Misconduct rap for psychologist

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A CHILD psychologist from Sheffield has been found guilty of misconduct after she used confidential information about a 14-year-old girl to try to block her father’s custody bid.

Dr Ruth Coppard, who has appeared as an expert on Radio Four’s Woman’s Hour and the Richard and Judy show, was ordered to undertake a course of ethics training by a professional misconduct board.

Coppard, an NHS psychologist working in Sheffield, used personal details about the teenager in a report, despite not having assessed her in two years.

She was commissioned to write the report by the girl’s ex-wife in November 2008, as the pair went through a custody battle for their daughter, the Health Professions Council heard.

Coppard, who had treated the 14-year-old girl for an eating disorder two years earlier, admitted she ‘crossed the line’ by taking the woman’s side in the dispute.

She told the hearing: “It seems I may have been seduced by the mother’s request, but I really believed it was important for people to understand the extent of her difficulties.

“I clearly listened to the mother in a context where I should have taken advice from somebody else on what to do next.”

Coppard even contacted the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service to try to make sure they took her opinions into consideration when ruling on the custody battle.

The HPC panel found Coppard guilty of six charges of misconduct and ruled her fitness to practise was impaired.

The charges included making inappropriate observations about the teenager two years after their last appointment and disclosing matters without her consent.

But the panel threw out one charge that Coppard had falsely claimed the husband suffered with Asperger’s Syndrome.

The father said his daughter was left feeling ‘cross and emotional’ by Coppard’s actions.

Panel chair Jacki Pearce said: “Mrs Coppard conducted herself in a manner that fell short of a registered psychologist. She failed to be honest and accurate in her conclusions.

“The panel remains concerned as to the extent of the insight she has displayed into the gravity of her misconduct.”

Coppard will be allowed to continue to work but must undertake courses in ethics training, record keeping and confidentiality.