Psychologist fined 45,000 kr for keeping client’s secrets

Former military psychologist says she’ll pay, but won’t break pledge to client

A retired military psychologist has been fined up to 45,000 kroner for refusing to divulge what her former client, a military interpreter, may have told her about the abuse of Afghan prisoners by Danish and American troops.

In October Merete Lindholm was held in contempt of court for holding her tongue. On Thursday this week, Copenhagen City Court fined her 500 kroner per day, every day for three months, or until she agrees to tell the court what her client told her. Lindholm maintained that her pledge of confidentiality to all her clients was “inviolable” and above the law.

The prosecution asked the court to hold Lindholm in custody until she speaks, but the judge refused.

LindholmÂ’s former client was sent to Afghanistan in 2002 as a military interpreter. When he returned from duty, he told military investigators that he had witnessed prisoners being abused by both Danish and American soldiers, and that there was photographic evidence to prove it. The interpreter allegedly also told Lindholm about the abuse and the photographs.

A decade later, allegations of abuse have been lodged against the Danish military by former Afghan prisoners, and the militaryÂ’s investigators want to see the pictures that the interpreter said he saw.

But the interpreter now denies his former claim, and Lindholm refuses to say what, if anything, he told her in treatment.

Lindholm has maintained that she is ready to pay the price to defend her clientÂ’s trust.

“What it comes down to is whether I will still be able to look myself in the eye in terms of the pledge of confidentiality I have with all my clients. I canÂ’t break that now. So, I guess IÂ’ll have to pay the price. And what price is too high to be able to look yourself in the eye?” she said, following Thursday’s ruling.

In September 2011 the case generated huge controversy among professional psychologists when the chairman of the Danish Psychological Association (DPA) reversed an earlier position and urged Lindholm to obey the court and break her pledge of confidentiality to her client.

DPA was inundated with complaints from thousands of members who charged that the organisation was selling out client confidentiality and thereby compromising the reputation and trustworthiness of the profession.

Neither Lindholm nor the militaryÂ’s prosecutor has announced whether they will appeal the decision.

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