Adrian Pengelly, Psychic Healer, and English Libel Laws

pengelly It cannot be a good week for Adrian Pengelly. He has been subject to quite a damning BBC Watchdog investigation about his business activities. Adrian claims to be a “Visionary Healer, Energy Worker, Teacher and Psychic” and declares that he is well known for his “work with terminal illnesses and cancer”.

If a so called ‘Psychic Healer’ is giving some sort of emotional or spiritual support to ill people then we might leave people to get on with their lives. However, Watchdog showed Adrian Pengelly claiming to be able to diagnose and treat horses, cure cancers and even deal with haunted houses. I understand that at least the former two are illegal. When filmed secretly, Pengelly claimed to be able to cure sixty five per cent of terminal cancers. When an actor* woman secretly filming asked him about his success rate he not only made such claims but also, shockingly, said that his success rate would be higher if the person was not taking chemotherapy.

Giving people false hope is bad enough, suggested they decline what might be their only hope is truly terrible. Adrian charges £30 and claims to see up to 120 customers per week.

When confronted by an interviewer, Pengelly appeared to change course and claim that he never promised to cure people. He made excuses about his failure to diagnose a horse despite claiming a 99/100 success rate. He also managed to assemble quite a crowd of people claiming to support his activities.

It would be very easy to dismiss Pengelly as a charlatan and fraudster. Indeed, the usual ‘stars’ on BBC Watchdog can be described as nothing other, being cowboy builders, rogue holiday companies and identity thieves. Indeed, the BBC list Pengelly under their list of scams. However, in my opinion, this simplistic description of Pengelly’s actions is almost certainly wrong.

Adrian Pengelly would appear to believe passionately in what he does. Merely being shocked by what he does and exposing it on television will not change his beliefs. Of course, it would look as if he does make himself vulnerable to a few pieces of legislation if someone wanted to prosecute. But again, he may well continue whilst ensuring what he says does not fall foul of the law.

Of course, if there were critical articles on the web then people could evaluate his claims with a bit more balance, but the web appears to be rather devoid of mentions. One clue is in a rather credulous Daily Mail interview that suggests Adrian will be taking legal action against the BBC. I can understand this action. If Pengelly really does believe he is a Psychic Cancer Healer then he may very well feel aggrieved and want to take any action possible to remedy the perceived wrong.

I also understand that it would not be the first time that Pengelly has resorted to legal action against criticism. The web site Bad Psychics have written a number of articles about Pengelly. One of their writers let me know about one of their article last April. It is no longer available on the site. In total four articles were on the site. All gone. I am told that Pengelly’s lawyers have been on to the site and I have been warned that if I write about him, they may well be on to me too.

This is dreadful. Adrian, if you are reading I would like to say a few things to you,

Adrian,

From what I can see you genuinely believe that you can help people with cancer. The people that meet you may well gain the impression that you can help where their doctors cannot. They may well even go away believing that their rather unpleasant chemotherapy will interfere with your ‘gifts’.

This is serious stuff. People’s lives are on the line here. As you might gather, other people seriously doubt you can have any effect on the course of cancerous illnesses. If you are wrong then you will be doing a great harm – a very big harm. Relying on your own personal experience without engaging with other opinions is a recipe for delusional disaster in any walk of life.

This potential for harm applies to all medical beliefs. In attempting to do good, you may well end up doing harm. Medicine is full of terrible mistakes, false promises and dashed hopes. The way we can tell good medicine from bad is by open discussion of the available evidence and science behind what you do. This applies as much to you as it does to any surgeon or doctor. Using libel laws to remove criticism about you does your customers no good. It puts them at risk. You might well be wrong.

Your critics may be wrong too. I do not believe so. But they should have the right to be able to voice their concerns about your work and you should be obliged to answer them as best you can. People can then judge what you say in that light. You may feel that people are lying about you or spreading misinformation. The answer is to correct them with your version of what is going on, not to threaten them with England’s terribly unjust libel laws. The lives of your customers are far more important than your reputation. By using libel laws, you protect the latter and put at risk the former.

By using the libel laws you look as if you are not willing to discuss what you are doing. If your success rate is as high as you claimed on camera, it should be fairly simple to demonstrate your powers.

There is of course another danger of using libel laws – that of unintended consequences. The British Chiropractic Association are currently suing writer Simon Singh following an article in the Guardian. There followed, what the legal blogger Jack of Kent described as a ‘Quacklash’. The claims of the BCA have come under massive scrutiny across the web and now hundreds of their members are under investigation by the General Chiropractic Council as a result of people’s outrage at the use of libel laws to silence debate.

