PMB psychologist cleared of sexual misconduct 11 years on

2009-08-28 00:00

PIETERMARITZBURG clinical psychologist Richard McMahon was this week completely exonerated by an appeal committee of allegations that he had an improper sexual relationship with a 17-year-old patient in 1988.

The complaint against him was ruled to have been made in “bad faith”.

McMahon told The Witness yesterday that his practice has been all but destroyed following the widespread publicity that accompanied a 2007 finding by the Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA) that he was guilty of misconduct.

The council ordered that he be deregistered by the Professional Board of Psychologists.

The finding was based on a complaint laid against him by a woman, then 37, who alleged that McMahon had a sexual relationship with her 20 years earlier when she was 17 and his patient.

On Tuesday, a judicial appeal committee headed by retired Judge C. Eloff upheld McMahon’s appeal and ruled that the complainant was encouraged to proceed with her complaint against him by psychologists Blake Stobie and Tim Barry.

Stobie is living in the UK.

Eloff also found that when McMahon and the young woman were involved in a relationship, she was no longer his patient.

He found that McMahon at no time tried to seduce the woman, as she had alleged, but that she made all the advances to him.

McMahon told The Witness yesterday he is still considering whether to take legal action arising from the false claims against him.

Until now, he added, he has been intent only on clearing his name and reputation.

“My attorney seems to have some thoughts on this, but I have not yet applied my mind to it.”

McMahon added that he in no way wants to behave vindictively towards the woman or her family and said he would not want to “drag her name through the mud”. He believes she was influenced to make the complaint.

He said he treated the woman for about six months from mid-1985 to early December 1985. Their relationship began more than two years later in 1988.

McMahon said that at that time there were no established guidelines governing relationships between psychologists and their clients. Such guidelines were enacted only around 1999.

“Of course, I realise now that the relationship was a mistake.

“It’s cost me everything. It affected my personal life and has been very destructive to my health. I have lost friends and my professional credibility,” he said.

He said a magazine article published soon after the HPCSA finding became public ran a headline, “Seduced by my shrink when I was 15.”

The case was also reported in The Witness and other newspapers. He was labelled a “child molester” and his clients abandoned him.

McMahon’s lawyer, Ishana Menchero, said Judge Eloff’s judgment vindicates their contention that the HPCSA failed to apply its mind to the case.

“We always asserted that this complaint should never have been entertained,” she said. Menchero said professional bodies have a duty to protect their members “rather than to persecute them”.

 

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