Information was disclosed to BACP, which was considered under Article 12.6 of the Articles of Association.
The Member was notified that this information would be submitted to an Article 12.6 Panel in accordance with the BACP Articles of Association.
The summary of the information received by BACP is that the Member had:
• provided counselling services to Organisation A as an honorary staff counsellor between Year 1 and Year 2;
• taken 105 patient records, owned by Organisation A from Organisation A without express permission to do so;
• by taking the records, the Member was in breach of Organisation A’s policy in respect of secure data handling and GDPR rules regarding the handling of sensitive personal data;
• threatened to make contact with Organisation A’s staff members, to whom she had provided counselling, and to which the 105 records related, and bill them for her time in seeing them;
• indicated in emails to X and X’s colleagues, that the Member would disclose details of the 105 patients to bailiffs, in breach of the sensitive and confidential personal data handling policies of Organisation A;
• used a false reference, supposedly drafted by the Clinical Supervisor at Organisation A (X);
• stated, on the Counselling Directory, that she was still working at Organisation A, when she has not done so since Year 3;
• used the BACP logo on her Counselling Directory page, discrediting the BACP by associating it with false advertising;
• engaged in email correspondence with X and X1 (X’s manager and Head of Occupational Health, Wellbeing and Nursing at Organisation A) (X1) which was bullying in nature and contrary to the BACP’s ethical framework code.
As a result of the Member’s threatened action, Organisation A had to contact the 105 staff members regarding the alleged data breach, which had a direct and negative impact on the patients, the staff counselling services and the wider Organisation A.
BACP considers the nature of the information raises questions about the suitability of the Member’s continuing membership of this Association, and it raises concerns in particular:
1. Has or is likely to diminish public confidence in the counselling professions;
2. Has or is likely to bring the reputation of the Association into disrepute;
3. Gives good reason to believe there has been a serious breach of BACP’s Codes of Ethics & Practice / Ethical Framework; and
4. The Member’s actions do not accord with the fundamental values of counselling and psychotherapy and her actions are, therefore, incongruent with that which is expected of a BACP member.
Applicable rules and procedures
Article 12.6 of the BACP Articles of Association states:
‘12.6 Any member of the Association may be excluded from membership of the Association by a resolution of the Board of Governors acting upon the recommendation of a subcommittee of that Board of Governors or by a relevant panel or body whose function is to consider the conduct of such members in accordance with the standing orders made under these Articles for the time being in force provided that due notice is given and the said member be given an opportunity to make representations to a meeting convened for that purpose.’
BACP Guidance to Article 12.6 Panels states:
‘The Article 12.6 Procedure can be used at the discretion of the Board of Governors under powers divested in the Registrar, upon receipt of information about a member which raises questions about that member’s suitability for continued membership.
Such information might suggest that the member’s behaviour:
i. has brought or could bring the reputation of BACP into disrepute;
ii. has brought or could bring the reputations of counselling and/or psychotherapy into disrepute;
iii. results in BACP’s private business being brought into the public domain;
iv. impedes the legitimate activities of the Association;
v. gives good reason to believe the member may be misrepresenting his/her/the organisation’s membership status;
vi. gives good reason to believe there has been a serious breach of BACP’s Codes of Ethics & Practice/Ethical Framework and where the Association’s Professional Conduct Procedure cannot be used and/or its use is not appropriate in the circumstances.’
The Panel decided to implement Article 12.6 of the Articles of Association.
In addressing the issues before it, the Panel gave due consideration to all information provided by Organisation A and the Member. The Panel considered the following points to be central in its decision making:
• There was insufficient evidence to prove that the member had actually taken 105 (or any) patient records from Organisation A.
• In the absence of evidence that the member took any patient records without authority, a breach of secure data handling and GDPR rules cannot be proved.
• The Panel was unable to locate or identify within the information provided a copy of the alleged false reference, so the allegation of using a false reference cannot be proved.
• The Member’s current entry on the Counselling Directory website:
o makes no reference to the Member working for Organisation A and Organisation A has not provided dated screenshots showing that it previously did.
o shows the BACP logo, which she is entitled to use as a BACP member.
• The allegation of false advertising and related discrediting of BACP cannot, therefore, be proved.
• The emails provide cogent evidence capable of proving that the Member:
o threatened to contact Organisation employees to whom she had provided counselling.
o threatened to bill those former clients for her services.
o stated she would disclose the former clients’ details to bailiffs.
• Organisation A’s evidence was capable of proving that the member’s threats incurred significant work to contact 105 of her former clients to inform them of the suspected data breach and that this news caused those former clients distress.
• Bullying is not specifically defined in UK law, but ACAS says bullying 'may be characterised as: Offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power through means that undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient’.
• The copy emails provided by Organisation A contained cogent evidence of repeated incidents of intimidating, malicious or insulting language by the Member to Organisation A, and X and X1 in particular.
• The behaviour capable of proof above amounted to serious breaches of BACP’s Codes of Ethics & Practice/Ethical Frameworks for the Counselling Professions 2016 and 2018 and was likely to bring the reputation of the Association into disrepute and diminish public confidence in the counselling professions and did not accord with the fundamental values of counselling and psychotherapy, being incongruent with that which is expected of a BACP member.
Taking all of the above into careful consideration and after deliberation, the Article 12.6 Panel decided that, in the particular circumstances of this case, it was fair, proportionate and just to implement Article 12.6.
The Member was notified by the Chair of BACP of her withdrawal of membership.
Any future re-application for membership will be considered under Article 12.3 of the Memorandum & Articles of the Association.
The decision is published in accordance with BACP’s Publication Policy.
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