There is a now a very large campaign to reform English libel laws. I would hope that it was something that all reasonable people could support. Perhaps you, Adrian, could do your bit by withdrawing from any legal actions you may be engaged in, allowing people to publish their criticism and you responding to it without legal threats, and allowing people to engage in a proper discussion about what it is you do.

Could you use your powers to do that? It would be a sensible place to start.

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Correction

*The woman in the film was not an actor but genuinely had cancer.

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Update
Skepchick Rebecca has the YouTube videos of Pengelly available. You can see us share a discussion panel at TAM London Next week.
Skepticat also discusses The Magic Powers of Adrian Pengelly.

On this theme…

21 Comments on Adrian Pengelly, Psychic Healer, and English Libel Laws

  1. I am the author of the articles which originally appeared on BadPsychics. It's worth mentioning that ONE of them contained a factual error which I was happy to put right within hours of it being discovered. I stand by everything else I wrote about Pengelly and a summary of it can be read here:

    http://www.ukskeptics.com/forum/showthread.php?t=3755&page=15

    As for that truly appalling DM article by Rebecca Hardy…well, suffice it to say that after getting no response from the paper's editor Paul Dacre I reported it to the Press Complaints Commission. The comments left by readers are, if anything, even more disturbing than the article itself. Moderately-worded comments critical of Pengelly have been removed because readers "complained" about them! This is absolutely bizarre, but since the article was essentially a puff piece it comes as no surprise that people are asking how they can get in touch with Pengelly for cancer treatment.

    By the way, Pengelly's claims are currently being investigated by Hereford Trading Standards.

  2. It isn't his beliefs that need changing, he is way beyond help with those. It's his capacity to act on them that needs remedying. If there isn't a culpable homicide he can be nailed for, there will be eventually.

  3. I am not advocating trying to change his beliefs. I merely suggest the small step of having healthy debate so that others (patients, friends, family) may be made much more aware of the nature of his business.

  4. Know anyone who stopped their chemotherapy or other treatment on the advice of this charlatan? Know anyone who recovered or subsequently died after being treated by this man?
    Herefordshire Council have instigated legal proceedings under the Cancer Act against Mr Pengelly. Time to come forward! This is only in the public domain now since the charges have been officially laid in Hereford Magistrates Court. The first court date is 12th March 2010

    • For more information and testimonials for Spiritual Healing check out: –
      http://www.Reiki.org

      There are now literally millions of healers within the Reiki movement and Reiki is a journey to find enlightenment of the SELF FIRST, not to necessarily heal others.

      A sceptic will never believe a believer and vice versa! That is not to say each should ever be denied their right to have their particular opinion.

      Open minded debate is better than courts.

      • Dear Margaret,

        please, for the sake of honest debate, consider two things:

        1) Testimonials are not good evidence. They are usually heavily biased and the cannot take things such as placebo and simple natural recovery into account. Only if the numbers prove that Reiki (or Adrian Pengelly) can cure significantly more patients than doctors can, can we be sure that he actually has “powers”.

        2) If Reiki is about enlightening oneself, then please refrain from claiming to cure disease in others.

        Have a nice evening
        Daniel

      • ‘millions of healers’?

        My bullshit detector has gone off. Can you substantiate that?

        I guess that once you believe that waving your arms around can channel ‘cosmic energies’, numbers will not mean much to you either.

  5. And the actual words used by Pengelly were

    “The success rate I suppose for treating cancer would be roundabout 60, 65 per cent”

    “Some cancers 9 out of 10 people have treatment and get better. Only with my treatment they wont need anything else”

    “My success rate is higher with people who don’t have chemotherapy and it’s lower than with people who do”

    “I would never say don’t have it, obviously I can’t say that, but it makes me less sensitive”

    “If they say chemo wont stop it, all we can do is give you more time, then I would say if you were a member of my family, don’t bother let me do it”

    “It creates the possibility my work wont work. At least there I feel there is a chance I can get rid of it, so better to go with me than not with me.”

  6. I do not know Mr Pengelly but I do know that Spiritual healing DOES work. My only critisism of him would be that it is not HIM doing the healing it is spirit and he should acknowledge that, if he hasn’t already. We are ALL capable of giving healing although I do not doubt that Mr Pengelly may be a good chanel.

    Believe me there is plenty of evidence out there and studies by doctors for over more than 50 years showing that Chemo and radiation in many cases help to kill the patient. We have learnt that a tumour is a consequence of the bodies inbalance and removing it does not take away the threat of it returning. There is no CURE for cancer and there never will be, we must learn to manage the body effectively, to if you like, keep the body in sync.

