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- Unreported Judgment
QUEENSLAND CIVIL AND ADMINISTRATIVE TRIBUNAL
Queensland College of Teachers v Teacher PQR  QCAT 318
queensland college of teachers
Occupational regulation matters
22 October 2019
8 October 2019
Member Robyn Oliver
EDUCATION – EDUCATORS – DISCIPLINARY MATTERS – GENERALLY – conviction for fraud harm – whether disciplinary ground exists – appropriate order
Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth), s 135.2
Education (Queensland College of Teachers) Act 2005 (Qld), s 92, s 97, s 158, s 160, Schedule 3
Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2009 (Qld), s 66
Queensland College of Teachers v Armstrong  QCAT 709
Queensland College of Teachers v Osborne  QCAT 471
E J Houston
This matter was heard and determined on the papers pursuant to s 32 of the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2009 (Qld)
REASONS FOR DECISION
- This matter arises from a mandatory referral by the Queensland College of Teachers to the Tribunal under s 97 of the Education (Queensland College of Teachers) Act 2005 (Qld) (‘Education Act’).
- Under s 97 of the Education Act, if the College reasonably believes that one or more grounds for disciplinary action against a ‘relevant teacher’ exist, the College must refer the matter to a disciplinary body. In relation to this matter, the relevant body is QCAT. The College is required to inform the Tribunal about the grounds for the disciplinary matter and the facts and circumstances forming the basis of the grounds. The Tribunal is then to conduct a hearing and as soon as practicable after finishing the hearing, make a decision about the disciplinary matter having regard to the information provided by the College.
- ‘Relevant teacher’ is defined to mean either an approved teacher or a former approved teacher. PQR was first registered as a teacher on 2 September 2005, and currently holds full registration. She is therefore a ‘relevant teacher’ for the purposes of s 97.
- The ground upon which the College relies as a basis for disciplinary action in its referral dated 8 April 2019 is s 92(1)(h).
Ground for disciplinary action
- The grounds for disciplinary action against a teacher set out in s 92 include:
the person behaves in a way, whether connected with the teaching profession or otherwise, that does not satisfy the standard of behaviour generally expected of a teacher.
- The agreed statement of facts filed by the parties states:
On 8 October 2018, in the Sandgate Magistrates Court, the respondent pleaded guilty to, and was convicted of, 4 counts of ‘Obtains financial advantage from a Commonwealth entity’ pursuant to section 135.2(1) of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth). The respondent was ordered to be of good behaviour for 3 years on recognisance in the amount of $2,000.00.
In short, the offences were committed over 4 discreet (sic) periods between March 2013 and August 2016. The respondent either under-declared or failed to declare her income whilst receiving a carers’ pension. The total amount of money the respondent was overpaid was $21,908.59.
- In Queensland College of Teachers v Armstrong, the Tribunal stated:
[T]he standard expected should be the standard ‘reasonably’ expected by the community at large, as the actions of a teacher may impact directly upon the children of the community; and this in turn should reflect the standard that those in the teaching profession would expect of their colleagues and peers.
- PQR does not dispute that the ground for disciplinary action has been satisfied, and we find accordingly. Her behaviour did not meet the standard reasonably expected of a teacher by the community at large.
- Section 160 applies to an approved teacher. It sets out the actions which may be taken by the Tribunal where it has determined that a ground for disciplinary action against the teacher has been established, and includes suspending the teacher’s registration for a stated time.
- We have had regard to the sentencing remarks of the learned Magistrate in respect of PQR:
At the time, you were in a difficult personal situation where you were engaging in destructive relationships and using money to pursue those relationships because you were tired and lonely and also noting that you have had the ongoing care of your son who has a significant disability and as well as the other issues with your older children and I take into that perhaps not surprisingly you have problems with depression and anxiety yourself given your personal circumstances.
