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Queensland Judgments
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  • Unreported Judgment

Queensland College of Teachers v Mills

 

[2016] QCAT 60

CITATION:

Queensland College of Teachers v Mills [2016] QCAT 60

PARTIES:

Queensland College of Teachers

 

v

 

Kirsty Anne Mills

APPLICATION NUMBER:

OCR019-15

MATTER TYPE:

Occupational regulation matters

HEARING DATE:

On the papers

HEARD AT:

Brisbane 

DECISION OF:

Senior Member O’Callaghan, Presiding

Member Hughes

Member MacDonald

DELIVERED ON:

4 February 2016

DELIVERED AT:

Brisbane 

ORDERS MADE:

  1. Kirsty Anne Mills is reprimanded for committing the offence of unlawful stalking.

CATCHWORDS:

OCCUPATIONAL REGULATION – DISCIPLINARY PROCEEDINGS – CONVICTED OF NON-SERIOUS INDICTABLE OFFENCE – whether grounds for disciplinary action established – where Tribunal limited to determining disciplinary matter referred to it by Professional Practice and Conduct Committee – where teacher convicted of unlawful stalking with no conviction recorded – whether reprimand is appropriate sanction - where little remorse or insight into behaviour – where behaviour did not occur in capacity as teacher with student – where stalking was intimacy seeking rather than threats or acts of violence -  where not appropriate to impose sanction more onerous than relatively minor sanction imposed by Court in sentencing – where no evidence of similar behaviour before or since – where no evidence of risk of harm to children – where reprimand is appropriate as public professional censure of behaviour

Criminal Code 1899, s 359E

Education (Queensland College of Teachers) Act 2005, ss 3, 92, Schedule 3

Queensland College of Teachers v. Banyai [2013] QCAT 180

Queensland College of Teachers v. Genge [2011] QCAT 163

Queensland College of Teachers v. Hayes [2013] QCAT 657

Queensland College of Teachers v. Laver [2011] QCAT 499

Queensland College of Teachers v. Teacher EAJ [2014] QCAT 029

Queensland College of Teachers v. Teacher G [2015] QCAT 158

APPEARANCES and REPRESENTATION (if any):

This matter was heard and determined on the papers pursuant to section 32 of the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2009 (QCAT Act).

REASONS FOR DECISION

What is this Application about?

  1. [1]
    Ms Kirsty Mills is a registered teacher who has been convicted of unlawful stalking. Over a period of 15 months and despite police warnings, Ms Mills sent unrequited emails and text messages to her adult male sports instructor and attended locations he frequented.
  2. [2]
    The Queensland College of Teachers initially referred Ms Mills’ conduct to the Professional Practice and Conduct Committee. The Committee was concerned that Ms Mills may not be suitable to teach and referred the matter to the Tribunal. The Tribunal then ordered a health assessment at the request of the College.
  3. [3]
    Upon considering the health assessment, the College filed an Amended Referral withdrawing the contention that Ms Mills was not suitable to teach as a ground for disciplinary action. 
  4. [4]
    Because the College has withdrawn ‘not suitable to teach’ as a ground for disciplinary action, the Tribunal’s role is limited to determining the disciplinary matter referred to it:[1] that Ms Mills has been convicted of an indictable offence that is not a serious offence.[2]

Is there a ‘ground for disciplinary action’ against Ms Mills?

  1. [5]
    Ms Mills pleaded guilty to unlawful stalking on 5 September 2013. No conviction was recorded and she was fined $350 and consented to a restraining order.
  2. [6]
    Unlawful stalking is an indictable offence.[3] However, it is not defined as a ‘serious offence’.[4] We therefore find that Ms Mills has been convicted of an indictable offence that is not a serious offence.
  3. [7]
    Because of this, we find that a ground exists for disciplinary action.[5]

What is the appropriate sanction?