    I do actually agree with a lot he says but our dictatorial legislation does not allow him to actually claim a cure. The healing organisation that I help to run teaches its healers that they never say we can cure anyone of anything but the healing will always help. We do not make a charge by the way and do it for the love of our fellow man which in this materialistic world a lot of you will find hard to believe.

  7. “our dictatorial legislation”

    My, my, so much baloney in only one post.

    Prove that your “healing” has any effect other than placebo, then we’re talking. The “dictatorial legislation” is there to protect patients from unproven claims.

    How can you lot even sleep at night?
    Daniel

  8. Well well well. Mr P admitted guilty to all charges for a court hearing on Friday 12th March 2010. I wonder now if his supporters are still coming out thick and fast for a man with a proven background of lying? That’s rhetorical before the misguided fools jump up on in arms as wooooo merchants. The fact of the matter is he has proven to be a liar and he has for weeks been defending the claim that “he has never said he can cure cancer”. Wrong! Which is why you will find Mr P had no choice other than to admit his guilt. The evidence was 100% against him. I wonder if his girlfriend will now be charged with designing much of his advertising material?

    http://www.worcesternews.co.uk/news/5059494.Cancer__healer__to_pay_thousands___court/

  9. I am afraid that this will have no big effect on his followers. Many of these people are so deep in a hole that they’d rather believe it was all just a big court theater so that “the man” could get their beloved Mr P down than contemplating the fact that Mr P exploits the vulnerable for profit.

    Sad world.
    Daniel

  10. Think his supporters have better things to do with their lives than sit behind a laptop leaving posts after posts , nobody cares lmfao

    • Yeah, better things than “caring whether your fellow human being is being exploited by a quack” or “getting sick when the vulnerable are being lied to”… But please, go on laughing your f-ing ass off.

      Daniel

  11. The purpose in providing these questions is purely to provide factual information to all. There is no hidden agenda other than that and I hope that Mr Pengelly does answer.

    People, particularly those who are vulnerable with cancer, are entitled to all information when they are feeling so desperate. It is not just about the claims this man is making, but also the type of man that is making the claims.

    Any possible implications in these questions can be proven with evidence. Most of which can be searched and discovered by anyone.

    I would like to ask Mr Pengelly the following and if he chooses not answer (his choice) then I hope those who read this will investigate for themselves and consider “why are they being asked?” :-

