ACT News

Psychologist Philip Pocock's anti-gay crusade hits a legal hurdle

A Canberra psychologist has lost his legal bid for the freedom to call for the criminalisation of gay sex and to legalise discrimination against gays and lesbians.

Philip Pocock, sanctioned by medical authorities for his views on homosexuality, has lost his appeal against the decision of the Psychology Board of Australia to impose strict conditions on his license after he went public with his controversial views.

The ACT Civil and Administrative Appeals Tribunal (ACAT) has also ordered that Mr Pocock take down his posts on YouTube, shut down his Psychology and the Body website and remove a page called Sex and Marriage from his professional website.

The psychologist, described by the tribunal as a “strong adherent to the Roman Catholic faith” says he is the victim of a "ridiculous" witch hunt by an incompetent medical board that has denied his right to free speech.

But the tribunal ruled Mr Pocock could not have his public utterances regarded as “personal views” if they were accompanied by declarations that he was a psychologist.

Mr Pocock shot to internet fame in 2012, when he was standing in an ACT local election, for calling for laws against gay sex and for the legal right to discriminate against gays, lesbians and bisexuals.

In the aftermath of the publicity, the ACT and national medical authorities received 19 complaints from members of the public, mostly alleging the former public servant had brought the psychological profession into disrepute.

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As part of his election campaign for a seat in the territory's Legislative Assembly in 2012, Mr Pocock declared that "a true union only occurs in heterosexual vaginal intercourse and homosexual unions not only deserve no special rights but must be seen as ... destructive behaviours that should be actively discouraged".

"I believe sodomy of man or woman should be regarded as a criminal offence and while people do not have the right to go 'poofter bashing', to use colloquial language, they should have the right to discriminate in terms of employment, accommodation, etc, as they do in dealing with drug addicts, etc."

Mr Pocock won 651 votes in the election.

After investigating the complaints, the Psychological Board of Australia imposed strict conditions on Mr Pocock's licence to practice, forcing him to submit to a regime of supervision from another practitioner for 12 months.

Dismissing Mr Pocock’s appeal against the sanctions, tribunal member Tom Faunce noted Mr Pocock’s right to freedom of expression, as a member of a profession, was not absolute.

“As a registered psychologist, the applicant is not completely free to express any or all personal opinions held by him, either in public or in the context of his provision of professional services,” Dr Faunce wrote.

“Registered psychologists…should appreciate that the welfare of patients and the public and the standing of the profession, take precedence over a psychologist’s self-interest” and “take reasonable steps to prevent harm occurring as a result of their conduct.”

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