About ten years ago I responded to an advert in a local paper in Gwynedd for someone to share a farmhouse with others. I moved into the farmhouse, having been led to believe that this would be the sort of shared farmhouse community that I had previously lived in but once I moved in I discovered that the situation was rather different. The farmhouse – which was in Llanrug – was very nice but it transpired that it wasn’t actually a shared house or a community, it was more one man who obviously saw himself in the role of a landlord letting out rooms to other people. I then discovered that the ‘landlord’ didn’t own the house himself, he was renting it and subletting to the rest of us. However I was in for an adventure – I should have realised that when the ‘landlord’, a man called Howard Jones, told me that he was a ‘counsellor’.
Howard wasn’t however a counsellor employed by the dreadful mental health services, he was someone whom it transpired had only pursued a very basic counselling course at an FE College in the north of England and had then inflicted himself on the vulnerable of north Wales. I realised within days that Howard’s counselling was flaky because not only did I notice that he had clients arriving at the house whilst we lodgers/housemates were wandering around but he was holding ‘counselling sessions’ in the sitting room next to my room and I could hear the content of these ‘sessions’. Within a couple of weeks I had heard from a friend that Howard had previously been plying his trade in a ‘therapy centre’ in Bangor but had been asked to leave because it was judged that he was harming patients and furthermore a few months previously he had been struck off by the British Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapists. The circumstances were that Howard had been reported to them for ‘transgressing boundaries’, namely renting out a caravan in his garden to a client and holding a housewarming party to which he invited a number of clients. The BACP has suspended him and asked him to undergo further training and supervision but he refused, so had been struck off. He carried on ‘counselling’ anyway. Howard had a good supply of clients, many of whom were people who had been on the receiving end of the incredibly abusive Arfon Community Mental Health Team (please see previous blogs) or had been refused mental health care altogether.
It soon became obvious to me that not only was Howard completely out of his depth with the problems that people were bringing to his counselling sessions, but he had serious financial problems and would do pretty much anything to extract money out of people. A lot of what he did involved petty fiddles, such as using red diesel unlawfully for his car or allowing fly-tipping on the land that he was renting or lying to me about my share of the house bills, but I noticed that Howard seemed to be involved in something very much more serious that I never got to the bottom of. Every weekend a girl in her late teens would turn up at Howard’s house to stay – he maintained that she was his former foster daughter who still liked to come to stay with him. The young woman had learning disabilities and was severely disabled, seemingly with cerebral palsy or some such similar condition, and had a number of other health problems as well – including quite severe epilepsy. Howard maintained that during the week she lived in some sort of care-setting in the north west of England near Liverpool, yet he was very vague about who actually looked after her when she wasn’t at his house. Howard told so many different stories about this young woman and how she’d become his foster daughter at some time in the past that the accounts clashed, so some of what I was being told at least obviously wasn’t true.
Another mystery surrounded this young woman as well. Most weekends, at some point, a woman who was employed in the School of Education at Bangor University and her husband, who was also employed in the School of Education at Bangor (I knew them because I’d done my PhD in that School), used to turn up to visit Howard’s ‘former foster daughter’ – Howard told me that this woman was also a former foster parent of this young woman. The relationships between all these people seemed very strained – Howard openly despised the two employees of Bangor University and the visits would be conducted without them speaking to each other. Furthermore, although I was told that the woman who visited was a former foster mother of the young woman in question, I noticed that the young woman always called her ‘mummy’ and ‘mummy’ would always arrive laden with expensive gifts in the manner of a guilt ridden absent birth parent. Mummy would also take the young woman out on expensive jollies. The impression of a relationship between a birth mother and daughter that had gone horribly wrong was strengthened by the young woman frequently stating that she hated ‘mummy’ and throwing tantrums, leaving mummy in tears. I’m quite good at spotting dysfunctional situations – I’ve been in enough of them having encountered the glorious mental health services – and everything about the relationships between all these people was dysfunctional. None of them were behaving in the stable manner of a good foster parent.
