Psychic crackdown on the cards

Mediums are fighting new EU rules designed to protect the public from dodgy traders, fearing that honest spiritualists could be targeted

The evocative question 'Is there anybody there?' conjures up images of mediums summoning spirits in a darkened room. But now psychics must add a few riders before they invoke the voices of the dead, thanks to new consumer laws due to come into force. Breathless audiences are now likely to be asked: 'Is there anybody here... who is vulnerable, of nervous disposition, or likely to sue?'

Indeed, a whole list of disclaimers must be added to the spiritualists' spiel if they are to avoid an avalanche of writs following the repeal next month of the Fraudulent Mediums Act, to be replaced by the new Consumer Protection Regulations. Promises to raise the dead, secure good fortune or heal through the laying on of hands are all at risk of legal action from disgruntled customers. Spiritualists say they will be forced to issue disclaimers, such as 'this is a scientific experiment, the results of which cannot be guaranteed'. They claim the new regulations will leave them open to malicious civil action by sceptics.

The problem is that very little in the multi-million-pound psychic industry in Britain is for free, and anyone charging or accepting 'gifts' in exchange for a service is bound by the new regulations. There are charges for seances, Tarot, psychic readings and clairvoyance. Spiritualist church service-goers - and there are more than 300 spiritualist churches in Britain - are charged or asked for donations. Psychic mailings - letters promising spiritualist services in exchange for a cheque - are estimated to have cost Britons £40m in 2006-07, according to Office of Fair Trading research. Psychic services via telephone, online and satellite TV keep the tills ringing further.

For the past half-century, 'genuine' mediums have been protected by the 1951 Fraudulent Mediums Act, under which prosecutors had to prove fraud and dishonest intent to secure a criminal conviction, which was difficult. There have been fewer than 10 convictions in the past 20 years. With that protection gone, there will now be nothing between the medium and the trading standards officer - and no need to prove fraud. Instead it will be up to the trader, in this case the medium, to prove they did not mislead, coerce or take advantage of any 'vulnerable' consumers.

Carole McEntee-Taylor, a spiritualist healer in Essex, said having to stand up and describe the invoking of spirits as an 'experiment' was forcing spiritualists to 'lie and deny our beliefs'. She added: 'No other religion has to do that. And how can you tell if someone is vulnerable? You would have to ask them if they felt vulnerable, or had mental health issues, or were of a nervous disposition.'

With her husband, David, a spiritualist minister, she has set up the Spiritualist Workers' Association, to help regulate the industry and offer guidance on the law. They will be presenting a petition to 10 Downing Street on 18 April. Their website warns: 'The changes in the legislation are a minefield... given Britain's litigation culture. We have to fight it. If not, we will go back to the Dark Ages, where we will be persecuted and prosecuted.'

The Fraudulent Mediums Act replaced the 1735 Witchcraft Act. The government is set to repeal it and many other laws alongside the introduction of the Consumer Protection Regulations. If they are approved by Parliament, as is likely - there are debates in the Lords on 23 April and in the Commons on 6 May - the regulations will come into force on 26 May. They will ban 31 types of unfair sales practice outright, including bogus closing-down sales, prize-draw scams and aggressive doorstep selling, and will for the first time establish a catch-all duty not to trade unfairly, closing loopholes that rogue traders have been able to exploit. But spiritualists say the measures fail to take account of their religion.

'It is taking a religion, a way of life, and making it a commercial transaction,' said David McEntee-Taylor. 'If we hold a service in a village hall, we have to charge or ask for a donation to cover the cost of hiring the hall. There are bad mediums out there, and we would like to regulate them. But this is unfair on genuine spiritualists. Some people are very nervous of entrapment.'

Emma-Louise Rhodes, a researcher for BadPsychics, which seeks to expose malpractice, said: 'Hopefully, the new regulations will bring to justice those who have cruelly sought to exploit the bereaved for personal financial gain.'

A legal specialist said: 'Now there is no difference between a psychic and a double-glazing salesman in law.'
Spiritual journey

· Britain's first spiritualist church was set up in Keighley, Yorkshire, in 1853.

· Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes, was an ardent believer.

· The First World War changed the spiritualist movement dramatically, with more bereaved relatives becoming desperate to make contact with their dead loved ones.

· Doris Stokes emerged as Britain's first real celebrity medium in the Eighties.

