Sunday, April 15, 2012
The British expert who played God... and the real-life Big Brother house where he tore families apart with bizarre tasks to test if parents were fit to keep their children
At first Hibbert specialised in patients suffering drink-and-drug addiction problems. Before long he was running the addiction unit, and, it is said, told colleagues he planned to join a march in 1998 organised by the Independent on Sunday newspaper calling for the decriminalisation of cannabis. It was the talk of the hospital — we were so shocked,' the psychiatrist continues, explaining that heavy cannabis use can lead to psychosis. 'Here was a consultant psychiatrist treating people with cannabis addiction, preparing to publicly support the legalisation of cannabis.
'To say it raised eyebrows was an understatement. 'It was inappropriate.'
He also viewed the drug as a way to make money. He became a sizeable shareholder in GW Pharmaceuticals, a company that secured a Home Office contract to grow and develop medicines from cannabis.
By 2000, Dr Hibbert decided to part company with the NHS to make 'real money' and fund the kind of lifestyle he had become accustomed to as the son of a diplomat. In March that year he set up the consultancy Assessment in Care, making himself its director and psychiatrist, and offering its services to local authorities. His business partner was Jill Canvin, a solicitor specialising in representing children in care proceedings.
For premises they paid £390,000 in 2001 for Tadpole Cottage, a detached four-bedroom house near Swindon in Wiltshire. It would house up to four families at any one time as they were assessed at the request of local authorities to see whether children should be taken into care. Methods Dr Hibbert used to assess parental skills were bizarre and unorthodox.
'He tried to tell my Dad that because my baby's father and I were not together, it proved I was a bad mother'
Staff monitored and made notes on everything parents did with their children during their stay, which could last as long as three months.
He set them stressful challenges. He made some mothers vacuum the stairs while holding their baby.
Or he told parents to take a car journey with their infant strapped in the back seat and then simulate a breakdown to add stress to the situation as a test to see if they were fit to keep their children.
Former residents have claimed their time spent at Tadpole Cottage was like a nightmare version of the Big Brother household on television.
But, for Hibbert and Canvin, it was a lucrative business that resulted in their company being valued at £2.7 million last year. Local authorities paid £6,000 a week to have a family in his care. He charged £210 an hour simply to read a report from their social services departments.
But Dr Hibbert's gilded life began to unravel when, in 2007, a mother complained that he had wrongly diagnosed her with bipolar depression. The GMC began to investigate.
Other parents began to tell their of their shocking experiences. Many of them claimed they were in a 'no-win' situation: if they were too attentive to their babies, they were deemed to be 'trying too hard', while if they worked at seeming to be less conscientious, they were accused of being distant.
A whistleblowing member of staff, who has agreed to give evidence at the GMC inquiry, claims Dr Hibbert was in the habit of putting his fingers in his ears and chanting 'Nah, nah, nah. I'm not listening' when he wanted to ignore an aggrieved mother.
At Tadpole Cottage, staff-recorded details about a number of parents reveal the true extent of the impossible situation they faced. It included details of what time a mother or father got up, what they wore, what they ate and even the telephone conversations they had.
It would be noted that a three-month-old baby 'did not seem to respond' when told she was a good girl by her mother.
That apparent failing became the basis for an accusation that the mother was not 'in tune' with her child. Another mother was said to be unable to 'prioritise her child' because she had bought herself hair conditioner during a trip to a pharmacy. Yet another mother, who liked to bake cakes, read books and was chatty and outgoing, was reported to have worn 'a bright orange sundress' and 'inappropriate socks and trainers'.
Yet another was criticised for 'a blank expression' while doing the cleaning chores. Some parents who stayed there felt Hibbert's demands for perfection were not only excessive, but also hypocritical. By then, the psychiatrist had split up with his wife and moved from their Oxford home into a cottage adjacent to the Wiltshire centre —Ms Canvin lived in a flat above the centre's garage.
A woman who Hibbert had chided as a bad mother because she had split from her husband recalls him becoming 'very aggressive' when he was asked about his own family life.
The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, tells of how her father once attended the cottage and challenged Dr Hibbert over his views on single mothers. 'He tried to tell my Dad that because my baby's father and I were not together, it proved I was a bad mother,' the woman says. 'He said it showed I had problems forming relationships.
'My dad was stunned and asked: “Have you never had a failed relationship?” Dr Hibbert became really angry and aggressive.
He snapped back: "We're not here to discuss me — we are here to discuss your daughter". Later on, we found out from a member of staff that he was going through a divorce at the time. 'We just thought: "What a complete hypocrite."'
While the psychiatrist's career has not ended as successfully as his esteemed father's, he did inherit a reputation for being combative and abrasive (a trait that was noted about Sir Reginald in one newspaper obituary).
