Error in use of Protocol by Psychologist

Alami and another v Health and Care Professions Council [2013] All ER (D) 163 (Jul)

The case concerned the report provided by a clinical forensic neuropsychologist in connection with an application for parole by serving prisoners convicted of serious terrorist activities.

The report was commissioned to provide a risk assessment in respect of the violent offenders and they concluded that one prisoner presented a moderate to high risk andthe other a modest risk of engaging in acts of terrorism in the future. The Parole Board concluded that the report, which had been supervised by a professor experienced in dealing with cases of this nature, was not of material assistance in dealing with consideration of the decision whether or not to grant early release but went on to refuse that application.

A Judicial Review of the decision was made and during the course of that significant criticism was made of the report by other practitioners. A complaint was then made to the HCPC on the basis that the psychologist was guilty of either or both lack of competence and misconduct. The argument was made that she lacked experience in dealing with  terrorist violence and misused a protocol namely HCR-20. The HCPC decided that there was no case to answer in respect of this matter. The claimant argued that the matter ought to have been referred to a conduct committee for determination and a disciplinary finding and sanction.

The appeal was dismissed. The finding was made that in the absence of bad faith or recklessness an error such as a misuse of a protocol would not in itself give rise to a finding of misconduct nor justify referral to a conduct committee for a finding of an impairment of fitness to practise. She had relied upon expert opinion and guidance and had acted in good faith. Even if there had been misconduct it was not at sufficient level to justify the imposition of a sanction.