Tribunal suspends psychologist for professional misconduct

01 Dec 2017

A tribunal has reprimanded a psychologist, suspended her registration for 18 months and imposed conditions on her registration to come into effect if and when she returns to practice.

The tribunal made its decision after finding that the practitioner had behaved in a way that constitutes professional misconduct in relation to her consultations with a child, communications with the Police and communications with the Family Court of Western Australia.

The Psychology Board of Australia (the Board) referred Ms Genevieve May Milnes to the State Administrative Tribunal (the tribunal) in Western Australia on 6 May 2016.

The Board alleged Ms Milnes had engaged in professional misconduct in relation to her consultations with a three year old child client and related conduct in the period September 2011 to April 2012.

The Board’s allegations included that she:

  • Failed to make any notes or records of some consultations and telephone contact with the client’s mother and failed to make adequate notes which met the requirements of the Australian Psychology Society (APS) Ethical Guidelines.
  • Behaved incompetently and breached the APS Code of Ethics by failing to apply, or misapplying, her knowledge of child development as it relates to child sexual abuse, memory, recall and reporting.
  • Demonstrated an inadequate capacity for clinical reasoning or decision-making in order to enable her to render effective psychological services to the client, including:
    • by writing correspondence to solicitors, Police and the independent children’s lawyer, and giving evidence to the Family Court of Western Australia that uncritically adopted allegations made by the client’s mother and the client that the client’s father had sexually assaulted the client, and
    • in writing this correspondence, failed to give adequate consideration to any hypothesis which was contrary to the opinion or belief she formed that the client’s father may have subjected the client to some form of sexual abuse, which would explain why the client had made statements that they had been sexually abused by their father.
  • Swore an affidavit to be filed in Family Court proceedings which stated that she was satisfied that the client’s allegations were “not coming from the mother or the grandmother”, without properly considering the possibility that the allegations had come from and/or had been influenced by the client’s mother and/or grandmother.
  • Sent a written report to police which included reference to the statements of the client, by which she sought to influence the investigation by police.
  • Objected to an order of the Family Court of Western Australia which prohibited her from engaging in further consultations with the client and continued to provide psychological services to the client.
  • Made a diagnosis that the client was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and/or a condition described as “trauma” and/or a “trauma state”, without having carried out any proper clinical assessment that would enable the diagnosis properly to be made.
  • Gave evidence under cross-examination in the Family Court Proceedings which was confused and inaccurate.
  • Behaved incompetently and in breach of the requirement of the APS Code of Ethics by failing to refrain from engaging in multiple relationships that may impair competence, objectivity or ability to render a psychological service.
  • Transgressed professional boundaries by carrying out an investigative role and an advocacy role in respect of the client and the client’s mother.

Ms Milnes admitted the allegations, acknowledging she had behaved in a way that constitutes professional misconduct.

She submitted that she is determined not to repeat the conduct, has completed significant reflection on the circumstances of the complaint made to the Board and her conduct since these events occurred. She has committed to completing further education and has taken steps, including extensive supervision at her own cost, to alter and improve her approach to her practice and has accepted that she would be helped by further ongoing supervision and support.

On 8 September 2017, the tribunal reprimanded Ms Milnes and suspended her registration as a psychologist for 18 months. The tribunal also ordered conditions imposed on her registration on her return to practice, including supervised practice and completing relevant education. She was also ordered to pay the Board’s costs in the sum of $45,000.

The decision is published on the tribunal’s website.

 

 
 
Page reviewed 1/12/2017