Error costs psychologist $26,000

By Mike Dinsdale

A Whangarei psychologist has been censured and ordered to pay more than $26,000 for professional misconduct after he disclosed confidential information about a former client during a family court case.

Leslie Hugh Gray has been found guilty of professional misconduct by the Professional Conduct Committee of the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal over a case from 2007.

Mr Gray, who has since retired, was last week ordered to pay $22,293 as 25 per cent of the costs of the investigation and prosecution and fined $4000. He was also censured and had conditions imposed on his practice for three years if he resumed his job and is required to complete the competence review.

He told the Northern Advocate his actions were more an error of judgment than misconduct.

"I acknowledge I made a mistake in not requesting time with the judge in chambers rather than giving information in court," he said.

Mr Gray said he had been an expert witness for more than 30 years but never had problems giving information in court. He's seeking advice on a possible appeal, especially the level of penalty and his actions being dubbed "misconduct".

The complaint arose out of interaction between Mr Gray and a Ms S, who has name suppression, during a custody dispute between Ms S' brother and sister-in-law. Ms S had been a patient of Mr Gray, who was the Family Court appointed psychological report writer in a custody dispute.

Ms S was supporting a Ms Y, her former sister-in-law, in the custody dispute and said she made it clear to Mr Gray that she could only talk to him if the information was kept confidential.

She said she did not recall Mr Gray telling her he would have to give the court information if requested to do so under cross examination and would only have given him very limited information if he had made this clear.

Mr Gray was clear that as a matter of practice he would have discussed with Ms S the fact that he might have to disclose their conversation and its contents if cross examined about it in Court.

Mr Gray said when he was questioned in the court about the conversation he assumed he had Ms S' consent as they came from Ms Y's lawyer and he didn't anticipate the lawyer "would push me under cross examination for details of the telephone interview."

The tribunal found that Mr Gray did divulge information, disclosed that Ms S had been a previous client and disclosed that Ms S had seen him for a trauma she had experienced.

- Northern Advocate

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