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Man convicted for claiming to be a physiotherapist

20 November 2009

Media Release

British migrant convicted for claiming to be a physiotherapist

The Auckland District Court has ordered British migrant Jonathon Steven Mann to pay $900 in fines for 17 counts of misrepresenting himself as an osteopath and physiotherapist during an 18-month period when he treated unsuspecting patients around Auckland.

Mann had pleaded guilty to all charges.

The Ministry of Health launched an investigation after receiving a complaint in July 2008 from the Registrar of the Physiotherapy Board. Following that investigation, the Ministry laid 17 charges against Mann for falsely describing himself as a physiotherapist, a chiropractor and an osteopath, telling clients he was registered as a physiotherapist in New Zealand, and for performing activities which can only be carried out by qualified practitioners under the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003 (HPCA Act).

The Ministry’s investigation found that Mann was not registered or qualified to be registered either as an osteopath or a physiotherapist. Without being qualified or registered between January 2007 and July 2008, Mann performed high velocity low amplitude manipulation of the lower spine ("HVLA manipulation") on clients, which is an activity restricted to qualified physiotherapists. There is a significant risk of permanent injury or death if HVLA manipulation is applied incorrectly.

The Ministry's expert witness noted that “for an unqualified person to hold themselves out as a qualified and registered physiotherapist and to practice physiotherapy on patients presents obvious risks to the health and safety of those patients.”

The Ministry's Chief Legal Advisor Phil Knipe said the Court, in a sentence handed down yesterday, made it clear that the size of the fine was decided in consideration of Mann's present financial circumstances and did not equate to the seriousness of his offence.

"The Court also acknowledged that the purpose of the system of registration for health practitioners was to protect the public and ensure a high standard of health care," he said.

Mr Knipe said that by posing as a physiotherapist and performing the restricted activity, Mann breached sections 7 and 9 of the HPCA Act.

The Act prohibits any unregistered or unqualified person from claiming to be a health practitioner.  A breach of section 7 of the Act, which prohibits persons from making false claims of being a health practitioner, can draw a fine of up to $10,000. Persons carrying out restricted activities, which is prohibited by section 9 of the Act, can be fined up to $30,000.

“There are obvious risks to health and safety in dealing with unqualified and unlicensed persons who claim to be health practitioners,” Mr Knipe noted.  


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