Our People

LARA SYMONS

Lara Symons is the Director of Hostage UK.

She has a distinguished career working in crisis response, having joined Control Risks in 1999 as the Crisis Response Research Manager, where she developed the pioneering International Kidnap Online Service (IKOS). As research manager, Lara was responsible for establishing a specialist team of kidnap and extortion analysts, whose priority is to support Response consultants providing crisis management services. She was appointed Director of Response Business Operations in 2009 and took on the additional role of Account Manager for one of Control Risks’ key strategic partners in 2012. She brings to the Hostage UK team an exceptional knowledge of worldwide kidnapping trends and an understanding of the impact that kidnapping has on both corporates and families.

Lara holds first class degrees in Law (University of Oxford) and Political Science (McGill University) and a Masters degree in International Relations (McGill University). She qualified as a solicitor in 1997 and previously worked at the European Commission.

I spent more than17 years as part of a team whose principal purpose was to advise the families and /or employers of hostages on how to obtain the hostage’s safe release. During that time I followed the details of each case and had an insight into the distressing and unique impact kidnapping has on those closely associated with it. Hostage UK plays a critical role in offering accessible, independent and confidential support to help the families of hostages and returning hostages cope with that impact and its consequent effects.

JESSICA GARRATT

Jess is the Coordinator for Hostage UK.

Principal Advisors

PROFESSOR DAVID ALEXANDER

FBPS, FRSM, (Hon) FRCPsych
Professor David Alexander is Emeritus Professor of Mental Health at the Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen. He was formerly Professor of Mental Health in the Faculty of Medicine, Aberdeen University; Consultant in Charge of the Regional Traumatic Stress Clinic (which he set up as Scotland’s first specialist trauma clinic), and Director of the Aberdeen Centre for Trauma Research (which he established with Professor Susan Klein). He has worked with the Scottish Police for over 20 years, and is an Associate Member of both the Scottish Institute for Policing Research and the Scottish Police College, contributing to local, national and international exercises. He is one of three Principal Advisors to the UK police services for the most serious incidents and was a Visiting Consultant at HMP Peterhead.

David attended St Andrew’s University; the University of Dundee, and the University of Aberdeen and trained in advanced forensic psychiatry (Birmingham University) and police advanced techniques in relation to stress management, and hostage negotiation at the FBI Academy. He also attended specialist courses at the University of Pennsylvania (CBT), University of Maryland (CISD), and the Royal Victoria Hospital (Belfast) (EMDR).

Having led the psychiatric response to the Piper Alpha disaster in 1988, he has been an adviser on many major traumatic events, including disasters in Russia, Kenya, Sri Lanka, Nigeria and Pakistan. He is on the list of Specialists, held by the Royal College of Psychiatrists, willing to be deployed to major incidents and conflict zones. For his work after the Pakistan Earthquake of 2005 he received a Humanitarian Award from the Scottish Government and an award from the British Council to develop their clinical, training and research activities in Pakistan. He has continued to work with the Pakistan military following terrorist incidents; the “deradicalisation” of suicide bombers, and the floods in the Punjab. As a result, he was made an Honorary Professor at Pakistan’s National University of Sciences and Technology. In 2001 he became the Distinguished Trauma Visitor, advising on trauma management at hospitals in South Africa and teaching at the University of Witwatersrand. He worked in Croatia during the Balkans’ Conflict and reviewed the mental health services in Iraq shortly after the invasion by the Coalition Forces.

Other appointments include: Director of the International Police Association; External Adviser to the Universities of Ulster and Chester, Founding Member of Hostage UK (at the invitation of Mr Terry Waite, CBE); Founder Member of Trauma Care; Member of the Working Party on the discharge of those convicted of terrorist crimes (set up by the British Psychological Society); Member of the Scottish Government’s Resilience Advisory Board, and Member of Lord Boyce’s Independent Scrutiny Group and of Sir Anthony Newman-Taylor’s Independent Expert Medical Group. These appointments confirm his standing as an “Officer of the Crown”.

David teaches hostage negotiation, crisis and trauma management, and terrorism at the Scottish Police College and has taught at the English Police Training College, the FBI Academy, the Russian School of Militia, the Pakistan Army Medical College, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the UK Home Office. He has run workshops on hostage negotiation for senior officers at the School of Military Intelligence, Murree, Pakistan. He has lectured on terrorism, trauma research, and the “State of the Art” of psychological responses after major catastrophe, at the Armed Forces’ Institute for Mental Health, Rawalpindi, and international conferences in Islamabad and gives presentations worldwide, frequently as the Principal, Guest or Keynote Speaker. Professor Alexander has published over 200 peer-reviewed articles, 30 chapters, three books.

He is a Fellow of the British Psychological Society; a Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine, and an Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

DR LESLEY PERMAN-KERR

Dr Lesley Perman-Kerr is the Managing Director of Vivant Artemis and is a Chartered Psychologist and psychotherapist. She was awarded a PhD in Psychology, jointly supervised by the Universities of Hertfordshire and Oxford, and is a member of the British Psychological Society (chartered), the National Council of Psychotherapists, the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies and is a founder member of the Association of Business Psychologists. She has professional experience in: ongoing/post hostage, kidnap and other traumatic incidents (including 9/11); personnel dealing with psychiatric disorders and intimidation in the workplace; organisations subject to employee extortion threats; individuals preparing for secondments abroad; armed forces personnel: post-engagement or returning to civilian life; individuals and groups following a critical incident; debriefing and counselling; organisations and individuals on stress inoculation and the management of stress.

