Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency - Fake psychologist fined after Ahpra prosecution
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Fake psychologist fined after Ahpra prosecution

31 Jul 2023

An Adelaide woman who falsely claimed she was a registered psychologist in two applications for employment was today fined after pleading guilty in the Adelaide Magistrates Court.  

Key points
  • Unregistered Adelaide woman pleaded guilty to holding herself out as a registered psychologist.
  • Fined $4,200 by Magistrates Court of South Australia.
  • Charges laid by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra).

The woman, who is not named in order to avoid confusion with a registered practitioner of the same name, has never been registered as a psychologist in Australia.

On 4 January 2021 and again on 22 May 2021, the woman applied for an advertised position as a registered psychologist with a telehealth service which provides video and telephone psychology consultations. In each application she falsely claimed that she was a registered psychologist.

The woman was offered a position with the service and on 3 September 2021 she again incorrectly stated on employment forms that she was registered to practise as a psychologist. The false claims were discovered and Ahpra was notified before she started employment. She did not undertake any consultations for the service. 

Ahpra and the Psychology Board of Australia work together to protect the public by ensuring that only registered health practitioners who are suitably qualified and fit to practise can claim to be registered or qualified to practise.

Ahpra charged the woman with holding herself out as being registered in breach of section 116 of the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (the National Law).

She pleaded guilty on 25 July 2023 at the Adelaide Magistrates Court. 

Today the woman was fined $4,200.  She was also ordered to pay Ahpra’s legal costs of $1,276.

Magistrate Fotheringham  noted that the woman was unlikely to reoffend, but that ‘the primary purpose of sentencing is the protection of the public.  This is also the primary purpose of the National Law… sentencing needs to demonstrate the importance of regulation schemes that promote public safety.’  

Ahpra CEO, Martin Fletcher, said: ‘It is imperative we send a strong message that it is never okay to pretend to be a registered health practitioner when you are not. This type of action poses a risk to the public and we will not hesitate to take action.’

Rachel Phillips, Chair, Psychology Board of Australia, said: ‘This situation really highlights the importance of employers checking the public register and also verifying the identity of prospective employees. Although it may seem unlikely that a person would lie on a job application and try to falsely represent themselves as a registered psychologist, it does happen.’

Ahpra keeps a public register of every health practitioner who is registered to practise in Australia in the 16 health professions regulated under the National Law. Employers are encouraged to check the register online to verify the identity and registration of their staff before they start work, and regularly throughout employment to ensure their staff maintain their registration.

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Page reviewed 31/07/2023