Dr Hibbert, a so-called leading family psychiatrist whose practices at Tadpole Cottage were called into question in 2012, both by fellow practitioners and parents treated at the centre, has been denied the right to publish a patient’s sensitive information.
The patient in question was a mother who had been seen by Dr Hibbert, and who subsequently blew the whistle on conduct she suspected was unprofessional and not based in sound medical practice. The mother told her story to the press, and Dr Hibbert’s activities were subsequently scrutinised by the media.
What followed was a bizarre application by Dr Hibbert, to be joined to the mother’s ongoing proceedings in the family court, under the pretext that he needed to show the mother’s sensitive documentation at lectures he was giving around the country as an example of how expert witnesses function inside the family courts.
Dr Hibbert specifically requested the right to share the mother’s medical records and private family affairs with the world at large.
The application though, oscillates from a public interest perspective (the use of the mother’s files for teaching purposes) to a personal one – Dr Hibbert’s concern over damage to his reputation stemming from the mother’s public statements and press reporting of the case. Another party also seeking to apply for the right to publicise the data shared the same concerns over her own reputation.
Other reasons given by Dr Hibbert for the right to publish the mother’s private information included: “to enable well researched articles to be published by highly respected journalists”, to contribute to “a public debate of the role of experts in family proceedings”, and to “balance inaccurate statements already in the public domain.”
Despite these propositions being put forward, no detailed attempt was made to qualify them.
We have seen the barristers’ for the respondent’s skeleton argument and it is truly excellent. Noteworthy is the barristers’, in our view, correct understanding of the law in this area which points to Dr Hibbert using the wrong arena completely to make his point. This application should never have found its way to the family court, being an action inherently based in the law of defamation.
In other words, if Dr Hibbert wishes to address the allegations made by this mother, and others, he will need to bring an action for libel. And we’d like to see him do that. Very much.
Thank you to our brave mother for sharing this update with us.