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What does AHPRA / Medical Board of Australia look at with criminal charges against practitioners?

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There is an obligation for a registered health practitioner to notify the National Board for their profession (e.g. medical, dental, pharmacy etc) within 7 days of being charged with a criminal offence which is punishable by 12 months of imprisonment or more. Many criminal offences carry penalties punishable by 12 months imprisonment or more. As an example, a common assault is punishable by imprisonment to a maximum of 2 years.

A criminal charge can end in a number of ways including but not limited to:

  • a withdrawal of the charge by the police and/or prosecuting authority;
  • a downgrading of the charge;
  • an upgrading of the charge;
  • removal of charges;
  • addition of charges;
  • a charge being dismissed and diverted;
  • a charge being dismissed;
  • a finding of guilt with no conviction;
  • a finding of guilt with conviction.

How the relevant board will assess the criminal charge is influenced by the following factors.

  1. The nature and gravity of the offence.
  2. The period of time since the offence was committed.
  3. Whether a finding of guilt or a conviction was recorded for the offence.
  4. The sentence imposed for the offence.
  5. The age of the medical practitioner.
  6. The age of the victim.
  7. Whether or not the conduct that constituted the offence has since been decriminalised.
  8. The health practitioner’s actions after the offence.
  9. The likelihood of a future threat to the victim.
  10. Supplementary material provided by the health practitioner.

The more serious the offence, the more likely this is to impact upon the registration of the health practitioner. Offences committed recently are more likely to have an effect on a health practitioner’s registration than historical offences. How the court deals with the matter can influence how the board considers the criminal offending to be relevant, in order of importance:

  • convictions;
  • findings of guilt;
  • pending charges;
  • non conviction charges.

If a health practitioner is young, this may be a mitigating factor when considering the health practitioner’s registration. If the victim of the offence is a child, this can also have a higher bearing on whether a health practitioner is suitable for continued registration. If the criminal offence is no longer a criminal offence in law (e.g. homosexuality), then the board may place little to no weight on the offence committed. How the medical practitioner acted after the offence can have an influence on how the board views the offending. Whilst in many occupations, the spent convictions scheme operates to not require the disclosure of certain historical criminal offences, health practitioner law is exempted from the spent convictions scheme.

If you have been charged with a criminal offence and are concerned about the impact upon your upcoming or continuing health practitioner registration with AHPRA, please contact us now to ensure that you obtain the best outcome 02 8207 9949.


* Information contained in this article is of a general nature only and should not be relied upon as concise legal advice.
Please contact us for legal advice tailored to your situation. *


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About Brian Walker

B.Acc., GradDipLegPrac, Juris Dr Barrister & Accountant. Former Criminal Defence Solicitor. Former Federal Prosecutor for the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions prosecuting Commonwealth crimes relating to drugs and child exploitation. Former Australian Federal Police member litigating proceeds of crime matters. Former Australian Taxation Office employee investigating offshore tax evasion matters.

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