ACT News

Catholic psychologist banned from practising due to views on homosexual relationships

A Catholic psychologist is now banned from practising until further notice because of his public statements opposed to homosexual relationships.

The long-running case has demonstrated how practitioners can have their careers cut short if they make controversial statements in public.

Philip Pocock's case is one of the rare occasions when the nation's medical watchdog has suspended a practitioner without any complaints received by patients.

The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency restricts health professionals to protect the public. 

The 58-year-old Canberra man had been working under severe restrictions put in place last year by the Psychology Board - which sits under AHPRA - but  records show he has now been shut down at least temporarily while the board assesses professional reports about him.

Part of his earlier restrictions imposed by the board included further education and an assessment by a psychiatrist. On Wednesday Mr Pocock said this was like being sent to a gulag for reindoctrination.

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He said he was considering leaving the profession because he did not want his free speech curtailed.

"I said I'll resign my registration because I feel I've got the right to make public statements," Mr Pocock said.

"I've never actually proselytized to patients but I do proselytize generally.

"I explain my position if [patients] want to hear it. [The Psychology Board] is saying you can't make public statements as a psychologist.

"They're saying you're bringing the reputation of psychology into disrepute because 95 per cent of us support homosexuality or don't believe in god."

Complaints about Mr Pocock came from within the profession following the 2013 ACT election when he unsuccessfully attempted to become an MLA. 

He said he was aware many people thought his views were extreme. He has called for laws against gay sex and for the legal right to discriminate against gays, lesbians and bisexuals.

In the media he said sodomy and masturbation were destructive distortions of sexuality, that adultery by a wife destroyed the sexual relationship between husband and wife in a way that could not be remedied by counselling.

In August the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal ruled Mr Pocock could not have his public utterances regarded as "personal views" if they were accompanied by declarations he was a psychologist.

The tribunal ruled Mr Pocock was entitled to reasonable expression of his religious faith in the course of his clinical practise "though where such faith led to constraints on standard practise it was appropriate to advise patients in advance of such limitations, or if they arose in the midst of a clinical encounter, to ensure continuity of care by appropriate referral".

ACAT's decision said there were considerable perils facing a tribunal too ready to make adverse inferences about clinical practise from a registered professional's public utterances.

It also said it was reasonably foreseeable that the public statements made by Mr Pocock would cause offence and or harm to vulnerable persons and that this would be exacerbated by his position and status as a registered psychologist.

An additional statement made by one of the presiding members at ACAT said: "[Mr Pocock] appeared to struggle to separate his religious and biological-scientific views from accepted psychology practise. He also demonstrated little appreciation of his obligations as a psychologist under the (practitioner's) code, or of the terms of the code itself".

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