20 Aug 2021
A tribunal has suspended a general practitioner for three months for professional misconduct after he was convicted in 2017 of sexually assaulting a friend after a night of heavy drinking.
The assault took place in July 2015 after Dr Juviraj Arulanandarajah had returned home after a social function celebrating his birthday. During the evening it was estimated that Dr Arulanandarajah had consumed 17 alcoholic drinks.
Dr Arulanandarajah was charged with three counts of sexual assault in September 2016, pleading guilty in the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria to one rolled up charge of sexual assault in February 2017. He admitted the charges though claimed to have no recollection of the assault. He was convicted and sentenced to an 18-month community corrections order, 100 hours of community work, and received treatment and rehabilitation orders for alcohol abuse.
After his conviction the Medical Board of Australia (the Board) referred the matter to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (the tribunal) in October 2017. The Board sought to cancel his registration as a medical practitioner and disqualify him from re-applying for three years, alleging his conduct amounted to professional misconduct and unprofessional conduct as defined by the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (National Law).
The National Law definition of professional misconduct includes ‘conduct of the practitioner whether occurring in connection with the practice of the health practitioner’s profession or not, that is inconsistent with the practitioner being a fit and proper person to hold registration in the profession.’
Dr Arulanandarajah accepted the alleged conduct had been proven, though contended he had engaged in personal rather than professional misconduct. It was argued his behaviour represented a one-off incident when viewed in the context of his career, with the practitioner receiving a number of supportive professional references.
The tribunal found he had in fact engaged in professional misconduct under definitions (a) and (c) of the National Law, and in its finding noted the significant effects of his assault on the victim. This included her resulting Post-traumatic stress disorder, major depression, separation from her husband and isolation from friends.
By way of mitigation, the tribunal heard Dr Arulanandarajah had moved to Kalgoorlie in Western Australia in late 2017 and has since made significant changes to his lifestyle. This included working day rather than night shifts and significantly reducing his alcohol intake. He was also involved in contributing to a mental health support network for other doctors.
Dr Arulanandarajah worked in an area of high demand for doctors with mental health, poverty, domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse prevalent. More than five years have passed since his offending and there was no suggestion Dr Arulanandarajah presented a risk to patients or colleagues in a professional setting.
The tribunal noted he acted quickly to report the charges against him to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency. He had no prior adverse findings against him and had acted to eliminate the stress factors that affected him at the time of his offending. He was therefore considered at a low probability of reoffending.
The tribunal reprimanded Dr Arulanandarajah and imposed a suspension of his registration for three months from 22 February 2021.
The decision is available on the Austlii website.