behaviour is incongruent with that which is expected of a member of BACP.
- The information further suggests that there may have been a serious breach, or breaches, of the Ethical Framework for Good Practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy
- By virtue of Mr Hempel's conviction, his fitness to practise has been impaired
The Panel carefully considered all the evidence submitted together with the response received from Mr Hempel and the further letters provided by Mr Hempel confirming his sentence.
The Article 12.6 Panel decided to implement Article 12.6 of the Memorandum and Articles of Association. Mr Hempel's membership would be withdrawn subject to appeal. Mr Hempel had 28 days from the date of notification of this report to make an appeal. In the absence of an appeal, notification would be given to Mr Hempel by the Chair of the Association with regard to the withdrawal of membership.
The reasons for the Panel's decision were as follows:
Mr Hempel admitted in his initial written response that he entered into a personal relationship with a former client and stated that he did not think that this in itself was cause for a professional complaint. Whilst the Panel did not accept this statement it noted that at the time that Mr Hempel entered into the personal relationship, he was not a member of BACP and as such, BACP held no jurisdiction over him. The Panel noted that Mr Hempel became a member of BACP in 2009, whilst the relationship with the former client was still ongoing. The Panel was not satisfied that when Mr Hempel did become a member of BACP, there was sufficient evidence that the client practitioner relationship was still ongoing, or that Mr Hempel was using sufficient counselling skills to satisfy the Panel that he fell within the definition of practitioner, as set out within the Ethical Framework. Further the Panel considered whether a dual role existed between Mr Hempel and his former client, and agreed that a dual relationship was the existence of more than one type of relationship, one of which should be a practitioner type relationship. Whilst there was evidence that Mr Hempel had adopted the role of carer there was no evidence that he was also a practitioner in this context.
Mr Hempel in his written response accepted that he was dismissed from Organisation X as a result of his relationship with his former client. Mr Hempel however denied that he was dismissed from his role at Organisation X1. Further, Mr Hempel accepted that he did not disclose his dismissal to BACP and stated that he did not consciously withhold information regarding his dismissal, but considered it to be in the past and irrelevant. The Panel noted there was an obligation on all members to disclose whether they had been the subject of any disciplinary proceeding investigation or inquiry, and that Mr Hempel had failed to make this declaration.
With regard to the allegation that Mr Hempel disclosed confidential information to his former client concerning his clients, the Panel noted that this allegation was denied by Mr Hempel. In the absence of any corroborating evidence, the Panel was not satisfied that there was sufficient evidence to demonstrate that Mr Hempel had breached client confidentiality.
The Panel then went on to consider the fact that Mr Hempel had been convicted of four counts of making indecent photographs of children, which it considered the most serious of all of the matters which it needed to address. The Panel noted that Mr Hempel did not provide the Certificate of Conviction when asked to provide it but, disclosed that he had been sentenced to 12 months imprisonment to run concurrently on each count on which he was convicted. The sentence was suspended for 12 months and he was given a 12 month supervision order.
The Panel noted that the offences for which Mr Hempel had been convicted were serious in nature and that information relating to these convictions was within the public domain. The Panel agreed that by virtue of these convictions Mr Hempel's behaviour was incongruent with the behaviour expected of a BACP member and brought the profession into disrepute. The Panel further agreed that Mr Hempel's fitness to practise was impaired as a direct result of these convictions.
As a result of the seriousness nature of the conviction and in keeping with the Panel's remit in relation to public protection, the Panel was unanimous in agreeing that Article 12.6 should be implemented and Mr Hempel's membership should be withdrawn.
Mr Hempel did not appeal the decision and his membership was withdrawn.
Any future re-application for membership will be considered under Article 12.3 of the Articles of Association.