Jail and hefty fines for fake practitioners


Tuesday, 02 July, 2019


Jail and hefty fines for fake practitioners

The penalties for people pretending to be registered health practitioners have just got tougher. 

New amendments mean that offenders will be faced with the possibility of a maximum term of three years imprisonment per offence. They also face an increase in the maximum fines from $30,000 to $60,000 per offence for an individual and from $60,000 to $120,000 per offence for a corporate entity.

AHPRA CEO Martin Fletcher said the strengthened sanctions better protect the public.

"All health ministers recognise that penalties need to be tougher for serious cases. When someone pretends to be a registered health practitioner, they pose a significant risk to the public," he said.

AHPRA has successfully prosecuted multiple cases where people were falsely claiming to be registered practitioners when they were not.

Raffaele Di Paolo was successfully prosecuted in two state courts (Victoria and Queensland) for offences under the National Law, including holding himself out as a medical practitioner and specialist health practitioner, when he was in fact a homeopath. He was fined more than $28,000. Criminal proceedings by the Department of Public Prosecutions in Victoria resulted in Di Paolo being sentenced to nine years and six months in jail.

Another high-profile case involved the successful 2017 prosecution of Shyam Acharya, who claimed to be UK-based doctor Dr Sarang Chitale. Acharya was convicted in a NSW Local Court and fined $30,000, and was ordered to pay AHPRA's legal costs of $22,000.

Other prosecutions have included people pretending to be physiotherapists, psychologists, dentists and pharmacists. A landmark case involved the conviction of fake nurse Nicholas Crawford, who was ordered to pay more than $40,000 for falsely claiming to be a registered nurse across two states, Queensland and Western Australia. 

"We have successfully completed more than 50 prosecutions for offences under the National Law since 2014. Fake practitioners betray the trust which patients place in them. We want to highlight these outcomes to inform consumers, and health practitioners, on what to watch out for," Fletcher added.

"The public can check the online register of practitioners to see if they are seeing a registered practitioner. The register can assure patients who are considering accessing care from a practitioner that the practitioner is qualified and required to meet national standards," he said.

Background

  • The amendments were passed in February 2019 by the Queensland Parliament under the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2019 (Qld).
  • The new offence provisions will apply in all states and territories, except Western Australia. The amendments to offence provisions do not apply to the advertising offences under the National Law.
  • Under the National Law, anyone who calls themselves any of the ‘protected titles’, such as ‘chiropractor’, ‘medical practitioner’ or ‘psychologist’, must be registered with the corresponding National Board.
  • It is an offence to use one of the protected titles, and it is also an offence to knowingly or recklessly claim to be a registered practitioner when you're not or use symbols or language that may lead a reasonable person to believe that an individual is a registered health practitioner or is qualified to practise in a health profession. These offences are known as 'holding out'.
     

Patients can check the online register of practitioners to see if they are seeing a registered practitioner. If you cannot find the practitioner on the register, think twice about going to see them and let AHPRA know on 1300 419 495.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/Alexander

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