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In a recent decision in which names and details have been suppressed, the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal (the Tribunal) has censured and cancelled the registration of a health practitioner following his conviction for performing an indecent act on a child under the age of 12.

The conviction

On 25 August 2015, a health practitioner (Mr G) pleaded guilty to, and was convicted of, two representative charges and one further charge of performing an indecent act on a child under the age of 12 under the Crimes Act 1961. Of a possible 10 years imprisonment, Mr G was sentenced to three years imprisonment for the two representative charges, and 12 months (served concurrently) for the specific charge.

A Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) brought a charge alleging that the conviction reflected adversely on Mr G’s fitness to practice.

The Tribunal hearing

The Tribunal has now determined the penalty Mr G will face following that conviction. As part of their decision, and due to orders made by the Christchurch District Court in the criminal proceedings, the Tribunal has not only permanently prohibited the publication of the name and identifying details of the victim, but also the name, occupation, and other identifying details of Mr G. However the Tribunal did state that if the court ever permits publication the PCC may apply to the Tribunal for reconsideration of the publication orders.

The Tribunal’s decision does not include many details of the factual circumstances of the conviction. However the offending appears to be related to two young male victims and a period of offending of two years in relation to one boy, and two and a half in relation to the other. The Tribunal’s decision does state that the ‘behaviour’, described in the sentencing notes of the Judge as ‘habitual offending’, began around 2005/2006 when the older boy was about three or four. The particular offending occurred on multiple occasions between 2012 and 2014.

The Tribunal notes that the Judge described the contact between Mr G and the boys as ‘a deviant sexual interest in pre-pubescent boys’. However the judge also referred to Mr G as being a well-educated man, well-thought of in his profession, and a well-functioning member of society, and noted that the victims still held him in high esteem.

The Tribunal found that the conviction reflected adversely on Mr G’s fitness to practice and then had to consider the appropriate penalty.

The penalty

The Tribunal was presented with a number of factors to consider when determining the appropriate penalty.

The aggravating factors included that the offending was:

  • over a lengthy period of time;
  • against more than one victim;
  • premeditated;
  • involved a significant breach of trust and authority; and
  • given his profession, it was an abuse of trust and power that demonstrated in him a significant failure to exercise restraint and respect for the human body and personal autonomy. 

The mitigating factors included:

  • Mr G’s acceptance of responsibility for his actions including his guilty plea, frank communication, and voluntary surrender of his practicing certificate;
  • full co-operation with the Police, PCC, and Tribunal; and
  • that Mr G had no previous criminal convictions.
  • The Tribunal also considered the factors acknowledged by the District Court, which were that Mr G was otherwise of good character and referred himself for psychological help.

Ultimately the Tribunal determined that Mr G’s registration should be cancelled, a move which Mr G himself recognised as ‘the only appropriate response to his offending’. The Tribunal also ordered that Mr G should:
be censured;

  • be required to pay 20% of the total costs (which amounted to $5,000); and
  • be required to satisfy a number of conditions if he wished to reapply for registration, including proving he has undertaken clinical psychological treatment and assistance, undergone psychological testing, and have no involvement in the treatment of any person under the age of 16 years for a period fixed by the local Health Committee.

This article was authored by Megan Neill, Solicitor in our Wellington office.



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