05 Apr 2019
A New South Wales court has convicted a counsellor, Mr David Citer, of claiming to be a registered psychologist and unlawfully using the protected title ‘psychologist’.
The court fined Mr Citer $25,000.
Mr Citer has never held registration as a registered health practitioner or student under the National Law with any National Board.
Mr Citer was previously convicted of a similar offence against the National Law. In May 2018, he was convicted of knowingly or recklessly using a title or word in an email that indicated he was authorised or qualified to practise as a psychologist. He was also convicted of providing information to an inspector of the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) that was false or misleading. As a result he was fined $9,500 and ordered to pay legal costs to AHPRA of $5,000.
In November 2018 AHPRA filed charges in the Local Court of New South Wales against Mr Citer alleging that he used the protected title ‘psychologist’ and made claims that he was authorised or qualified to practise in the profession of psychology, while not holding registration with the Psychology Board of Australia (the Board).
It was alleged that Mr Citer had attended the Hornsby Ku-ring-Gai Hospital with a minor (the patient) and introduced himself to hospital staff as her psychologist. Separately, it was alleged that Mr Citer engaged in instant messages with the patient in which he used words that could reasonably have been understood to indicate that he was a psychologist. All of this conduct was alleged to have occurred after Mr Citer’s previous conviction.
On 6 March 2019, Mr Citer pleaded guilty to AHPRA’s charges. On 5 April 2019, Magistrate Darcy convicted Mr Citer and imposed an aggregate fine of $25,000. He was ordered to pay legal costs to AHPRA of $15,200.
At sentencing, the court noted that Mr Citer’s offending occurred only two weeks after his previous conviction. Although Mr Citer had closed his counselling practice, there was a need for specific deterrence as it remained open to him to resume his practice in the future. There was a need to protect the community and denounce Mr Citer’s conduct in recognition of his breach of trust and the hardship he caused to his patient.
AHPRA CEO Martin Fletcher welcomed the conviction which he said serves as a warning to anyone pretending to be a registered health practitioner.
‘If people continue to make false claims to be registered, we will continue to take action to protect the public,’ Mr Fletcher said. ‘Before anyone seeks treatment they should check the national online register to make sure they are seeing a registered health practitioner.’
Psychology Board of Australia Chair Rachel Phillips said the conviction highlights to the community the importance of registration.
‘Registration shows that practitioners have the skills and qualifications to provide safe care and psychological services to the Australian community,” Ms Phillips said. ‘Today’s outcome demonstrates our commitment to ensuring that only those who meet the Board’s high standards can hold the title ‘psychologist’.’
Anyone with concerns about whether an individual holds registration with a national health profession board can check the register of practitioners maintained by AHPRA online (www.ahpra.gov.au) or contact AHPRA on 1300 419 495.