Dentist does worse on appeal to VCAT than before the Dental Practice Board

In Von S v Dental Practice Board [2008] VCAT 2302, a dentist sought merits review in VCAT of a decision of the Dental Practice Board to suspend his registration for 3 months.  He had practised for two and a half months without being registered (a crime punishable by a maximum fine of $11,000), practised without insurance for 20 months, and been uncooperative when the Board sought to investigate him by failing to respond to letters, and then breaking a promise to see a psychologist and provide a report.

Each of those three acts earnt him a suspension of registration for 1 month at the hands of Judge Ross on review, effectively affirming the Board’s decision and rejecting the Board’s solicitor advocate’s submission that a suspension of 2-3 months was justified by each of the three matters.  Judge Ross found that each matter amounted to ‘misconduct of a serious nature’ rather than ‘misconduct not of a serious nature’.  But Judge Ross added a reprimand and a fine of $2,500 for practising without insurance (‘the most serious of the matters’) and a fine of $1,500 for his failure to respond to the Board. It is interesting that the period of unqualified practice  was regarded as less serious than the failure to cooperate.  All that was in the context of the 74 year old dentist having an otherwise unblemished record, intending to work only until the end of next year, and having cooperated fully once he was actually prosecuted, admitting all of the conduct against him, and consenting to a statement of agreed facts.

Judge Ross specifically found that specific deterrence was an irrelevant consideration, and the disposition was justifed exclusively by reference to general deterrence.

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