You have certainly, I accept, remorse and insight about the severity of your behaviour and the penalty I impose today may have consequences for you in your continuing employment as a teacher. I take into account the act that you have made some $7,760.30 of repayments towards the amount that you defrauded the Commonwealth of and there is still some $14,148.29 cents owed. So there is still some significant amount which is owing. It seems to me that it is appropriate for me to structure orders so that you can hopefully retain your employment as a teacher and continue to remain in the community and repay the balance of the money which is owed. That is also swayed by the fact that you need, no doubt, to remain in the community to assist your son who needs you, given the level of his disability as well.
- In arriving at an appropriate order, we have had regard to the decision of the Tribunal in Queensland College of Teachers v Osborne. In that case, Ms Osborne obtained $29,423 of Centrelink benefits to which she was not entitled and was convicted of 11 counts of ‘obtain financial advantage’ under s 135.2(1) of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth). The teacher was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment but released immediately under recognisance to be of good behaviour for 3 years. The teacher had repaid $5,250 at the time of sentencing and was ordered to repay the balance under a reparation order.
- The sanction imposed by the Tribunal included the suspension of registration for six months, with that suspension being immediately suspended for a period of 18 months, provided she complied with certain conditions and was not subject to any further disciplinary proceedings. The conditions required that within 18 months the teacher complete a professional ethics course approved by the College and at her own expense, and to provide written evidence that she completed the course to the reasonable satisfaction of the College.
- We consider Osborne’s case to be comparable to that of PQR, and will impose a similar (but not identical) sanction.
- In all of the circumstances, we are of the view that PQR’s registration should be suspended for a period of six months, with that suspension being immediately suspended for a period of 12 months, provided she complies with certain conditions and is not subject to any further disciplinary proceedings. The conditions we consider appropriate are that PQR engage in a 12 month period of counselling with a psychologist or counsellor approved by the College and at her own expense. At the completion of the counselling, the counsellor must provide a report to the College.
- The Tribunal may make orders under s 66 of the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2009 (Qld) prohibiting the publication of information which may identify a party or any other person affected by a proceeding for among other reasons the interests of justice. In this case, identification of PQR may have a significant adverse impact on her mental health and wellbeing.
- The orders of the Tribunal are:
- The respondent's teacher registration be suspended for a period of 6 months with that suspension being immediately suspended provided the respondent complies with the conditions in order 2 and provided she is not subject to any practice and conduct proceedings pursuant to the Education (Queensland College of Teachers) Act 2005 (Qld) for a period of 12 months from the date of these orders;
- The respondent's teacher registration is subject to the following conditions:
a) commencing as soon as practicable (but no later than 6 months from the date of these orders), and continuing for a period of 12 months after the commencement of counselling (or until such time as the psychologist or counsellor forms the view that further counselling is unnecessary), the teacher must engage in counselling with a psychologist or counsellor who is approved by the Queensland College of Teachers. The counselling must address issues and matters which led to, contributed to, or are related to the conduct which is the subject of these proceedings. At the end of the period of counselling (or 12 months from the date of this order, if the counselling is continuing) the psychologist or counsellor must provide to the Queensland College of Teachers a written report confirming:
- (i)the period of counselling;
- (ii)the main issues addressed over the counselling period;
- (iv)that the counsellor has been provided with the Tribunal's decision and reasons for decision;
b) All costs and expenses associated with complying with the condition above are to be paid by the teacher.
- The publication of any information that could identify the child, the teacher and the school involved in the disciplinary matter, is prohibited pursuant to section 66 of the of the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2009 (Qld), with the exception that the Queensland College of Teachers may publish the decision and these reasons to:
a) any employer who employs, or is considering employing, the respondent in a teaching role or in child-related employment;
b) the respondent’s current and future health practitioners;
c) other teacher regulatory authorities;
d) the chief executive (employment screening);
e) the chief executive of the Department of Education;
f) the Minister of Education;
g) any other entity relevant to the respondent’s practice of the teaching profession.
- Published Case Name:
Queensland College of Teachers v Teacher PQR
- Shortened Case Name:
Queensland College of Teachers v Teacher PQR
 QCAT 318
Member Cranwell, Member Goodman, Member Robyn Oliver
22 Oct 2019