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Last Updated: Monday, 6 August 2007, 15:28 GMT 16:28 UK
Suspended therapist still working
A therapist suspended after claims he encouraged clients to take drugs is exploiting a legal loophole to continue practising, a health regulator says.

Derek Gale, who has clinics in London and in Loughton, Essex, became the first arts therapist to be suspended by the Health Professions Council (HPC).

The HPC said although he cannot call himself an art therapist he is still practising as a therapist.

Mr Gale, 58, said at this stage he did not want to comment.

'Very frustrating'

A hearing of the HPC heard Mr Gale represented a "significant potential risk of harm to clients" and "encouraged patients to break the law" through "experimenting with drugs, particularly cannabis".

He used "inappropriate" methods that included nude classes, the hearing was told.

Although an HPC panel suspended Mr Gale's registration for 18 months, pending an investigation and full hearing, a legal loophole means he is able to continue working using a different title.

He (Derek Gale) can use other titles we don't regulate, including saying he's a couples therapist, and there's no law to stop that
HPC spokeswoman

The council only regulates art therapists who offer "music, art or drama" therapy, meaning Mr Gale is free continue working if he does not use these descriptions in advertising his services.

An HPC spokeswoman said: "It's very frustrating. We've removed him from the register so he can't call himself an arts therapist.

"But he can use other titles we don't regulate, including saying he's a couples therapist, and there's no law to stop that."

Edward Rosen, supporting Mr Gale, told the HPC hearing the allegations made against Mr Gale were "highly questionable and suspect".

He said while Mr Gale's practises were "different to the mainstream", this "does not mean that it is criminal".

Speaking from his Loughton clinic, Mr Gale said: "The Health Professions Council, an organisation which I hold in high esteem, is dealing with this matter and I do not feel it would be appropriate at this stage to interfere with their due process."

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