Press release from BPSWatch.com
The expulsion of the President Elect, Professor Nigel MacLennan
We believe that the British Psychological Society has acted in a manner that reflects extremely badly on the profession and discipline of psychology. In its handling of the alleged bullying by the most senior elected representative of the membership it has shown itself to be heavy-handed, seemingly vindictive and acting contrary to any principles of natural justice.
Whatever the merits or demerits of the allegations against Professor MacLennan, he deserves a fair hearing, free of bias and partiality, open and transparent whilst respecting the privacy of all parties. Any punishment or sanction should reflect the severity of any proven and demonstrable misdemeanours. We have reason to believe that both the process by which the BPS reached its decision and the way this decision was promulgated were flawed and that the punishment was disproportionate. Moreover, the grounds for expulsion were made public in advance of Professor MacLennan’s right to appeal the decision.
The BPS has a confused, confusing and inadequate complaints procedure, a fact acknowledged by the Acting CEO’s statement that the whole of the complaints process requires a root and branch review. The Acting Chair of the Board of Trustees has publicly acknowledged that the governance of the Society is in need of a major update. The Vice President resigned citing problems with governance as one reason for this. The Charity Commission is currently involved in an ongoing regulatory compliance case with the Society, partly due to the sheer number of complaints by members. There is currently a police investigation into alleged fraud. How can we have any trust in a process that is overseen by an organisation with such serious problems?
The decision was made public by means of an email to all members, which was accompanied by a video by the Acting Chair of the Board of Trustees. This did not simply inform the membership (and wider public) of the decision but details about the alleged grounds for his guilt. This is in stark contradistinction to the Society’s complete lack of information about the fact of the suspension of our Chief Executive many months ago, about which the membership has been dependent on rumour, speculation and some press coverage.
It is important to note that Professor MacLennan has a 21-day window in which to launch an appeal. Apart from the fact that there is no-one in senior elected or senior management positions to hear such an appeal, the tone and style of the letter and video make it clear that such an appeal would stand little chance of success.
Expulsion from the BPS is the most serious of sanctions, especially for an elected officer (and in this case, the only remaining senior elected officer as both the current President and Vice President have resigned). This was not the only option available and, indeed, has been rarely invoked in our experience. According to the BPS, expulsion was warranted because the tone and frequency of his communications demonstrated a lack of respect towards staff and trustees. We believe that this was an inhumane, unjust and inappropriate punishment.
We urge the BPS to act in a manner which is expected and appropriate for a learned professional society and immediately commission a senior lawyer, completely independent, conversant with employment law to review the process by which the decision to expel Professor MacLennan was made and to make the outcome of that investigation – in its entirety – available to the membership.
Dr Peter Harvey, former Chair of the Division of Clinical Psychology, British Psychological Society;
Pat Harvey, former Chair of the Division of Clinical Psychology, British Psychological Society;
Dr David Pilgrim, former Chair of the History and Philosophy Section, British Psychological Society
Editorial Collective, BPSWatch.com