On February 22, The Times ran a story about The Healthcare Clinic in Sea Road, East Preston. Footage filmed by an undercover reporter showed owner Julia Chaplin seemingly recommending industrial bleach to cure autism.
She has said the footage was ‘taken out of context’ and ‘published in an incorrect and inflammatory manner’.
The story whipped up a firestorm on social media. And the East Preston Clinic in Sea Road – a private medical clinic further south of the village that has no connection to The Healthcare Clinic – got caught in the crossfire.
Liz Miles, practice manager, said the clinic had received three nasty messages through its website. One, sent at around 10pm on February 23, was directed at Julia Chaplin and filled with expletives.
It said ‘I hope you get a brain tumour and die’ and told her to ‘go play with traffic’.
Liz, who set up the clinic with her husband Anthony in 2006, said she was shocked when she read the messages, who were written by someone she claimed ‘has too much time on their hands and not enough brains in their head’.
She said: “It just shows you how easy it is to anonymously be really horrible. I wouldn’t like to be a person in the public eye.”
As the messages were left on the contact us form on the website with a fake name and email address, they had no way to reply to or trace the culprits, Liz believed.
She added: “We are not associated with this at all. We are a reputable business and have spent the last 14 years building it up in the village, where we also live.”
Following The Times investigation, the Health & Care Professions Council said ‘all the concerns raised with us’ about Julia Chaplin ‘are being considered by our fitness to practise team’.
It said: “We have a duty to protect the public and if we find a professional on our register has fallen short of our standards, we will investigate and look into what action, if any, is required.”
Last week, Julia Chaplin sent the Gazette a statement rebuffing the Times article and condemning those who had made hateful comments about her online.
It said: “The interview was secretly recorded and completely taken out of context.
“It was drastically edited before it was published in an incorrect and inflammatory manner.
“Legal proceedings have been initiated against The Times newspaper and the reporter(s) concerned.
“I wish to thank everyone who has supported me through this ordeal, especially my patients of long-standing, some of whom have gone out of their way to negate the toxic effects of social media and the terrible injustice that has occurred.
“Thank you to those who cannot believe the words which are written because they do not fit the person they know and trust.
“Shame on the many who have posted on these social media sites, especially those who display ‘BeKind’ symbols. How quickly they forget.
“Many of those people who posted very cruel remarks knew nothing of the true story, and many did not care to find out.
“It was unfortunately another example of joining in with a bullying culture that appears to have become the norm these days.”