Tribunal reprimands psychologist and suspends registration for professional misconduct

30 Aug 2016

Mr Ross Anderson: A tribunal has reprimanded registered psychologist Mr Ross Anderson and suspended his registration for three months for professional misconduct.

The Psychology Board of Australia (the Board) referred the matter to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (the Tribunal) on 18 February 2016, following allegations relating to the conduct of Mr Anderson pursuant to section 193 (1) (a) (i) of the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law as in force in each state and territory (the National Law).

The allegations related to Mr Anderson’s relationship with a former patient that occurred over 20 years ago, before the National Law came into effect in July 2010. Regulation 30 of the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law Regulations enabled the Board to refer the matter to the Tribunal.

Between 1993 and 1994, Mr Anderson treated a patient initially in respect to a personal injury claim, and then to provide counselling. During this period, Mr Anderson acknowledged he was aware the patient had significant mental health issues. He admitted that in December 1995 he had sexual intercourse with the patient on two occasions. Mr Anderson made admissions at an early stage of proceedings.

The Tribunal hearing took place on 16 August 2016. The Board relied on expert evidence that Mr Anderson’s conduct was in breach of the Code of Conduct for Psychologists in force at the time of his conduct in 1995, with the expert making reference to a ‘great many alarm bells which he chose to ignore’.

Among the Tribunal’s written reasons for its decision published on 22 August 2016, it noted the ‘case is a potent reminder to all psychologists of the consequences of disregarding the importance of maintaining appropriate professional boundaries with (former) patients’.

The Tribunal’s decision is also a reminder for psychologists that a referral to provide a medico-legal report for an individual creates a professional relationship which enlivens a practitioner’s professional obligations.

The Tribunal was satisfied Mr Anderson’s conduct ‘amounted to a substantial and significant departure from the conduct expected of a health professional’ in reaching its finding of professional misconduct.

The Tribunal reprimanded Mr Anderson and suspended his registration for three months effective from 1 September 2016.

The decision is available on the AustLII website.

Page reviewed 30/08/2016