    1) How much do patient’s pay on average to contribute you being considered a high wage earner and living in a stately type home?
    2) Why are there not validated testimonials from people claiming to be cured, that have not been receiving medical treatment at the same time? Are you not possibly riding on the back of medical success rather than “healing” success? eg. Judy Collins.
    3) It has been proven that you have publicly lied about having a knighthood, gaining a degree at Birmingham University, Living in France, healing for 17 years and many other things regarding your background. Do you believe any of these lies alter any of your supporter’s opinion of you? Why did you choose to lie about these things in interviews that would be placed in the public domain? Did you hope that making up stories and lies about a knighthood, education and extensive length of time healing, would gain you more respect and trustworthy reputation?
    4) It has been said that you offered no assistance to Trading Standards. Do you regret this, as it could have prevented you gaining a criminal record as a result of a court hearing? It was also implied by your solicitor that you have “no previous convictions relating to this kind of issue”. Does this mean you have been in trouble over something else in the past as it appears a strange thing to say about someone who may have an unblemished record?
    5) Why do his testimonials appear to lack genuine validity? They are all signed with no more than 2 initials? Eg. AD, PL. Why are people not proud to be named specifically regarding your miracle cures? Would they not want to assist in any way they can to prove the claims you make?
    6) You have claimed that MP’s, hospitals, hospices and now we have religious leaders are in support of you. Why, again, have you not provided names? It has been proven that hospitals, hospices and MP’s in your local area are not supporting you. So who are these religious leaders?
    7) Why is there no record of testing of your claims and why do you appear reluctant for testing? Would you agree now to testing and give up healing if the results proved you are not capable of healing and there could be other explanations including the Placebo effect?
    8) It is obvious to assume that by pleading guilty to all 3 original charges was an admission of acceptance of the charges. To be fair on you, there was too much evidence to suggest otherwise. But you have been implying that you would fight the court in your newspaper articles, as you believed you were “right” and true justice was on your side. Why did you then not turn up in court and follow this through? Why were you not as defiant as you claimed and didn’t go down fighting as you implied?
    9) You have often made claims that you have 1000’s of supporters. You were even proven to exaggerate about the numbers of support you had at the village hall when you were interviewed by the BBC during the damming BBC Rogue Traders show. Do you feel that it is appropriate to suggest many of these supporters would have turned up to the court to support you? Do you feel let down that they didn’t?
    10) You claim to have a waiting list of 14,000 and it will take decades for you to see all these people. Is it not a false promise to indicate that everyone who needs to see you, will get seen as you do on your website? Even if you work 24 hours a day it will take you over 190 days without a break to see everyone. So does this mean that you have a longer waiting list than some within the NHS and therefore people would be better off seeing another healer or their doctor?
    11) You claim on your website that on the 21st September, as a result of the BBC Watchdog report on you, you received 800 telephone calls requesting healing. Do you accept that this is an exaggeration and regret having this on your website? If true each call would only last 7 seconds otherwise.
    12) Do you regret implying in your lecture in Spain, that was also placed on your website in Audio and as a Transcript, that someone’s cancer could return because they are “too mean with their money” and don’t keep seeing/paying you?
    13) You claim that your website was designed by patients in some of the press. Your story changed in court to be that, “it was designed by a friend”. It is widely known and can be proven that it was designed by your partner (Alison Derrick) and her name was on the bottom of the website claiming to be the designer (Bongo Design) until the day before your court appearance and it easily obtainable that you purchased the website and it is currently registered in your name at your home address. Is there a particular reason you wish to disassociate the designer/your partner from the fact she designed it and why you wish to give the impression that “people” rather than your girlfriend designed it?
    14) This question was provoked by one of your supporters on another forum and a reminder of further evidence. It has been proven that your partner has some distaste towards homosexuality and circulated information about this. Would you admit you are homophobic, or is it just your partner? I also appreciate that you are yourself in a relationship with a significant age gap (Again something posted by a supporter), yet you appear to make public occasional digs at people who are the same (Your words from the Spanish lecture). Why is this?
    15) You often claim and so do your supporters, that you do not understand how your “healing” works. Yet you have a page on your website dedicated to it? Can you understand that many could have confusion over this?
    16) You claim a few have a dislike for you that caused your recent conviction. It is public knowledge that over 150 people submitted their names asking for Trading Standards urging them to take swift action. Do you, now that you have you have admitted guilt to all charges, accept that without the law being broken, Trading Standards would not have had a case to bring against you and it is therefore irrelevant whether it was 3 or 3,000 people who had contacted them?
    17) Along the same theme as question 16, do you accept that unless there was a story that made you different to other healers, the BBC would not have been interested in you as you would have behaved as just “any other healer”?
    18) You often claim that professionals such as Doctors support you? They are never named with except the “Doctor Who” specialist and children’s author Michael Holt. Are any of these medical doctors? Who are they?
    19) 19) Professor Michael Cullen (Cancer specialist at Birmingham University Hospital) said this about you “I think he was directly advising against Chemotherapy unless it could be guaranteed to cure. I think is a cruel and damaging thing for patients to hear”. How do you respond to this in an honest way bearing in mind your words from recordings and screenshots taken from your your website will be considered?
    20) In almost all newspaper articles leading up to your trial you are quoted as saying “most healers can only dream about doing what you do”. Does that mean you see yourself above most healers? Do you accept other healers may see this is a rather egotistical remark to make?
    21) You say that being able to cure cancer, like yourself, is the “holy grail” all healers want to achieve. Do you accept this is rather an irresponsible comment to make?
    22) To understand you better, it has been noted that there is a legal charge on your property due to a refusal to contribute towards child maintenance payments. Land registry searches are available so anyone can determine this. Do you feel it’s acceptable to make a baby and then contribute financially to its welfare? Do you think that no-matter what your relationship could be with your ex-partner is irrelevant to your responsibilities? Especially when considering £30 per 15/20 minute session and the type of home you are living in?
    23) Considering the cancer act law “No person shall take any part in the publication of any advertisement”; Is your partner concerned that a separate legal charge could be brought against her for designing the “cancer” advertisements?
    24) Do you acknowledge that your original literature/flyer you produced was in breach of laws and that you had to give a guarantee to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) that this was no longer used and would never be used again?
    25) Is it true you and your partner, along with certain individuals belonging to your local paranormal group that you are associated with, were written to by a solicitor regarding claims of harassment of individuals? I believe the police were also involved in certain behaviour, which came from abusive photoshop images designed by your partner and circulated?
    26) Do you have any insurance that covers the healing process that you offer at your clinics? Do you have Public Liability insurance for people receiving treatment at the premises you practice from?
    27) You encourage people to bring their children for healing. Do you have CRB clearance?
    28) Do you belong to any “healing” type of association?
    29) You employed the assistance of a PR agency known as PHA Media who specialise in Crisis Management, as well as a lawyer, after your appearance on BBC Rogue Traders. Do you regret PHA Media sending out a press release about your “crisis” and admitting to setting up a pro-you article in the Daily Mail showing it was bias journalism?
    30) You claim that you have received “death threats” and threats of “violence” from 1 of at least 3 people (although on your recent radio interview you claimed it was only 2) who you feel as brought on your demise. Only because the police have no record of this complaint ever being made, do you have evidence of this?
    31) You claim that various symptoms occur when you begin healing. This is burning heat from your hands and electric shocks. These are both measurable on the most basic of equipment. Would you agree to testing these claims, if you are reluctant for more controlled types of testing, and allowing the results to be made public during some form of live broadcast?
    32) There is obvious confusion that you claimed that “nobody knew about the law”, which resulted in your convictions. This confusion exists not only because you did not take action when several websites pointed out this fact, as did the Watchdog show, but also because your own website you purchased had the wording “Rightly, there are laws in place in many countries that prevent people from making claims regarding the cure of cancer”. Considering these things and also the recordings of you claiming to cure cancer, do you think it is right to assume that people are going to believe your excuse that “nobody knew”?
    33) You claim you have been healing for 17 years, yet people involved in your life 17 years ago claim you were not. How would you answer this allegation?
    34) You have “recently” started to emphasise that nobody has to pay your fee for healing. You also suggest that the maximum that you will accept is £30 for each 20 minute session. In a newspaper article you suggested that half do not pay and in a recent radio broadcast you suggest that you are working 90 hours a week. Doing the simple obvious math you can see 3 people for 20 in 1 hour. So, 3 x 20 x 90. So if at £30 per time that would put your hourly earning at £90 per hour. But let us say you did tell the truth and 50% did not pay that would place you on £45 per hour. If as you claim you are working 90 hours per week that gives you as rough estimate as earning of £4050 per week. But let us say that you do have the occasional day off work, did exaggerate, don’t always do 90 hours, do sometimes charge £10 per session and placed you on the rough estimate of £2,500-3,000 per week. That gives you an annual salary of 130,000/£156,000. How much of that is paid to you in cash and how much is paid to you in the form of a cheque? Do you declare all of these earnings? Are you VAT registered?”

