The recent UK decision of The Queen on the application of Vesna Mandic-Bozic v British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy [2016] (“Mandic-Bozic”) sounds a note of caution to regulators in the context of regulatory proceedings which may be duplicative or involve adjudication of a complaint where it had already been authoritatively dealt with by another professional body.

1. United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy

In early 2016, the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (“UKCP”) heard a complaint against Ms Vesna Mandic-Bozic, a counselling psychotherapist, relating to allegations of impaired fitness to practise. The adjudication panel of UKCP determined that the registrant’s fitness to practise was not impaired and therefore no sanction was imposed.

2. British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy

Subsequently, a complaint was made by the same complainant, on what were essentially identical terms to the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (“BACP”).

The complaint concerned treatment provided to the complainant by the registrant between 2009 and 2014. BACP sought to pursue the complaint under its own process and pursuant to its own professional conduct procedure.

In defending the steps taken, BACP argued that the allegations being pursued were crafted differently and were aimed at upholding a completely different set of ethical and professional standards.

3. Duplication

Having considered the matter, the court concluded that the allegations made by the complainant to UKCP and BACP were in essence the same. In determining the matter the court held that although both BACP and UKCP had ethical standards that are worded differently, they covered the same ground, notwithstanding that the language used to convey them was different.

In deciding the matter in favour of the applicant, Mostyn J. held that the doctrine of cause of action estoppel applied and the BACP was prohibited from commencing proceedings against Ms Mandic-Bozic. It is noteworthy that, in describing the approach of BACP as ‘dogged and obstinate’ in the way it had proceeded to pursue the registrant it stated the BACP were ‘impervious to pleas to act reasonably and fairly’.