Convicted health professional keen to work

BEN HEATHER
Last updated 05:00 04/03/2014

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A health professional who repeatedly had sex with a teenage student staying at his home wants to return to work.

A Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal heard evidence yesterday that the man started sexually grooming the student within six weeks of her arrival.

Kate Feltham, counsel for the Professional Conduct Committee, said the man committed a variety of sex acts with the student over months, some of which were very degrading and involved sneaking into her bedroom as the rest of the household slept.

The student was isolated, with poor English, and the man deliberately obscured the relationship from her parents. Reading from the student's victim impact statement, Feltham said the student would never forgive the man for the "incredibly dirty" acts the pair performed.

"This was a young vulnerable victim and a significant abuse of power."

The man, who has been granted permanent name suppression, told the tribunal he felt like a "monster" when he considered his actions. "Thinking about what I've done makes me wonder sometimes who I even am," he said in an emotional statement.

His offending had occurred during a time of high stress. He convinced himself the student wanted to enter into a sexual relationship. As she became more distressed, he realised he had acted "very badly and taken advantage of her".

"I said that to her and that I was very, very sorry."

The woman later told another host family, and the matter was eventually referred to police.

The man was sentenced to nine months' home detention for his sexual offending in the High Court last July. He resigned from his job before sentencing.

The hearing before the tribunal is to determine what additional sanctions he should face for failing to meet professional standards and to protect the public.

Feltham argued the man's professional registration should be cancelled, preventing him from working in his profession until he had proven himself rehabilitated.

But the man's lawyer, Matthew McClelland, argued he should instead be suspended for only 10 months. He said the man was not at risk of reoffending and it would be in the public's interest if he was able to continue his work.

The man said he wanted to continue in his profession where possible. His wife also gave evidence, reading out thank you letters from his clients. "He has an outstanding and impeccable professional record and reputation."

The tribunal reserved its decision.

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- The Dominion Post

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