Doctor who broke up families

Demand Justice for Families Torn Apart by Fraudulent Psychiatrist – Petition at bottom

Anyone who works in child protection will tell you that one of the worst aspects of the job is having to take a youngster from its mother’s arms, possibly for ever.

It is heart-breaking enough, even when you are 100 per cent sure that being taken into care is the best thing for that child. But what if you are forcibly removing a child from a mother you believe to be a good and caring parent?

Dr George Hibbert knowingly misdiagnosed hundreds of parents as mentally ill, leading authorities to take their children away. He is currently being investigated by the General Medical Council.

Meanwhile, there has been little attention given to the story (although there is one story in the Daily Mail) and so far there is no discussion about what led local councils or social security to accept his diagnoses, there have been no changes to the system that allowed this to happen, and no steps have been taken to return these children to their parents.

These parents were grievoulsy wronged. Hibbert should be jailed, the children returned to their original families (and those families should be monetarily compensated as well for their grief) and the system that allowed this to occur should be scutinized and seriously reformed.

Incompetence and errors – The full story

A leading psychiatrist faces extraordinary claims he deliberately misdiagnosed parents with mental disorders – decisions which meant their children were taken away from them.

The controversy surrounding Dr Hibbert comes at a time of growing concern over the activities of child‑care experts on whose opinion courts rely to determine whether a parent is a fit and proper person to bring up their own child. Only a few weeks ago a report by Professor Jane Ireland, a forensic psychologist, warned that decisions about the future of thousands of children are being based on flawed evidence from well-paid “experts”.

Dr George Hibbert faces being struck off over his conclusions that hundreds had ‘personality disorders’ after assessing them at his private family centre.

Under investigation: Dr George Hibbert, pictured outside the Family Assessment Centre in Swindon

He was paid hundreds of thousands of pounds by social services for the reports which tore children from their parents – many of them young mothers. He is now being investigated over shocking suggestions he distorted the assessments to fit the view of social services. 

In one case, he is alleged to have wrongly diagnosed a ‘caring’ new mother –  named only as Miss A – with bipolar disorder because her local authority wanted the  baby adopted.

After being confronted with this allegation, Dr Hibbert offered to surrender his licence to practise as a doctor rather than face a General Medical Council inquiry.  But his request has been rejected by the GMC which says there are still ‘unresolved concerns regarding his fitness to practise’. He will now face a full fitness to practise hearing. 

John Hemming MP, who has raised concerns about Dr Hibbert in Parliament, described the claims as shocking.  The Lib Dem MP – alerted by a whistle-blower – said he had since spoken to ‘three or four’ other families who said the same had happened to them.

Mr Hemming said: ‘He is someone about whom a number of people have complained. I am told that at least one person has refused to work for him because of what she saw as his unethical provision of reports to suit the demands of local authorities. ‘Much of the decision making in care proceedings rests on reports from experts such as Dr Hibbert,’ he told Parliament.

He added that supposedly independent experts such as Dr Hibbert, 59, were often little more than ‘the hired gun of the local authority’. The lack of transparency over such experts was leading to ‘thousands of miscarriages of justice in care proceedings’.

Earlier this week, a study for the Family Justice Council revealed how life-changing decisions about the care of children are routinely being made on the basis of flawed evidence. A fifth of ‘experts’ who advise the family courts are unqualified.

Dr Hibbert charged local authorities £6,000 a week for every family in his care and £210 an hour just to read documents such as medical records.

By 2007 his company, Assessment in Care, was making a profit of around £460,000 a year from  his lucrative arrangement with social services.  He is now worth more than  £2.7million. Last night a black Porsche Turbo, thought to be worth around £120,000, and a grey Porsche 911 Carrera, worth around £80,000, were parked on the gravel driveway outside his £500,000 country cottage.

Rich: Two Porsches can be seen parked outside the home of Dr Hibbert near Swindon. He is worth more than £2.7million – Earns up to £40,000 a week

A former honorary lecturer at Oxford University, who has previously advised the government on care assessments, Dr Hibbert left the NHS to set up his private assessment centre in 2000. Since then, hundreds of parents in contact with social services – usually mothers and babies – have been referred to his centre to  be assessed.

Concerns were first raised in 2007, when mother Miss A complained that Dr Hibbert had wrongly diagnosed her with a bipolar disorder.  One consultant psychiatrist accused Dr Hibbert of having ‘no evidence’ for some of his claims and of deliberately ‘exaggerating’ and ‘misrepresenting’ aspects of the woman’s behaviour.

Her report is among a number of documents being examined by the GMC with regards to Dr Hibbert.

Miss A, who has seen her son just a few times since, said Dr Hibbert was ‘corrupt and evil.’  ‘Nothing will ever make up for what he has done to me and my child,’ Miss A said. ‘I want to make sure this man is exposed and that he can never do this to anybody else.’ 

In a letter sent to Miss A, a GMC investigations officer confirmed Dr Hibbert ‘has now applied for voluntary erasure from the medical register’. The letter continued: ‘He has no intention of returning to clinical practice in the future.’

However, the GMC officer concluded it was in the ‘public interest’ for his request to be denied ‘in view of the nature of the performance allegations and in the view of the conduct concerns.’  He has not been available for comment at his two-storey detached cottage in the small village of Blunsdon near Swindon. His assessment centre next to his home appeared to be closed.

A spokesman for Dr Hibbert at the Medical Protection Society, the indemnity organisation for doctors, said professional confidentiality meant Dr Hibbert was ‘unable to comment on allegations raised in relation to care of a patient’. 

Paul Grant, of Bernard Chill & Axtell Solicitors, who represents Miss A, said: ‘Our client has instructed us to launch proceedings against Dr Hibbert and the local authority.  ‘We believe this distressing case may be the tip of a very big iceberg.’

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