· Princess Diana consulted New Age healers and spiritualists.

· Selfridge's introduced the spiritualist 'Psychic Sisters' to its London store in 2006.

6th Registered User

Its gonna bring about big changes, some good and some not so good. At the end of the day is protecting the general public a bad thing?

Everyone must agree that there are frauds out there, more than a few. How else do we protect people from them other than the imposition of new laws to govern everyone medium/reader/psychic?

iamhunted Registered User

if people are paying money then such protection is a good thing

6th Registered User

I also think anyone who does readings etc should have to register.

Dre as in Dray Registered User

6th said:
I also think anyone who does readings etc should have to register.

Yeah but how would you go about that ? How can you stop the fake's from regestering also ? Also how would you prove that you are a psychic ? Its a difficult difficult thing. It also sounds very very messy.

Zillah Registered User

'Is there anybody here... who is vulnerable, of nervous disposition, or likely to sue?'


6th Registered User

Dre as in Dray said:
Yeah but how would you go about that ? How can you stop the fake's from regestering also ? Also how would you prove that you are a psychic ? Its a difficult difficult thing. It also sounds very very messy.

Anyone how is providing a service could register but that means they are leaving themselves open to, and accept, the laws.

hiorta Registered User

I can't see any genuine worker having any objections to this legislation.
But, wont clergy who claim that 'god said this or that' and 'god meant this or that' have to prove it?
Won't those who claim that trans-substantiation is factual and not symbolic also face problems?
BTW, mediums cannot 'call up the dead' any more than anyone else can, they can only request a response. Healers are similarly placed, in that they can only deliver the energy that responds to their seeking. No guarantee can ever be given, pre or post legislation.

karynp Registered User

Actually there is quite a lot of opposition over this in the UK as I believe the fraudulent mediums act 1953 was fought long and hard for with mediums going to prison for the cause.
I know a good few very well regarded mediums in england who would have family members who fought for that act and have been told the story of it and how it all came about.
I believe the SAGB are having big meetings about this and will be taking it further as there is much more to this than meets the eye.
Genuine mediums will not record there sittings anymore out of fear of people setting them up,regardless of the truth.
If a medium gives precise and accurate information then whats to stop the person having the reading denying it all and taking a GENUINE medium to court so they can make a few bucks outv it,thus ruining the reputation of the medium,even if others come forwad stating how accurate there stuff was theres still no real grounds to actually prove it.
I have no problem with people who are frauds being ousted from the field,would most certainly love to see them gone but this is more politics than anything else ,the uk government dont like the fact that spiritualism as a religion is surpassing the other religions so therefor the only way to try to stop it is by way of a crappy new law which will no doubt cause a LOT of upset amongst the genuine mediums ect and then churches performing demos will be picked on by all the sceptics out for there pound of flesh regarding something they dont understand or wont take the time to understand.
just my 2 cents!!!!!!!!1

6th Registered User

But Karyn, wont putting a disclaimer to say that the reading may not be accurate protect the reader as much as the customer?

6th Registered User

karynp said:
the uk government dont like the fact that spiritualism as a religion is surpassing the other religions

Is this really the case?

Spiritualism is on the rise again but only after it had fallen off quite a bit. I dont think its anywhere near surpassing other religons.

Dre as in Dray Registered User

What would psychic readings classed as ? Entertainment ? As you say 6th if there is a disclaimer given at the begining really defeat's the purpose ?? Really i just cant see anything like this working. I think its somthing that will regulate itself. If the psychic is good and their readings are accurate, the people will come back.

6th Registered User

But some frauds are good too.

Dre as in Dray Registered User

6th said:
But some frauds are good too.

HEHE , well i suppose they are if its for entertainment purposes

Oryx Registered User

I had heard of this change last time I was in the UK. But I dont know much about it. I wouldnt like to see 'genuine' mediums getting crushed because of it, but I suppose how otherwise do the general public know who is real and who is fake? Its a tricky subject, I would like to see the practices of the spiritualists respected, and to allow them to self regulate, rather than have the same laws imposed on them as for double glazing, for instance. One size law does not fit all.

But I have just started doing 'proper' readings, and even in a short time I can see how easy it would be to cold read or fake information. People are hungry for information and will twist and make things fit themselves, which as reader you have to actually prevent. Its shown me how easily fakes can work.

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