Laura Hardaker - professional misconduct and disqualification

24 August 2020

The Health Care Complaints Commission prosecuted a complaint against Laura Hardaker, an occupational therapist, before the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal. Ms Hardaker was working at a hospital which had a specialist program for trauma recovery. Between 2016 – 2017, patient A was undergoing treatment in this program. On multiple occasions, Patient A was under the direct care of Ms Hardaker, in both group and individual therapeutic sessions. It was alleged that Ms Hardaker commenced a personal and later sexual relationship with Patient A while she was in a therapeutic relationship with him. The complaint also alleged that Ms Hardaker acted improperly or unethically in misleading her employer, the Commission and the Occupational Therapy Council of NSW when she denied the existence of the sexual relationship.

In its decision dated 1 April 2020, the Tribunal found that of the allegations were made out and that the conduct amounted to professional misconduct. The Tribunal found that “Ms Hardaker was clearly in a position of trust in which she was fully apprised of the patient’s complex circumstances and particular vulnerabilities. Her sexual relationship with the patient, while romanticised by her at the time, was an abuse of that trust and of her professional position of power.”

The Tribunal found that Ms Hardaker has demonstrated such very serious and sustained failures in her professional standards that it has no confidence they would not be repeated in the future. The Tribunal noted that the combination of the seriousness of the sexual misconduct and the dishonesty with regulators, should lead to the conclusion that this misconduct falls at the more serious end of the scale.

The Tribunal ordered that if Ms Hardaker were still registered it would have cancelled her registration and ordered that she be disqualified from applying for re-registration for a period of four years.

The full decision is available at NSW Caselaw.

Further Information

For further information, contact the Executive Officer of the Health Care Complaints Commission, on 9219 7444 or send an email to media@hccc.nsw.gov.au.

The information in this media release is correct at the time of publication. Orders may change; for example, conditions may no longer apply. For current information regarding the status of a registered health practitioner, including any conditions that currently apply, please check the National Register at www.ahpra.gov.au.

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