The first prosecution of an offence under the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law has resulted in a guilty verdict and the accused person ordered to pay fines totaling $20,000.
The Magistrates Court of WA yesterday handed down judgment in a criminal matter being prosecuted by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) against Ms Jayne Walton of Western Australia. Ms Walton, who pleaded guilty to all charges, was found guilty of using the title "psychologist" and claiming to be a registered psychologist when she had not been registered for a number of years in breach of the National Law.
The National Law protects the public by ensuring that only registered health practitioners who are suitably trained and qualified are able to use protected titles. The law allows for penalties for falsely using protected titles [see Table 1 below] or holding yourself out to be a registered practitioner. The maximum penalty which a court may impose is $30,000 (in the case of an individual) or $60,000 (in the case of a body corporate).
In this case the penalty was $10,000 per offence.
Psychology Board of Australia Chair, Professor Brin Grenyer welcomed the judgement.
"This successful prosecution will further strengthen protection of the public for clients of psychological services. The Psychology Board welcomes this outcome as an important contribution to public safety. The public expects that when they consult a psychologist that the person is indeed currently registered," said Prof Grenyer.
AHPRA CEO, Mr Martin Fletcher said that the finding was an important milestone in the work of the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme which commenced in mid 2010 and regulates 605,000 registered health practitioners across 14 professions.
"Registration of health practitioners is a key element of protecting the public under the National Law. The registration details of registered health practitioners in Australia are easily accessible to everyone through the online national registers," said Mr Fletcher.
All registered health practitioners appear on the National Registers of Practitioners, which is a searchable list that is accessible from www.ahpra.gov.au. If a person does not appear on the register, they are not registered to practise in a regulated health profession in Australia.
Table 1. Protected titles under the National Law
These are the titles that are protected under the National Law and which a person cannot refer to themselves as, or hold themselves out be.
|Aboriginal and Torres Strait|
Islander Health Practice
|Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health practitioner, Aboriginal health practitioner, Torres Strait Islander health practitioner|
|Chinese Medicine||Chinese medicine practitioner, Chinese herbal dispenser, Chinese herbal medicine practitioner, Oriental medicine practitioner, acupuncturist|
|Dental||Dentist, dental therapist, dental hygienist, dental prosthetist, oral health therapist|
|Medical Radiation Practice||Medical radiation practitioner, diagnostic radiographer, medical imaging technologist, radiographer, nuclear medicine scientist, nuclear medicine technologist, radiation therapist|
|Nursing and Midwifery||Nurse, registered nurse, nurse practitioner, enrolled nurse, midwife, midwife practitioner|
|Occupational Therapy||Occupational therapist|
|Pharmacy||Pharmacist, pharmaceutical chemist|
|Physiotherapy||Physiotherapist, physical therapist|