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Alleged professional misconduct by a physiotherapist dismissed by tribunal

28 Jun 2023

The State Administrative Tribunal (WA) (tribunal) has dismissed allegations of professional misconduct against a physiotherapist accused of sexually violating a patient and making inappropriate comments during an appointment.

Content warning: Some readers may find this article distressing. If you are experiencing distress, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 for confidential help.

The case was referred to the tribunal by the Physiotherapy Board of Australia, which alleged Mr Arash Tavakoli Shiraji had behaved in a way that constituted professional misconduct, or, alternatively, unprofessional conduct. Mr Shiraji denied the allegations.

In its decision on 4 April 2023, the tribunal said it was not satisfied to the requisite standard that Mr Shiraji committed sexual boundary violations against the female patient.

The tribunal found that, immediately following her appointment with Mr Shiraji on 26 August 2019, the patient was distressed and ‘did everything one might expect a young woman to do in the circumstances where she is or believes she has been sexually assaulted by another person’.

‘She was distressed and called her boyfriend, and without disclosing any details, she told him that the physiotherapist had been inappropriate…The patient cancelled the next physiotherapy appointment that had been scheduled; she went to the police and made a complaint, and reported Mr Shiraji to Ahpra. She also sought to have her personal details removed from the medical centre's records,’ the tribunal decision states.

The tribunal further concluded that it ‘seems unlikely that a young woman who finds it so difficult to speak of sexual matters, even to her boyfriend, to her trusted female confidante and to the tribunal, would simply make up an allegation which she would then be required to speak about in detail with the police, with Ahpra and, ultimately, the tribunal’.

However, the tribunal found that significant inconsistencies in the patient’s account ‘cause us to doubt the reliability of the patient's account of the events of 26 August 2019’.

The tribunal said it had ‘some reservations’ about Mr Shiraji's evidence that he had no idea what the words 'naughty girl' meant in a sexual context at the time but was unable to conclude that he was an untruthful witness.

In conclusion the tribunal said it was not satisfied that the Board had proved the allegations against Mr Shiraji to the requisite standard and the matter was dismissed.

The Physiotherapy Board of Australia takes these types of allegations very seriously and will continue to refer cases of concern to tribunal to protect the public.

Page reviewed 28/06/2023