Levett v Health and Care Professions Council [2014] EWHC 994 (Admin)

Posted on
Ms Levett ("the Appellant") appealed against a decision of the Conduct and Competence Committee of the Health and Care Professions Council that her fitness to practise was impaired and her name be struck off the register of practitioner psychologists.

The Committee found three factual allegations against the Appellant proved. These were as follows:

  1. that the Appellant was involved in an inappropriate relationship with Miss A (who was a patient);
  2. that the Appellant committed a breach of confidentiality in regards to Miss A by revealing personal information about her to KK;
  3. that the Appellant was involved in inappropriate relationships with KK and GA (former patients).

The Appellant raised eight grounds of appeal.

The appeal would be dismissed.

The first ground of appeal was that the Panel's finding that the Appellant had breached patient confidentiality in relation to Miss A was wrong and irrationalThis ground was upheld. The Committee had based its findings on a letter from KK to Miss A dated 11 December 2007 but had not paid regard to the fact that this letter was a response to an earlier letter from Miss A to KK in which she volunteered personal details about herself. Counsel for the HCPC argued that inference could be drawn from the background of the case that it was the Appellant who had imparted such personal information about Miss A to KK. The Court held that the only proper inference was that the personal information came from Miss A herself in the letter she wrote to KK.

The second ground of appeal was that the Panel's finding that Miss A was “a patient”of the Registrant was wrong and irrational. The Court held that the question of identifying whether someone is a "patient" does not need to be addressed in a sophisticated way; rather, it is simply an analysis of the factual evidence and arriving at a logical conclusion based on this. Based on the evidence provided, the Court held that it was obvious that Miss A was a "patient". Ground two of the appeal was rejected.

The third ground of appeal was that the Appellant could not have had an inappropriate relationship with Miss A because Miss A was not a "patient". On the basis that ground two of the appeal was rejected, this argument also failed.

The fourth ground of appeal was that the finding that the Appellant had an inappropriate relationship with KK and GA was wrong and irrational. The Court held that the Appellant had socialised with these two individuals on a number of occasions and got them to perform work on her property. The Court noted that the Committee had identified the central mischief of boundary transgressions such as this, namely that there “could be a power imbalance between a psychologist and a former patient”. There was nothing irrational or wrong about the Panel's decision. The Court further went on to say that 'context is everything' when looking at an issue such as this and given the Appellant was employing these two patients in a sole capacity (as opposed to a large organisation employing them) this argument was rejected.

The fifth ground of appeal was that the finding that Miss A was a credible witness was wrong. The Court held otherwise, reasoning that Miss A did her best at all times to assist in the investigation and was not shaken by being cross-examined. This argument was therefore rejected.  

The sixth ground of appeal was that the Appellant could not hear Miss A at the original hearing because she was behind a screen which was a procedural irregularity. The Court rejected this argument in that there was little or no substance to the point. There was no evidence to suggest audibility was impaired and there were no complaints in relation to this during the hearing.

The seventh ground of appeal was that the findings of fact by the Committee were not capable of amounting to misconduct. Counsel for the Appellant accepted that the majority of matters found proved would amount to misconduct but not all. The Court held that one must look at the 'overall picture' and on this basis, there was an overwhelming amount of evidence to suggest misconduct existed. For those reasons, this argument was rejected.

The eighth ground of appeal was that the sanction imposed was disproportionate. The Court held that the main focus of the case concerned the relationship with Miss A and the Appellant. The breach of confidentiality was of minor importance in the context of this relationship and so the fact that there was no such breach did not affect the severity of the sanction imposed. The Court held that in light of the inappropriate relationship, the only appropriate sanction was for the Registrant to be struck off.