    Please do also visit http://www.spanglefish.com/AdrianPengellyExposed/

  12. Despite being old news Pengelly still appears to be trying to earn a living with his particular target areas being out of the UK these days. However, should anyone have doubted the honesty and integrity that has often been portrayed in a poor light, Mr Pengelly who placed himself as bankrupt in May 2010 has now had the order extended by 8 years due to a fraudulent act or as the insolvency service puts it….”unfit conduct”

    “That he, having been adjudged bankrupt on 12 May 2010, failed to disclose an asset estimated to be worth at least £15,000 at a Public Examination on 28 July 2010, in form PIQB signed on 12 August 2010 or at interviews with the trustee in bankruptcy and the Official Receiver, both held on 26 August 2010, and subsequently sold the asset for £7,000 on 29 August 2010. He failed to deliver up any of the sale proceeds and disposed of them to the detriment of the general body of his bankrupcy creditors who are owed £177,792.”

    Still any doubters about the level of the mans honesty and integrity despite another fact questioning it?

    Posting again in the hope that someone may be protected in the future whether they are from the UK, USA or Spain which are target areas for him.

    Link for this evidence can be found http://www.insolvency.gov.uk/databases/ddirector/viewbrobrudetailsmore.asp?courtnumber=3271872010

  13. I think that you seem to always see people like Adrian as quacks. If you ALWAYS do then I’d distrust what you say and check out Adrian for myself.Are we allowed another oppinion on here?

    Mainstream medicine is invested in shutting out other ways we can heal ourselves and it tries to kill off anyone who challenges it. Andrew Wakefield was silenced because he spoke the truth, herbal medicine is under threat because it undermines the monopoly of mainstream medicine. And yes, mainstream medicine damages countless thousands of people with its treatments.We only have to read the WDDTY to know that. “Healers” in general are under attack in this age, so too are religious people.. Do I detect a trend?

  14. Let’s hope so, Sue. The sooner they’re all exposed and prosecuted the better. And as for Andrew Wakefield, he was another shameless quack. I’m sure you’re a nice person, but you desperately need to stop believing what you WANT to believe, and start believing what’s good for you.

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