  1. [8]
    Although both the College and Ms Mills agreed that Ms Mills should be reprimanded, the Tribunal must still consider the circumstances and be satisfied of an appropriate sanction. However, the Tribunal should not depart from a jointly proposed sanction unless it falls outside the permissible range for the conduct, within the context of the particular circumstances.[6]
  2. [9]
    In considering an appropriate sanction, the Tribunal can consider the nature and context of the behaviour, the teacher’s insight into their behaviour and its impact on students and the community, actions to remedy their behaviour, their teaching history, seniority and any leadership roles they hold.[7]
  3. [10]
    The Tribunal is concerned that Ms Mills shows little remorse or insight into her behaviour. As recently as 11 August 2015, she maintained that she was the victim and minimised aspects of her behaviour.[8] This is contrary to the evidence, including her plea of guilty, the police brief and witness statements corroborating her victim’s complaint. Yet Ms Mills sought to transfer responsibility for her actions by accusing her victim of stalking, seeking to discredit his witnesses and accusing the police of bias in their investigations.
  4. [11]
    The Tribunal unequivocally admonishes Ms Mills for her behaviour. The Tribunal-ordered psychiatrist report notes that Ms Mills’ behaviour would have “caused alarm and distress to the complainant”.[9]
  1. [12]
    The purpose of these disciplinary proceedings is not to punish, but to protect children and the community.[10] The objects of the Act are to uphold the standards of the teaching profession, maintain public confidence in the teaching profession and protect the public.[11] It is significant that the stalking behaviour did not occur in Ms Mills’ capacity as a teacher with a student.
  2. [13]
    Despite Ms Mills’ unacceptable behaviour and limited insight into its impact, Ms Mills’ stalking was “intimacy seeking” rather than overt threats or acts of violence,[12] and this is reflected in her relatively minor sentence. The relatively minor sentence the Court imposed on her suggests it would not be appropriate for this Tribunal to impose a more onerous sanction upon her.[13]
  3. [14]
    Moreover, there is no evidence of Ms Mills engaging in any similar behaviour before or since, and the Tribunal-ordered psychiatrist report notes there is no evidence to suggest that Ms Mills represents a risk of harm to children.[14] She has complied with the restraining order.
  4. [15]
    Ms Mills is a relatively young lady with an otherwise promising future. She provided references attesting to her otherwise good character and abilities as a teacher.[15]
  5. [16]
    We are therefore satisfied that a reprimand is appropriate as public professional censure[16] of Ms Mills’ conduct as referred to the Tribunal.

What are the appropriate Orders?

  1. [17]
    The appropriate Order is therefore:
    1. Kirsty Anne Mills is reprimanded for committing the offence of unlawful stalking.

Footnotes

[1] Education (Queensland College of Teachers) Act 2005, s 123(4A)(b).

[2] Queensland College of Teachers Amended Referral dated 12 November 2015 and Education (Queensland College of Teachers) Act 2005, s 92(1)(b).

[3] Criminal Code 1899 (Qld), ss 3(3), 359E(1).

[4] Education (Queensland College of Teachers) Act 2005, Schedule 3.

[5] Education (Queensland College of Teachers) Act 2005, s 92(1)(b).

[6] Queensland College of Teachers v. Teacher G [2015] QCAT 158 at [3], citing with approval Queensland College of Teachers v. Hayes [2013] QCAT 657 at [13].

[7] Queensland College of Teachers v. Teacher EAJ [2014] QCAT 029 at [67].

[8] Report of Dr JG Reddan, Consultant Psychiatrist dated 18 August 2015 at p 10.

[9] Report of Dr JG Reddan, Consultant Psychiatrist dated 18 August 2015 at p 10.

[10] Queensland College of Teachers v. Genge [2011] QCAT 163 at [12]; Queensland

College of Teachers v. Banyai [2013] QCAT 180 at [21].

[11] Education (Queensland College of Teachers) Act 2005, s 3(1).

[12] Report of Dr JG Reddan, Consultant Psychiatrist dated 18 August 2015 at p 11.

[13] Queensland College of Teachers v. Laver [2011] QCAT 499 at [9].

[14] Report of Dr JG Reddan, Consultant Psychiatrist dated 18 August 2015 at p 11.

[15] References of Dale Finch dated December 2004, Murray Sydenham dated 9 March 2006 and Andrew Potter dated 15 April 2006.

[16] Queensland College of Teachers v. Hayes [2013] QCAT 657 at [21].

Close

Editorial Notes

  • Published Case Name:

    Queensland College of Teachers v Kirsty Anne Mills

  • Shortened Case Name:

    Queensland College of Teachers v Mills

  • MNC:

    [2016] QCAT 60

  • Court:

    QCAT

  • Judge(s):

    Senior Member O'Callaghan, Member Hughes, Member MacDonald

  • Date:

    04 Feb 2016

Appeal Status

Please note, appeal data is presently unavailable for this judgment. This judgment may have been the subject of an appeal.
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