The lucrative Business of “Exit Counseling”: Attorney sentenced in Bordeaux
By Martine Rhein
BORDEAUX, 27.08.2015 (Martin Rhine) – Master Daniel Picotin, attorney in Bordeaux (France), used to introduce himself as the French expert on “exit counseling”, a method derived from the controversial practice of “deprogramming”. The practice of deporgramming has been increasingly discredited for its use of kidnapping for the purpose to sway members of so-called “cults” to give up their involvement with the group. On May 5 the Appeal Court of Bordeaux issued a significant decision against Picotin.
“Exit counseling” involves a “multidisciplinary” team of psychologists, psychiatrists, private investigators, etc. under the attorney’s leadership, with the purpose to “exfiltrate” an individual from a group which the individual’s family, or the attorney, regard as sectarian, and this even if the individual maintains that he/she is a member of his/her own free will. Daniel Picotin is also President of CCMM Aquitaine (Centre Contre les Manipulations Mentales – Center Against Mental Manipulations), an association member of FECRIS (Fédération Européenne des Centres de Recherche et d’Information sur le Sectarisme – European Federation of Research and Information Centers on Sectarism).
On May 5, the Appeal Court of Bordeaux issued a significant decision against him . A couple had asked for his help to obtain a right of visit to their granddaughter, while they considered that their son, the child’s father, was under the influence of a cult. The attorney advised them to instead use his favorite hobbyhorse exit counseling and made them pay a provision of 25,000 euros to this end.
One year later, he claimed that his mission had been completed, and returned 6,755 euros to the parents, who have therefore been charged more than 18,000 euros by Picotin’s law firm. The couple questioned the invoice, which they deem disproportionate compared to the work done, and brought the case to court, which agreed with Daniel Picotin. Consequently, the dissatisfied clients filed an appeal against this decision in the Appeal Court of Bordeaux.
Daniel Picotin tried to justify himself before the court. He claimed that his own fees were limited to 7,000 euros, the remaining 11,244 euros being invoices for amounts he had allegedly paid to service providers of his “multidisciplinary team”. Unfortunately for him, after discovering that the attorney had in fact worked only for the sum of 2,720 euros (instead of 7,000 as he claimed), the court wanted to have a closer look at the invoices of these alleged providers and drew the following adverse conclusions:
Without his clients’ agreement, Daniel Picotin claimed that he issued a prior invoice to fund their adhesion to SFRAEM (Société Française de Recherche et d’Analyse de l’Emprise Mentale – French Society of Research and Analysis on Mental Influence). However, the judge noted that the costs for the alleged membership to this association, which in fact was founded by Picotin himself, would have been collected twice, first 100 € and then 350 €, that there is no membership bulletin for the couple, and above all that there is no evidence that Daniel Picotin effectively paid the money to the SFRAEM. (Quote from the decision: “In fact, one does not see why during a first contact the attorney would immediately make his clients join an association dealing with mental influence, one does not understand why the membership would be paid twice (100 € and then 350 €) and, on the other side, the attorney does not provide any evidence, neither for the amount of the membership fees for this association, nor for the membership bulletin, not even, above all, for the transfer of these ‘membership fees’ to the so-called association”.)
Daniel Picotin then presented three invoices of the association SFRAEM (of which he is the founder) to a total amount of 5,000 euros. The judge stated that the services have been charged without any evidence and that there is no link with the file of the plaintiffs.
It must be noted that one of the services charged would have in fact financed the travel to Bordeaux of an “international consultant”, without the couple knowing anything about it. This consultant is none other than the American Steven Hassan, an ardent defender of deprogramming , a violent method including kidnapping. Deprogrammers have been convicted in numerous cases in the United States and in Europe.
The couple’s money was also used to organize a symposium without them being informed and without any evidence that the symposium had any link with their case. Of course, the organization of this symposium included meals. Furthermore, Daniel Picotin produced invoices for engaging a private investigator, who had not been involved with the case of the couple. Then the Bordeaux attorney also produced invoices for hotel costs, without any link between these costs and the case in question. Finally, Daniel Picotin presented three invoices from psychologists, out of which one was provided without it being clear “in what framework this invoice was issued (no address, no ID number (or equivalent)” and “is not detailed”, another of 520 euros for “reading and analysizing blogs and attempts to make contact”, then a third one by the same psychologist for “package file”, of 575 euros corresponding to no service.
Inspite of such carelessness (at the least!), not being in a position at this stage to investigate on Daniel Picotin’s exit counseling practices, as he was only sued for the fee he charged, the judge decided that the lawyer’s fees should be lowered from 17,944 € to 3,740 € , and that he thus should return 14,204 € to his former clients. The judge also sentenced the lawyer Daniel Picotin to pay 1,500 € to the couple for costs related to the trial and to cover the whole costs of the trial.
Whether Picotin has appealed this verdict is not known.
 The book “A Case Study: Fecris”, published by Dresden University and Lit Verlag (ISBN 978-3-643-99894-1), unveils that several leaders of associations members of FECRIS have been sentenced for various offenses in Europe.
 Decision of May 5, 2015, Appeal Court of Bordeaux, N°14/05255
 In a statement under oath (affidavit) in front of a judge, Arthur Roselle, banker, described the abuses he said he has been submitted to during a deprogramming conducted by Steven Hassan: abuses, seclusion (with hands and feet bound to a bed during several days), deprivation of sleep, repeated insults, threats… Steven Hassan always denied he had practiced abuses against him, but Arthur Roselle’s mother, in a later statement under oath, in trying to defend Steven Hassan in a trial against him (she had hired him at the time to deprogram her son), admitted that they had to, with Hassan’s help, forcefully bind Arthur Roselle’s hands and legs and attach him to a bed during 2 days.
 Quotes between ” ” are taken directly from the decision of May 5, 2015, Appeal Court of Bordeaux, N°14/05255