PROFESSOR GORDON TURNBULL

Professor Gordon Turnbull is a consultant psychiatrist specialising in the assessment of patients suffering from the psychological after-effects of trauma. He is the leading Trauma and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) expert at Capio Nightingale Hospital, Consultant Advisor in Psychiatry to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and Visiting Professor to University College Chester. Professor Turnbull graduated from Edinburgh University and entered psychiatry at the Neuropsychiatric Centre, Royal Air Force Hospital Wroughton in Wiltshire in 1980 with post-graduate experience in General Medicine, expedition medicine and neurology. After being appointed Consultant in 1986, his focus turned to psychological trauma after the Lockerbie Air Disaster in 1988, and active service in the Gulf War of 1991 as RAF psychiatric adviser in the field doing first-ever debriefings of British prisoners-of-war and released British hostages from the Lebanon. He developed new treatment strategies for trauma in the RAF and post-RAF has concentrated on trauma services for police officers, emergency service personnel and military veterans.

STEPHEN REGEL OBE

Stephen Regel is Principal Psychotherapist/Director of the Centre for Trauma, Resilience and Growth, Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust; Honorary Professor in the School of Education, Nottingham University; and a Senior Fellow of the Institute of Mental Health, Nottingham.

He has over 30 years experience working with trauma and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and his time is divided between clinical and teaching activities. From 2002-2010, he was a visiting therapist/consultant at the Family Trauma Centre in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

He also consults and trains extensively with UK police forces on the provision of post trauma support. He is also consultant/trainer to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) workplace post trauma peer support programme. Since 1997 he has been consultant to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) Reference Centre for Psychosocial Support. Assessment and training missions for the IFRC have included assignments in Korea, Japan, Estonia, Kenya, Somalia, Russia, Scandinavia, Uganda, Sri Lanka and following the conflict in Georgia. In 2000/2001 he acted as consultant to the UNHCR peer support programme in Kosovo. Since 2005, he has been part of the British Red Cross Psychosocial Support Team, assisting UK nationals affected by incidents abroad.

In June 2014, he co-facilitated training under the auspices of the Children and War Foundation (www.childrenandwar.org) for health and mental health professionals in Korea working with survivors of the recent Sewol ferry disaster.

He has been involved with Victim Support in the UK since 1988 and acted advisor/trainer to Victim Support’s now established National Homicide Service.

He was awarded an OBE in 2013 for services to victims of trauma.

PROFESSOR NEIL GREENBERG

BM, BSc, MMedSc, FHEA, MFMLM, DOccMed, MEWI, MFFLM, MD, FRCPsych
Professor of Defence Mental Health

Professor Neil Greenberg is an academic psychiatrist based at King’s College London UK and is a consultant occupational and forensic psychiatrist. Neil served in the United Kingdom Armed Forces for more than 23 years and has deployed, as a psychiatrist and researcher, to a number of hostile environments including Afghanistan and Iraq. Neil also runs March on Stress (www.marchonstress.com) which is a company that provides a range of psychological health offerings to companies that predictably place their personnel in harm’s way.

Neil studied medicine at Southampton University and graduated in 1993. He then served as a general duties doctor in a variety of Warships, Submarines and with two Royal Marines Commando units. During his time with the Royal Marines he achieved his arctic warfare qualification and completed the all arms commando course, earning the coveted Green Beret.

Neil has specialised in Psychiatry and completed a Masters Degree in Clinical Psychiatry, a Doctorate in Mental Health and is a Fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatrists. He is a specialist in General Adult, Forensic and Liaison Psychiatry and is a member of the faculty of forensic and legal medicine and the faculty of medical leadership and management.

Since 1997 Neil has been at the forefront of developing peer led traumatic stress support packages which is now in use by a wide variety of organisations. The use of Trauma Risk Management (TRiM) was initially led by the Royal Marines and has since been taken up by other organisations including the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, media organisations numerous UK police forces and the London Ambulance Service.

Neil provided psychological input for Foreign Office personnel after the events of September 11th 2001 and in Bali after 12th October 2002 bombings. He has also assisted with the aftermath management of number of other significant incidents including assisting the London Ambulance Service in the wake of the London Bombings in 2005. He has also provided mental health input into the psychological repatriation of a number of hostages over the past ten years.

In 2008 he was awarded the Gilbert Blane Medal by the Royal Navy for his work in supporting the health of Naval personnel through his research work.

Neil has published more than 160 scientific papers, book chapters and has presented to national and international audiences on matters concerning the psychological health of the UK Armed Forces, organisational management of traumatic stress and occupational mental health. He has been the Secretary of the European Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, is the President of the UK Psychological Trauma Society and the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ Lead for Military and Veterans Health.

Neil has extensive experience of conducting research in military and veteran populations and has successfully led the first two ever randomised controlled trials on the effectiveness of psychological health interventions in the UK Armed Forces. He has established excellent links with veteran health providers and with US and other coalition military mental health providers and researchers. He, working with the team at King’s College London, is one of the UK’s leading military health researchers and has published very widely on a broad spectrum of military health and traumatic stress related topics (www.kcl.ac.uk/kcmhr) and advises the Armed Forces, Media organisations and UK government regularly about mental health issues.