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Addressing Professional Abuse Through Civil Law

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On 22 May 2013, in conjunction with the Clinic for Boundary Studies and 7 Bedford Row Barristers Chambers, hlw Keeble Hawson LLP held a free event for people who have been abused by healthcare professionals. 

Victoria Thackstone spoke at this event along with Patricia Leonard, Barrister. Victoria offers her summary of the seminar below.

Pursuing a complaint or civil action can be difficult and, where possible, it is helpful to have a good support network. Those attending were also able to hear from Dr Dawn Devereux of the Clinic for Boundary Studies who gave invaluable suggestions on how to look after oneself when pursuing a complaint or civil action, especially during the more difficult times, for example when considering the response made by the Defendant to a complaint or a civil claim.

I then ran through what a civil claim entails from a day-to-day perspective, and this was followed up by Patricia who expanded on what her role in a civil claim is and what information she requires from a client and why.

Complaints processes, whether through a professional membership organisation or an NHS Trust, can often be very frustrating as the complainant is usually treated as a ‘witness’, may not be kept properly up to date with developments and can find they have to have to chase the investigator for an update. This can result in the complainant feeling like the membership organisation or NHS Trust is siding with the Defendant or that they have been singled out because they have made a complaint, even though that may not be the case. 

The attendees had the opportunity to ask questions, some of which were answered by other attendees. It was interesting to hear the similar experiences detailed by those who attended, and I believe it was of assistance to the attendees to be able to hear about others’ experiences and this may have assisted to alleviate any fears they have with regard to processes.

The feedback I received from the seminar is that it was helpful for all those attending to not only hear what the speakers said but to be able to share their experiences with others. As “professional abuse” is still relatively unheard of and there remains a lot of stigma surrounding “mental health”, it can be difficult to find someone you can talk to who understands the dynamics of an abusive practitioner/patient relationship.

The Clinic for Boundary Studies (“CfBS”) is the only organisation in the UK working around all aspects of professional boundaries and the prevention of boundary violations. CfBS’ work includes the provision of specialist client support services which are aimed at supporting members of the public who may have suffered boundary violations. More information about the CfBS can be found on their website: Alternatively their telephone number is: 020 3468 4194, and their e-mail address is:

I have acted for over 10 years for many clients who have suffered abuse by professionals, for example psychotherapists, counsellors, social workers, mental health support workers, psychiatrists, psychologists and Community Psychiatric Nurses.  

If you have any questions on the legal aspects of Professional Abuse, please contact me, Victoria Thackstone on 01302 308685 or

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