Mr Hibbert, a former family court psychiatrist has, fresh from a Fitness to Practice Hearing over allegations of misconduct, filed an application with the court to intervene in the case of a mother who blew the whistle on what she felt were concerning practices at Tadpole Cottage, where Hibbert worked.
Interveners can ask to be joined to a case if they feel that their interests will be affected by the proceedings in question, however they cannot have a material interest in the case. Interveners’ interests can be public or private. Public interests naturally involve the public at large who might be affected by the outcome of a case. Private interests as you might imagine, focus on individual interests arising from a case. In family law, for example, interveners are quite common place in ancillary relief disputes, where financial interests may involve Trustees, or even parents of the separating couple. Intervention is quite common in human rights cases, where organisations like human rights charities, and even government bodies might intervene. But interventions in public family law cases are still quite rare.
It’s an unusual state of affairs. The rules surrounding interveners in public family law are not clear at all, with the Civil Procedure Rules appearing not to apply to all family matters, and little else by way of guidance to offer the transparency and clarity needed on this practice. The family law case in question, too, seems fraught with ambiguity.
In April of this year, Hibbert requested to be joined to the mother’s case as an intervener in order to secure access to documents held by a current party to the proceedings, a Local Authority involved with the case. At the time of writing, the hearing to discuss the application for intervention has not yet taken place.
We can however, now reveal why Hibbert has chosen to apply to the court in this mother’s case to be joined as an intervener. Since requesting permission to engage in an intervention, Hibbert has asked for the request to be amended, so that an NHS Trust might also have access to documents being used in the case. Hibbert made this request after he filed a complaint against medical professionals and colleagues who actively disagreed with his practice. Hibbert alleges that the complaints body (The Trust he seeks to join to the case) cannot process his complaint without seeing these documents first.
Interveners typically may join a case to act as a witness for either the appellant or the respondent, and to offer the court assistance on issues in dispute by providing a broader context and understanding of those issues, but they may also join without playing an active role at all in the proceedings. It seems then, that Mr Hibbert may have no interest in being a part of these proceedings, and hopes only to secure various documents for his own external matter – the complaint he has lodged against former colleagues.
In order for Hibbert to be successful in his application to intervene, he will need to submit evidence which shows that his matter is connected to the case at hand and may well have to show that his involvement may somehow enrich the proceedings. The lack of guidance on these issues makes pinpointing the boundaries of third party intervention in public family cases an awkward affair, but it will be down to the judge to consider whether the request is appropriate and falls within the current guidelines.
Hibbert’s request to intervene has been blighted by a concerning series of facts. It appears that he initially filed a complaint with the GMC against one medical colleague because she advised the mother in this case to contact the GMC after the professional disagreed with his diagnosis of the mother. The colleague was a consultant psychiatrist who had evaluated the mother and taken the view that she did not suffer from any mental health conditions. The GMC in turn threw out Hibbert’s complaint. Undeterred, Hibbert has now filed a fresh complaint, this time with the Trust whom he now seeks to join to his request to intervene. To date, Hibbert’s formal complaint involves not one, but three medical professionals.
Prior to filing these complaints, Hibbert’s Fitness to Practice Hearing at the GMC was also riddled with complications. That hearing was due to run its course in good time, but as the media released details of the mother’s case and Hibbert’s involvement, an increasing number of parents came forward to complain about Mr Hibbert and his practice at the two centres where he worked. The GMC had to delay the hearing in order to process all the information they had received.
Noteworthy too is recent written confirmation by the GMC that Hibbert is no longer registered as a practicing medical professional.
The next court hearing is scheduled to take place this month and it will be interesting to note how the judge perceives the application to intervene and what evidence, if any, Mr Hibbert produces to justify his request. It is still unclear as to why Mr Hibbert has chosen to go about trying to access these documents in this way when there may be other ways of gaining access to these files. Unfortunately, we do not know enough about intervention in public family law cases to know whether such a request is appropriate but we did have a thought about possible motives for the request. Given that Mr Hibbert will need to make oral submissions to the court and provide evidence to the judge justifying his request, we can’t help but wonder whether he is simply hoping to taint the proceedings and lobby the judge and interested parties in the case. After all, the mother in this case did raise concerns about Mr Hibbert, and he appears to be systematically targeting all those who questioned his methods in practice, parents and professional colleagues alike.
Whatever the truth may be, we very much hope that the mother’s right to a fair hearing is not compromised, and that the intervention process will not be abused by those who simply wish to sway proceedings and further their own interests.
Thank you to our brave mum for updating us on the case.