However undesirable it was that a profoundly vulnerable young woman had ended up in the hands of this lot every weekend, there was something far more worrying going on. The disabled young woman used to arrive at Llanrug on a Friday evening and return to England on Sunday afternoon. She drove. A young lady with learning disabilities, a serious physical disability and EPILEPSY drove between Gwynedd and England every week. Howard would make a great play of guiding her down the drive into Llanrug ‘to make sure she’s safe’ and then it was off to England by herself, presumably down the A55 and a few motorways. I was so mystified at this extraordinary procedure that one day I asked Howard how often the young woman had to have medicals to keep her driving licence. Howard cheerfully told me that ‘she doesn’t need any, she’s not supposed to be driving but we’ve managed to get her a license’. How he did not explain. I am aware of how stringent the DVLA regulations are where epilepsy is concerned because I knew someone who developed epilepsy and lost his licence for years because he was not allowed to drive again until he’d been for I think it was two years without a seizure. This young woman who visited Howard was keeling over with seizures on a regular basis.
So not only did Howard, mummy and mummy’s husband all know that the young woman whom they all claimed to be ‘caring for’ was risking her life and the lives of everyone else on the road every Friday evening and Sunday afternoon as she rocketed back and forth between Liverpool and Gwynedd in her little car, but they all knew that this was being achieved with the help of a forged licence. So there was ID fraud going on. I can only assume that either a dodgy doctor had been persuaded to provide a report to the DVLA which conveniently failed to mention this young lady’s many medical conditions or documents belonging to someone else were being used.
The forged licence was the most obvious thing placing this young woman – and others – in danger, but when I realised the sort of things that Howard, mummy and mummy’s husband were actually getting up to, I began to wonder who on earth had ever seen fit to entrust the care of this young woman to people like this. Someone will have been party to it all – whoever ‘cared’ for her during the week for a start. Furthermore the young woman was in receipt of disability benefits, so she was having some contact with officialdom. And a number of people pointed out that Howard would not have been looking after her free of charge…
There were other people who almost certainly knew about at least some of this as well. That was the Arfon Community Mental Health Team. Mummy was one of their clients. A few years after I had waved goodbye to Howard and the bizarre set-up in his house, I received an update on mummy’s career. She had left her job and had enrolled as a student nurse at the School of Healthcare Sciences in Bangor University. What a perfect career for her to embark upon…
Mummy was not the only healthcare professional whom I encountered who seemed to be involved with dodgy ID documents. My blog post ‘A Very Bad PR Man’ tells the story of Sean Tierney, a ‘patient’ of Dr Dafydd Alun Jones who trailed me some years ago and is now serving a prison sentence for the attempted murder of two people. Tierney contacted me after he had read a piece that I’d written in a newspaper about mental healthcare – well that was his story anyway – and told me that he was a former Major in the British Army, had developed PTSD and had been saved by Dafydd and his clinic. Now not only did Tierney tell me that Dafydd had facilitated an Army Pension for him, but Tierney also made this claim on a website discussing PTSD (please see previous blog post ‘A Very Bad PR Man’). Yet at Tierney’s trial, it was revealed that he had only been in the Army for a very brief time many years ago and had been kicked out. The Army does not give pensions to people in those circumstances – so how did Dafydd secure Tierney an Army Pension? Now this Army Pension could all be a fantasy of Tierney’s, after all he was not an honest man. However, after Tierney contacted me, he asked if we could meet up, which we did in a café in Llandudno. Whilst Tierney was telling me about his heroic activities in battle in the Falklands – which I now know was a pack of lies – Tierney showed me various documents to back his story up. I now realise that I was shown false ID documents. So there is someone in healthcare circles in north Wales who deals in false ID documents.
But then some doctors in north Wales have a flexible attitude towards the rules and regulations surrounding ID documents like driving licences. Some years ago Dr Dafydd Alun Jones’s son was prosecuted for drink driving. He gave a real tear-jerker of a statement in court explaining that he worked as a chauffeur for his father, thus enabling Dafydd to visit war veterans and treat them for PTSD and if he lost his licence Dafydd’s valuable work would come to a halt. The court didn’t buy the sob story and Dafydd’s son lost his licence. It was then revealed that this chauffeur to a hero was actually a student at Aberystwyth. I also heard another interesting story re Dafydd from one Professor Catherine Robinson of Bangor University, yet another expert in mental health in north Wales who has kept schtum about a lot of things that are happening to mental health patients. Catherine told me a few years ago that Dafydd had extracted someone else out of a tricky situation driving licence wise by supplying a rather more favourable medical report than an honest practitioner would have…