1. BACP acts in the public interest to uphold standards of professional conduct and practice, to protect the public and maintain public confidence in the counselling and psychotherapy professions.
2. Publishing our professional conduct decisions:
- provides information to the public to allow them to make better informed choices when choosing a professional
- promotes a more detailed understanding among practitioners of the high standards expected of them
- ensures that we are transparent and accountable for our decisions
3. We therefore publish findings of the Professional Conduct Panel (panel) (and the other decisions specified below) unless there are compelling reasons why they should not be published.
4. Decisions on publication will be made in accordance with this policy.
5. BACP is a voluntary membership organisation which holds a register of counsellors and psychotherapists accredited by the Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care.
6. We act in the interest of the public as a professional, relevant and credible organisation for the counselling professions. We seek to promote and maintain the reputation of the professions, including promoting high standards of education, training and practice.
7. On application, members must agree to our terms and conditions of membership and registration, which include agreeing that we can challenge their practice and conduct. This is done through our complaints procedure, namely the Professional Conduct Procedure and relevant provisions in our Articles of Association. We aim to ensure that the public is protected and that confidence in the professions of counselling and psychotherapy is maintained.
8. For transparency and openness, we are committed to providing a fair and balanced complaints process. We look to protect the confidentiality of our members during an investigation. We will ensure that any disclosure of information is lawful, proportionate and fair.
Decisions subject to publication
9. Generally, decisions of the panel will not be published if no allegations have been upheld. If one or more allegations are upheld, and a decision is made to publish in accordance with the criteria below, we will publish the following on our website:
(i) Determinations of the panel
10. We will publish the Chair’s written findings in any case where the allegation (or at least one allegation if more than one) has been upheld. We will publish the hearing findings, decision and sanction imposed. If no sanction is imposed, we will still publish any findings and decisions.
11. We will publish the name and membership or registration number of the member to allow them to be identified correctly. We will not include private personal information that is not contained in the determination itself or which would cause disproportionate harm to the private life of the person concerned.
12. Our starting point is that we will publish determinations in full, but we may make redactions where necessary to:
- protect persons other than the member (including complainants, clients or witnesses)
- prevent the identification of complainants, clients or witnesses, where the Assistant Registrar, Professional Conduct (AR) considers it would be appropriate to do so
- comply with legal obligations.
13. While the relevant panel makes the decision to publish, the AR (or any person authorised by the AR) will make suitable redactions. The AR or delegated person has no authority to amend or re-draft the determination other than to redact, in accordance with this policy.
14. All published decisions (other than withdrawal of membership) will remain on our website generally until the delegated Sanction Panel considers all sanctions completed (see (ii) below).
15. Where the panel makes findings and decisions but does not impose a sanction, the notice will remain on our website for one year.
16. Where the panel suspends membership, the notice will remain on the website until either the suspension is lifted or until any other sanction or condition imposed together with the suspension is complete, whichever period is longer.
17. Any decision by the panel which results in withdrawal of membership will remain on our website for five years from the date of the decision.
18. We will normally publish a decision after the 28 day appeal period has ended, or after the outcome of any appeal, if any allegations are upheld.
19. We may also publish notices in our journal and elsewhere, at our discretion, where we consider it is appropriate and in the public interest to do so.
(ii) Sanction compliance notices
20. Where a Sanction Panel deems that a sanction imposed by a Panel has been complied with, we will publish a 'Sanction Compliance Notice'. This will remain on our website for two months.
(iii) Withdrawal of membership
21. If a matter placed before an Article 12.6 Panel results in the withdrawal of membership, we will publish a notice at the end of the appeal period (if there is no appeal) or following the outcome of the appeal if any allegation is upheld. We will publish the written decision of the Chair of the Article 12.6 Panel, subject to paragraph 13 above.
22. If the Sanction Panel considers that a member has not complied with a sanction imposed and decide to withdraw membership, we will publish the decision to withdraw membership on our website.
23. Any decision which results in the withdrawal of membership will remain on our website for five years from the date of the decision.
(iv) Consensual disposal
24. Where a complaint about a member has been dealt with by way of a consensual disposal, the agreement will be published (subject to paragraph 8). Where a sanction is imposed, the agreement will remain published until a Sanction Panel have deemed the sanction has been complied with. Compliance with the sanction will be published as per paragraph 21 above.
(v) Interim suspension
25. Any member, whose membership is suspended pending an investigation regarding their alleged misconduct, and where no appeal is made, will be published, for the duration of the suspension.
26. Where an interim suspension is lifted, this decision will be published and will remain on our website for a period of two months.
(vi) Lapsed members
27. If a member lapses their BACP membership before, during or after a professional conduct hearing, (including before completing any sanction imposed) we will still publish any relevant panel decision.
28. If a member lapses their BACP membership during or after an Article 12.6 Panel we will still publish any decision to withdraw membership.
(vii) Re-entry to membership
29. If someone who has been subject to an adverse conduct decision successfully re-applies for membership, we will publish a ‘Re-entry to membership notice’.
Factors relevant to the publication decision
30. This publication policy confirms our intention to publish decisions where it is in the public interest to do so. However, the decision to publish is made on a case by case basis, taking into account the factors below (this list is not exhaustive).
31. Publication may involve a degree of interference with the member’s right to privacy. In such cases the relevant panel will undertake a balancing exercise, weighing the public interest in publication of the decision against the member’s right to privacy. Often the interference with the member’s rights will be necessary and proportionate, and the public interest in publication will outweigh the member’s right to privacy.
32. In exceptional cases the interference with the member’s right to privacy may be so severe that publication is not justified in the public interest, even in a redacted form.
33. The relevant panel will consider any representations made by a member regarding publication, taking into account the factors below.
34. The factors in support of a decision to publish are:
- the importance of transparency in our decision-making processes
- the importance of providing information about action against members to enable, for example:
- clients or perspective clients to make informed choices about who they should enter into a therapeutic relationship with
- clients and others to decide whether to report behaviour of concern to us
- the need to maintain public confidence in the provision of counselling and psychotherapy services by demonstrating what action is being or has been taken to uphold standards and why
- the need to disseminate information to encourage adherence to proper standards
35. The factors in support of a decision not to publish are:
- the inability to publish without:
- disclosing confidential or legally privileged information (including information concerning someone’s medical condition or treatment)
- prejudicing legal proceedings or other investigations
- the impact of publication on the member would be disproportionate, balancing the Member’s right to privacy with the public interest in publication (as set out above)
Therefore, as well as making a substantive decision on the allegations, the panel will also decide whether or not to publish.
The panel may decide a decision should be published with appropriate redactions to balance the rights of the member with the Association’s duty as set out in paragraphs 1 and 2 above.
Human Rights considerations
Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights protects the right to respect for private and family life and, in this context, the right to a professional reputation. This policy provides a framework for decisions concerning publication which may represent an interference with a member’s Article 8 rights. It provides for a decision to be made for each case on its individual facts.