On 31 January 2017 the State Administrative Tribunal handed down its initial decision finding that the Doctor’s conduct in relation to a Patient constituted a serious breach of professional boundaries and sexual misconduct. In addition, the Tribunal found that the Doctor’s misleading medical notes on the Patient and his prolonged course of conduct between 18 November 2013 and 15 April 2015, including statements he made to the Western Australian Police, the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency and the Board, demonstrated serious, active and continuing dishonesty.

The Tribunal determined that the appropriate sanctions included cancellation of the Doctor’s registration with an order disqualifying him from reapplying for registration as a medical practitioner for a period of five years.

In July 2018, the Doctor successfully appealed the Tribunal’s decision on the ground that he had been denied procedural fairness because the Tribunal had regard to material outside of an agreed statement of facts.

The matter was referred back to a differently constituted Tribunal for redetermination on the issue of penalty, including whether the Doctor’s registration should be cancelled and, if so, the period for which he should be disqualified from applying for registration as a medical practitioner. The Tribunal also had to determine the Board’s application for costs in the proceedings.

Ultimately, the Tribunal determined that the appropriate penalty was to reprimand the Doctor and cancel his registration. The Tribunal disqualified the Doctor from applying for registration for a period of four years, to commence from the date of the Tribunal’s original decision. In reaching this conclusion, the Tribunal considered matters including the seriousness of the Doctor’s conduct, his insight and personal circumstances, as well as protection of the public.

The Tribunal did not give any weight to the Doctor’s expressions of insight and remorse in the context of the penalty to be applied, nor did it consider the Doctor’s personal circumstances to have any bearing on its decision. Rather, the Tribunal took into consideration that the dominant purpose of the disciplinary regulation of the medical profession is the protection of the public, which includes the maintenance of proper standards within the profession.  The Tribunal was of the view that the penalty will act as a deterrence to the Doctor from repeating this type of conduct and will also deter other practitioners from engaging in misconduct of this nature.

In relation to costs, the Tribunal ordered the Doctor to pay the Board’s costs of the proceedings up until 31 J.anuary 2017 (the date of the original Tribunal decision) in the sum of $55,000.

To read the decision in Medical Board of Australia v Lal [2019] WASAT 13, click here.