Prison psychologist sacked for sex with murderer
A young female psychologist has been struck off for having a sexual relationship with a convicted murderer she was treating in jail and falsifying official records to cover it up.
Bobbie Maree Bergmeier met the inmate - known for legal reasons as Client A - when she began working as an intern psychologist at the Junee Correctional Centre in April 2010.
Client A was serving a 21-year-sentence for murder and malicious wounding and had been in jail since he was 18.
Bergmeier and Client A met monthly as part of her work with prisoners managed by the serious offenders review council (SORC). About April 2011 Bergmeier and Client A began having intimate telephone conversations which became sexualised.
The Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) alleged Bergmeier told Client A she "loved him and couldn't wait to be with him", "she missed him and never had a best friend like him", "that he was sexy and she wanted him forever", "she was having a house built for both of them" and "she wanted to start a family with him''.
On Wednesday, the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal found Bergmeier used "forethought, planning and subterfuge" to conceal the relationship from her colleagues and supervisors and "flaunted the security system for the purpose of her own personal gratification".
She used a colleague's password to enter false information into Client A's case notes and altered the SORC allocation list to falsely show another psychologist as Client A's treating practitioner.
She also used the false name Briony Watts to take about 300 Skype calls from him during the time she worked at the prison.
She resigned from the job in August 2011 but continued to stay in contact with him, visiting him at Mannus Correctional Centre, having close, personal relationships with his family and friends, and applying to be his sponsor for weekend and day leave.
She continues to be in a relationship with Client A, who was paroled in March this year and lives with Ms Bergmeier's mother. She is working as a behaviour support practitioner at the Mercy Centre and is studying to be a primary school teacher.
The tribunal reprimanded Bergmeier in the strongest possible terms, cancelled her registration as a psychologist and banned her from providing health services in both the public and private sectors.
Although Client A was serving time for murder, he had been in jail all of his adult life and was "needy and dependent and psychologically vulnerable", the tribunal heard.
In addition to being a "serious violation of professional boundaries", Bergmeier had been "unmindful or insensitive to the consequences of her actions for Client A", who had had no opportunity to develop relationships outside prison.
Bergmeier said she accepted responsibility for her actions and acknowledged her wrongdoing.
However, the HCCC told the tribunal her decision to maintain her relationship with Client A despite the ramifications for her professional career "indicates an ongoing decision to prioritise her personal relationship over her professional obligations".
Bergmeier graduated from the University of Western Sydney with a bachelor of psychology in 2008. She became a registered psychologist in April 2011, about the time she said the relationship with Client A became personal.
Sydney Morning Herald