Impact of Criminal Matters in AHPRA Registrations

Medical and other health practitioners are regulated by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) which regulates over 800,000 health practitioners across Australia by working together with numerous health practitioner national boards. The primary aim of AHPRA is to ensure the health and safety of the public by ensuring that only registered health practitioners who are suitably trained and qualified in their chosen medical or other health related field can practise.  As with many professions, medical and other health professionals are subject to stringent character and ethical requirements. Criminal conduct is one of many factors which can adversely impact a practitioner’s ability to either become registered or maintain their registration with AHPRA. Instances arise where a medical or other health professional may be facing a criminal charge or have been convicted of a criminal charge. This article examines the potential impacts of criminal matters in AHPRA registrations.

I am facing a criminal charge. What is the impact of criminal matters in AHPRA registrations?

Merely because a health practitioner has been alleged to have committed a criminal offence or has been found to have committed a criminal offence, this does not automatically mean that the practitioner’s career as a medical or other health professional is all but over. In deciding whether a health practitioner’s criminal history is relevant to their ability to practise in their chosen field, the Board considers a number of factors when determining criminal matters in AHPRA registrations. It is important to note that each of these factors are not set out in respect of their priority and the weight to be given to each of the below considerations will vary from case to case.

1. The nature and seriousness of the offence or alleged offence and its relevance to health practise.

The more serious the charge and/or the greater its relevance to a practitioner’s practise, the greater the weight the Board will place on the matter. For example, the Board is likely to place far more emphasis on an assault on a client or patient than an assault on another person when determining whether a practitioner’s registration can commence or continue.

2. The period of time since the health practitioner committed, or allegedly committed the offence.

An offence which occurred more recently is likely to attract greater consideration than an offence which occurred many years ago.

3. Whether a finding of guilt or a conviction was recorded for the offence or whether the charge is still pending.

This is often an important consideration. Assessing the relevance of any information on a practitioner’s criminal history, the Board considers:

  1. Whether a conviction was recorded.
  2. Whether there was a finding of guilt.
  3. Whether the charge/s are pending.
  4. Charges dealt with other than by way of a finding of guilt or conviction.

4. The sentence imposed for the offence.

The Board will consider the sentence which was imposed for the offence. For example, an offence dealt with without a conviction being recorded is likely to have far less weight than one in which the practitioner was sentenced to a term of imprisonment.

5. The ages of the health practitioner and of any victim at the time the health practitioner committed, or allegedly committed the offence.

The Board is likely to place less weight on an offence committed whilst a practitioner was young or even a juvenile. The Board is likely to place more weight to offences against children and other young persons, or to vulnerable victims, such as the disabled or elderly.

6. Whether the conduct which constituted the offence has since been decriminalised since the health practitioner committed, or allegedly committed the offence.

The Board is likely to place little to no weight on offences committed or allegedly committed by a practitioner which have subsequently been decriminalised.

7. The health practitioner’s behaviour since he or she committed, or allegedly committed the offence.

This is often an important consideration by the Board. A practitioner who, whilst having committed an offence, is able to demonstrate a course of good behaviour and rehabilitative steps to address any underlying issues giving rise to any criminal conduct, may result in the Board favourably determining a practitioner’s registration. A pattern of conduct, or re-offending on the other hand is likely to result in adverse findings by the Board in respect of a practitioner’s registration.

8. The likelihood of a threat to a patient of the practitioner.

Given the primary focus on the health and safety of the public. Any information or indication that a practitioner may present as a threat to a patient will be given significant weight by the Board.

9. Any information given by the health practitioner.

Information given by a health practitioner is very important. There are instances where there are extenuating or other reasons which were prevalent around the time of the offending conduct. Such explanations can be very important in determining what weight the Board should attribute to the conduct.

10. Any other matter that the Board considers relevant.

The Board may consider any other matter it considers relevant to the application or notification.

Are medical practitioners required to undergo criminal records checks?

Medical and other professionals seeking registration with AHPRA must undergo a criminal history check to disclose any criminal matters in AHPRA registrations. Criminal history checks help to ensure that only practitioners who are suitable and safe to practise are registered. Practitioners must declare their criminal history in all countries, including Australia.

Are medical practitioners required to disclose criminal matters in AHPRA registrations?

Medical and other health practitioners are required to disclose any changes to their criminal history when they renew their registration each year. All registered health practitioners must inform their respective National Board if they are charged with an offence punishable by 12 months imprisonment or more or convicted or found guilty of an offence punishable by imprisonment in Australia and/or overseas.

I am a medical practitioner facing a criminal charge. What do I do?

Being charged with a criminal offence can result in significant ramifications on a practitioner’s registration. Given the character requirements which must be satisfied, a criminal matter may result in conditions being imposed on a practitioner’s registration or even result in a practitioner’s registration being cancelled or refused. It is very common for health practitioners who have been charged with criminal offences to feel anxious about their future, with concerns as to one’s career potentially being at stake looming large. It is important to seek advice and representation from an experienced criminal defence lawyer to assess the best manner to approach your case. Criminal allegations may not be capable of being proved or defences may be applicable in the circumstances. Even if a practitioner pleads guilty or is found guilty of an offence, there are significant factors which can be highlighted to a court when considering sentence and such factors may also be equally as important in any submission for the Board’s determination in respect of a practitioner’s registration with respect to a disclosure of criminal matters in AHPRA registrations.

Why Choose Australian Lawyers and Advocates?

If you are facing an investigation pertaining to criminal conduct or criminal charges arising out of a criminal law or traffic law matter, our team of expert defence criminal and traffic lawyers in Sydney can help. We will carefully consider your case and provide expert advice on your options. We can also assist with any submissions to be made in support of your registration.

Our team of expert criminal and traffic defence lawyers in Sydney have a proven track record of securing successful outcomes for our clients in criminal law matters. Our results speak for themselves.

If you require expert representation in a criminal or traffic law matter, don’t delay. Contact our expert criminal defence lawyers in Sydney today.

The content contained within this guide is expressed as a general guide as to this area of law and is not intended to contain legal advice specific to an individual’s case. If you, or someone you know has been charged with a criminal offence and requires legal advice, do not hesitate to contact Australian Lawyers and Advocates to discuss any criminal law or traffic law matters further.

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