11 Feb 2021
A Victorian court has convicted suspended psychologist, Dr Brian Hickman, of holding himself out as a registered psychologist following charges filed by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra).
On 14 September 2018, the Psychology Board of Australia (the Board) decided it was necessary to take immediate action to suspend Dr Hickman’s registration to protect public health or safety.
The charges alleged that despite this suspension, Dr Hickman continued to practise and hold himself out as a registered psychologist in Victoria on various dates between October 2018 and April 2019, in contravention of the National Law1.
Dr Hickman pleaded guilty to the charges. Magistrate Dunn, in the Wodonga Magistrates’ Court, convicted Dr Hickman and imposed an 18-month community correction order with a number of treatment and rehabilitation conditions. He was also ordered to pay legal costs to Ahpra of $30,000.
This is the second time that Ahpra has prosecuted Dr Hickman for offences under the National Law. Dr Hickman was working in both Victoria and New South Wales in 2019. Ahpra investigated his activities in both states and separate prosecutions were brought in each state in relation to the offences committed in each. On 4 February 2021, Dr Hickman was convicted and fined by the Local Court of Albury for holding himself out as a psychologist in New South Wales during March 2019. He was fined $20,000 in those proceedings.
Ahpra CEO Martin Fletcher said the court outcome demonstrated Ahpra and the Board’s work to protect health consumers across Australia.
‘Claiming to be a registered psychologist when your registration has been suspended is a gross violation of the National Law and the public’s trust. Ahpra will continue to take all available steps to protect the public including where necessary in multiple jurisdictions.’
Psychology Board of Australia Chair Rachel Phillips said: ‘Psychologists play an important and trusted role in our communities and maintaining that trust is a crucial job of the Board. Anyone who disregards the National Law, including using the term ‘psychologist’ when they are not registered, is disregarding public safety and it will not be tolerated’.
‘This is a positive outcome for the Board and we hope it will act as a deterrent to others,’ Ms Phillips said. This case also demonstrates the importance 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.
1 The Health Practitioner Regulation National Law, as in force in each state and territory (the National Law).