An interesting question was posed by Natasha on Researching Reform today in the context of poor quality psychiatric reports:
‘Ongoing failings within Family Court process have been highlighted in a recent case where judge, Mrs Justice Pauffley condemns, amongst other things, unethical private agreements between judges and social work staff, negligent child protection assessments of parents and psychiatric reports which are written often in a day and without even speaking to the family members whom the reports are about.
The case is so riddled with deeply embedded malpractice that President of the Family Division, Sir James Munby, has promised to tackle the secretive nature in which agreements are reached between local authorities and the court.’
It is difficult for newcomers to understand just how bad the reports of many ‘Court Appointed Experts’ can be.
To illustrate the problem I uploaded a redacted submission to the General Medical Council (GMC) concerning a Psychiatrist frequently commissioned to submit reports to Family Courts.
The mother recorded the assessment sessions and provided a transcript to the GMC. Some of the chilling details of the submission:
The Psychiatrist claimed that submitting repeated applications to get children returned into the mother’s care were evidence for a personality disorder.
The Psychiatrist claimed that the mother remained ‘unsmiling’ when there were according to the transcript 50+(!) occasions of smiling, laughing, giggling.
The Psychiatrist claimed that changing frequency of therapy from twice to once per week was evidence for ‘impulsive behaviour’ when actually the Psychiatrist on several occasions suggested to make this change in the first place.
The Psychiatrists offered no valid evidence to support the ‘diagnosis’ proffered – just quotes definitions and states that the definition applies.
The GMC is meant to keep the public safe. Here is a key extract of what they said:
‘When considering your concerns we have sought the advice of a medically qualified member of staff and they agree that the issues raised do not appear to call into question Dr < >’s fitness to practise. The doctor clearly indicated her areas of expertise, what it was that she had been asked to answer and the source of the information that she had used.
The psychiatric assessment was undertaken in a very competent manner, verbatim was collected and noted in the report, proper history was collected and any given diagnosis was explained. Whilst we understand that you disagree with the opinion that was reached by the expert, from the information before us there is no indication that the clinical care provided was deficient.’
‘Going through the motions’ is enough to keep GMC happy!
When the mother complained a more senior officer replied suggesting to involve the police (interesting suggestion given that police officers ‘kidnapped’ one of the girls in the first place and imprisoned the parents for one night on ‘trumped up charges’).