We have obtained a letter Dr Hibbert sent in response to Kristina Hofberg, a consultant psychiatrist, who was critical of his methods when she reviewed his care of one mother. In it, he rounds on his fellow medical professional, accusing her of having an 'apparent difficulty in interpreting English words in common usage'. He concludes: 'Her reinterpretations consistently imply that it is our behaviour and judgement, rather than our patient's, that is at fault.'
The question the GMC will have to answer is whether Dr Hibbert's methods were ethical and professional and, if not, how many children were torn needlessly from their mothers. Inevitably, many women — some as young as 16 — spoke of a deep sense of despair and stress while in his care.
During her period of assessment, one told a member of staff that she 'hadn't spoken to anybody in days except for my baby, but she doesn't talk back'. It was observed how one mother 'was tearful and began to swear, saying: “I am fed up here — fed up of being watched.”'
On another occasion, the same mother tried to withdraw to a quiet room but was followed there by staff. When staff looked in and asked if she was all right, she snapped back: 'Can I just have five minutes on my own please?” and was crying.
A woman who was at the centre with her eight-week-old son told us that she became alarmed when she arrived because she believed that no one left the establishment with their babies. 'It was like something from Victorian times. I started to panic,' she recalls. 'It seemed like no one got out without having their baby taken away. You would see them screaming and crying, begging not to have their babies taken away.'
Her premonition came all too tragically true. She was ordered to leave without her son after Hibbert ruled that she was suffering from a bipolar disorder. Two other psychiatrists later criticised his findings, insisting she had no such condition. By then, however, her child had been adopted and she could not get him back.
The centre is now closed. And the company website, which featured a picture of Dr Hibbert smiling reassuringly, has been taken down.
Although we made regular calls and left messages for Hibbert, he has refused to comment. Instead, he relies on the Medical Protection Society. A spokesman says: 'Dr Hibbert is limited in the amount of information he can provide about his actions or advice. 'He is unable to comment on allegations raised in relation to care of a patient due to his professional duty of confidentiality.
'We can confirm that Dr Hibbert is co-operating with an ongoing GMC investigation and that no findings have been made against him.
'The questions raised with regards to Dr Hibbert's personal life constitute a wholly unacceptable intrusion into his private and family life and as such he does not intend to respond further.'
In the meantime, families torn apart as a result of Dr Hibbert's findings into their personal relationships are trying desperately to rebuild their shattered lives.
Another false rape claim from Britain
A spurned housewife who claimed her husband raped her has been jailed after he showed police a video of them having consensual sex.
Kelly-Ann Ferguson, 23, had met her husband Paul to try and patch up their broken marriage but when he refused went to police claiming he'd raped her.
A court heard Mr Ferguson was arrested on suspicion of rape but showed police officers a footage filmed on his mobile phone that proved she was 'enjoying every minute'.
When police quizzed Ferguson over the video clip she admitted she had made up the rape claim because her husband had 'treated her badly and dismissed her'.
Ferguson, of Tinkers Bridge, Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, was jailed for nine months at Aylesbury Crown Court for perverting the course of justice.
Judge the Lord Parmoor said: 'When you left the home you felt it was appropriate to go to the police station and allege he had raped you.
'You provided a total first-hand account and not surprisingly police believed you and the force sprang into action.
'At some stage he said it had all been recorded on his telephone. 'On the phone, far from being raped you were enjoying every minute, if I can put it so crudely. 'It was perfectly clear your story was a pack of lies.'
The court heard the couple had been married just five months when their relationship deterioted and Ferguson left the marital home.
Prosecuter Meryl Hughes told the court: 'The couple had married in December 2010 but the marriage broke down and she left the marital home on April 14, 2011.
'On the 27th the pair met to discuss the marriage and they went back to his home, her former home.'
But Ms Hughes told how Ferguson claimed to police her husband had forced her to perform oral sex before raping her when they went back to their marital home.
She told the court: 'She said he forced her to have oral sex, grabbing her head and forcing his penis into her mouth. She said he pushed her on the bed and forced vaginal sex.
'She said after the rape he went into a crazy rage and told her to get out and never come back. 'She eventually ended up at the police station and reported that she had been raped.'
Ms Hughes told how her husband was arrested over the rape allegations and during police interview told officers he had recorded the whole thing on his phone.
She said: 'The footage showed clips of Ferguson naked, performing oral sex. The male is not holding her head or forcing her to perform the sex act. In fact she was giggling and laughing. 'Then vaginal sex takes place and she is seen to be a willing participant.'
When confronted with the video evidence, the court heard Ferguson admitted she had made the allegations up.
