Doctor ‘took wife’s side’ in custody row

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A CHILD psychologist from Sheffield has appeared at a fitness to practise hearing accused of trying to stop a father winning custody of his teenage daughter by falsely claiming they were both autistic.

In a report commissioned by Ian Watson’s ex-wife, Dr Ruth Coppard, an NHS psychologist who runs a parental advice website, said Mr Watson and his 14-year-old daughter both had Asperger’s Syndrome.

The Health Professions Council’s Conduct and Confidence Committee, sitting in London, heard the report was ‘used as a weapon’ to undermine evidence that was given by the teenager at her parents’ divorce proceedings in November 2008.

It allegedly portrayed Mr Watson as a bad influence who supported his daughter’s ‘withdrawal from everyday activities and erratic bedtimes.’

Dr Coppard has appeared as an expert on Radio Four’s Woman’s Hour, the Richard and Judy show and cable channel WellBeing.

The panel was told she treated the girl for an eating disorder two years earlier, but didn’t diagnose Asperger’s Syndrome.

Mr Watson said he attended treatment with his ex-wife and daughter but was never formally assessed by Dr Coppard.

Sarah Harris, representing the Health Professions Council, said Dr Coppard took the side of the mother and became “embroiled in a dispute” between the parents.

The psychologist is accused of making out-of-date observations, drawing inappropriate conclusions about the girl and disclosing confidential information about her.

She is also accused of making inappropriate observations about Mr Watson, incorrectly diagnosing him with Asperger’s Syndrome, and passing on her incorrect findings to a government agency which looks after children.

Dr Coppard has not yet entered pleas to any of the allegations.

The hearing continues.