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Psychologist wannabe cops $20,000 fine for dud claim

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A woman has been fined $20,000 for falsely claiming to be a psychologist, in the first case to be mounted under recently enacted laws aimed at protecting the integrity of health profession titles.

The Magistrates Court of Western Australia imposed the $20,000 penalty on Jayne Walton of Western Australia after she pleaded guilty to using the title of psychologist and claiming to be a registered psychologist, even though she had not be registered for a number of years.

Ms Walton was prosecuted by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) under the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law, which has been adopted by all states and territories to establish uniform country-wide regulation of health professionals.

The judgement was welcomed by regulators as a win for the protection of patients and registered practitioners.

“This successful prosecution will further strengthen protection of the public for clients of psychological services,” said Psychology Boar of Australia Chair Professor Brin Grenyer. “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.”

AHPRA Chief Executive Officer Martin Fletcher said the successful prosecution was an important result in protecting the integrity of the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme, which regulates 605,000 practitioners across 14 professions.

“Registration of health practitioners is a key element of protecting the public under the National Law,” Mr Fletcher said, adding that the details of all registered health practitioners can be easily checked by visiting www.ahpra.gov.au.

Mr Fletcher said that if a practitioner did not appear on the list then they were not registered to practise.

Almost 40 practitioner titles covering 14 professions are protected under the National Law, including medical practitioner, nurse, optometrist, pharmacist, physiotherapist, podiatrist, psychologist, radiographer, dentist, chiropractor, Chinese medicine practitioner and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health practitioner.

Individuals found in breach of the Law are liable for fines of up to $30,000, while the maximum penalty for corporations is $60,000.

Adrian Rollins