Director of Proceedings v Ms E

Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal, 808/Psy15/336D (17 May 2016)

The Director of Proceedings laid a charge against Psychologist, Ms E, in the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal concerning the care provided to a vulnerable prisoner ("the health consumer") who was preparing for release from prison.  

The charge against Ms E related to a failure to set and maintain appropriate professional boundaries. For almost twelve months Ms E provided the health consumer with psychological assessment and treatment services which included psychometric testing and individual and group based treatment intended to address the health consumer's risk of re-offending.  The health consumer disclosed vulnerabilities to Ms E, including his fears about being released from prison and the minimal support he had outside of prison.  Ms E subsequently organised to be involved in the health consumer's release arrangements.  The health consumer ended up staying with Ms E for two nights upon his release where sexual activity took place.  In the following four months, Ms E funded the health consumer's travel to visit her on multiple occasions at which time the sexual relationship progressed. During the relationship Ms E gifted the health consumer a cell phone, laptop and financed the purchase of a car.  In addition Ms E accessed the health consumer's Corrections records on 54 occasions and encouraged the health consumer to keep the relationship hidden from his probation officer. 

The matter proceeded by way of an agreed summary of facts, with Ms E accepting the charge.  The Tribunal found that this was a serious departure from professional standards, which was coupled with dishonesty in Ms E attempting to cover her tracks.  The Tribunal concluded there was "no room for doubt that such conduct on a psychologist's part, breaching as it does fundamental professional obligations … constitutes professional misconduct".  The Tribunal was satisfied that disciplinary sanction was warranted in this case noting that Ms E's "professional misconduct [was] simply too serious for there to be any argument to the contrary".

In light of Ms E having voluntarily relinquished her registration prior to the hearing, the Tribunal censured Ms E and imposed conditions for her to complete, prior to applying for re-registration.  The Tribunal confirmed that had Ms E not voluntarily given up her registration, there was "a very real prospect that the outcome would [have included] an order for cancellation".  The Tribunal also ordered Ms E to pay 30% of the costs associated with the proceedings.  

By a majority, the Tribunal permanently suppressed Ms E's name and "all information … which might lead to the identification of the Practitioner".  An order was made in the same terms for the health consumer. 

The full decision can be found at: https://www.hpdt.org.nz/Charge-Details?file=Psy15/336D

 


Last reviewed February 2019