Suspended psychologist convicted and fined by New South Wales court

09 Feb 2021

A suspended psychologist has been convicted and fined by a New South Wales court for holding himself out as a registered psychologist following charges laid by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra). 

Dr Brian Hickman’s registration was suspended on 14 September 2018 after the Psychology Board of Australia (the Board) took immediate action to protect the public. Despite this suspension, Dr Hickman continued to present himself as a psychologist to a mental health and community services team in NSW in March 2019.

Ahpra prosecuted Dr Hickman for holding himself out as a registered psychologist in contravention of the National Law.

Dr Hickman pleaded guilty to the charges and was convicted by the Albury Local Court. He was fined a total of $20,000 and the court ordered Dr Hickman to pay Ahpra’s legal costs of $39,176.17.

Magistrate Funston commented on the ‘solid work to prosecute’ this matter by Ahpra.

Ahpra CEO, Martin Fletcher, said: ‘Falsely representing yourself as a registered health practitioner is a gross violation of the public’s trust. We hope this conviction acts as a deterrent to anyone else who might choose to ignore regulatory action taken by a National Board.’

Chair of the Psychology Board of Australia, Rachel Phillips, welcomed the outcome.

‘Under the National Law, anyone who uses the term ‘psychologist’ to describe themselves must be registered – if their registration has been suspended, they cannot use the title. This is crucial to protecting the public and maintaining the public’s trust in our profession. 

‘This result sends a strong message – anyone who holds themselves out as a registered psychologist when they’re not should expect to feel the full force of the law,’ Ms Phillips said.

This case also highlights the important role of the online register of practitioners in protecting the public. Anyone with concerns about whether an individual is registered with a national health practitioner board can check the online register of practitioners maintained by Ahpra or contact Ahpra on 1300 419 495.

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Page reviewed 9/02/2021