Katie Holland is the Rotorua Daily Post deputy editor

GP convicted of false travel insurance claim

A Rotorua GP has been convicted of making a false travel insurance claim after he was caught out by a private investigator.

Dr Peter Jacob Adams, 36, appeared in the Rotorua District Court this week after previously pleading guilty to attempting to obtain cash by deception - a charge carrying a maximum penalty of 3 years imprisonment. Adams was convicted and discharged and ordered to pay $500 costs.

Adams, a GP at Rotorua Medical Group's Central Health clinic on Amohia St, will now face a conduct investigation by the Medical Council of New Zealand.

Judge Maree Mackenzie said Adams did not receive any money, because the travel insurance company became suspicious and instructed a private investigator.

She said the January 2012 claim was identical to a claim Adams made in 2009, listing many of the same items including two rings.

She said when questioned Adams gave the insurance company a "convoluted story" to explain the similarities, however, the company rejected the claim and notified police.

Insolvency Office records show Adams was declared bankrupt in December 2009, his bankruptcy ending last month.

Yesterday, Adams' lawyer Harry Edward requested his client be discharged without conviction, arguing the consequences of a conviction - including potentially losing his job - outweighed the seriousness of the crime.

Judge Mackenzie rejected that, saying the offence was serious and Adams' actions had been "premeditated and deceptive".

"The only real inference that can be taken from your actions is that you either fabricated the entire claim or embellished a genuine claim," she told Adams.

"This sort of fraud potentially has a flow-on effect on other people in New Zealand who take out insurance."

Mitigating factors were his early guilty plea and good character and important role in the community, she said. Adams had no previous convictions.

Judge Mackenzie said under Adams' employment contract a dishonesty conviction may lead to dismissal, however that appeared to be discretionary.

She said there was a public interest in the Medical Council knowing of the conviction and making its own mind up whether to take any action.

"It does not follow that the Medical Council would de-register you," she said, acknowledging patient safety was not an issue.

However, Judge Mackenzie did not impose a further penalty on Adams, apart from an order to pay costs. "The fact of conviction will be a significant penalty in and of itself," she said. "That is not special treatment, I stress, it's simply a matter of reality in the circumstances."

Judge Mackenzie also lifted the interim name suppression order.

Medical Council spokesman George Symmes said district courts were required to inform the council when a doctor was convicted of a crime.

He said Adams' case would be automatically referred to a professional conduct committee. He said in conduct matters there were several possible outcomes including rehabilitation of the doctor, conditions on the doctor's scope of practice or no further action.

The Rotorua Medical Group did not return The Daily Post's call.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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