Ms Hughes said: 'Officers went to speak to Ferguson to challenge her about the video and she confirmed no offence had taken place. 'She told police she had felt, at the end of the evening, he treated her badly and dismissed her.'
Mr Ferguson had spent 15 hours in custody and Thames Valley Police had spent nearly £1,500 pounds investigating the claim.
Defending counsel Katherine Duncan told the court: 'She is full of remorse for her actions. Her marriage had broken down and she was an emotional state. 'She said he had behaved in an unchivalrous way towards her and she had been hurt by this.'
Do girls only want a career because they can't attract a man? Provocative study casts high fliers in a new light
Forget ambition, financial security and that first-class degree
A controversial study has concluded that the real reason women pursue careers is because they fear they are too unattractive to get married.
The research team, made up of three women and two men, said that when men are thin on the ground, 'women are more likely to choose briefcase over baby'. And the plainer a woman is, they claim, the more she is driven to succeed in the workplace.
Central to their argument was the idea that women have evolved to become homemakers and men, providers. They said this means that when men are scarce in a particular area, women, and particularly less attractive ladies, may decide they need to provide for themselves with a well-paid career.
The researchers carried out several experiments to come up with their startling argument.
The first looked at the number of eligible men in an area, which they called the 'operational sex ratio'.
After collecting data from across the U.S., they found that as the number of eligible men in a state decreased, the proportion of women in highly paid careers rose.
In addition, the women who became mothers in those states did so at an older age and had fewer children.
To prove that a lack of men was behind the trend, the researchers then carried out practical experiments.
These involved showing women newspaper articles or photos that gave different impressions of the sex ratio in an area and then quizzing them about which was more important – work or family. When they were led to believe that men were scarce, they were more likely to prioritise career over family.
However, when questioned, the women didn't believe the shortage of men would lead to more job openings for women. Instead they thought there would be more competition to find a husband.
The final experiment tested the researchers' suspicion that less attractive women would be more interested in careers because they might find it difficult to secure a partner.
The 87 young women were given mocked-up newspaper articles describing the sex ratio in nearby university campuses and were asked about their views on family and career.
They were also asked how attractive they believed themselves to be to men. Those women who saw themselves as being less desirable than average were highly likely to be career-orientated.
Researcher Kristina Durante, from the University of Texas at San Antonio, said: 'Does the ratio of men to women in a local population influence women's career aspirations? Real-world archival data and a series of laboratory experiments suggest that the answer is yes.'
In Britain, there are slightly more younger men than women. However, females aged 36 or older are in the majority. And at universities, female undergraduates now outnumber males.
Economist Ruth Lea said that on a basic level it made sense that women would have to support themselves if the odds of being supported were low. However, she said many factors, from aptitude to ambition, played a much larger part in a woman's career path.
And agony aunt Pam Spurr said: 'I often find that women who were getting on well in the workplace will in private conversations with me, express wanting to settle down.'
The study, which was carried out by U.S. and Dutch researchers, is published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
Remake of old comedy mocks Catholics
That would once have been condemned as sectarianism
Kate Upton's racy nun-inspired swimsuit in The Three Stooges has seen the model take centre stage in a religious furore.
The 19-year-old Sports Illustrated model - who plays the the voluptuous Sister Bernice in the slapstick comedy - appears in a very revealing 'nun-kini' in the film, complete with a headdress and crucifix resting on her ample cleavage.
But her 'sinful' display in the movie has left one American religious group far from amused. The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, which was established in 1973, has accused 20th Century Fox of being gratuitous and not in the same spirit as the original series.
Spokesman Bill Donohue said in a statement: 'In the 1950s, Hollywood generally avoided crude fare and was respectful of religion. 'Today it specialises in crudity and trashes Christianity, especially Catholicism.'
Donohue went on to say that the reboot portrayal of the classic comedy trio is a reflection of the way society has changed.
'The movie is not just another remake: It is a cultural marker of sociological significance, and what it says about the way we’ve changed is not encouraging,' he went on. 'The TV show never mocked nuns or showed infants urinating in the face of the Stooges. The film does.'
But 20th Century Fox has fought back, defending the movie against Donohue's remarks. 'The movie, in keeping with the spirit of the original TV show and its stars, is a broad, slapstick comedy,' a Fox spokesman told The Hollywood Reporter.
'As the Stooges have proved over time, laughter is a universal medicine. The nuns that Mr. Donohue alludes to, are in fact, caring, heroic characters in the movie, albeit within the framework of a very broad comedy.
'And as far as the nun attire, I think we did the audience a favour by letting Kate Upton wear the nun-kini rather than Larry David — it could have gone either way. 'We invite you to see the movie and decide for yourselves.'
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.