Queensland Prison Psychologist Lidia Pennington Suspended for One Year for Sex with ex-Prisoner

November 11, 2021

A psychologist who had a sexual relationship with an ex-prisoner whom she had treated in jail, soon after his release, has been barred from applying for registration for a year.

Lidia Rithia Pennington “willingly engaged in a ruse” to support the prisoner’s release on bail, claiming she would continue treating him, Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal found.

Ms. Pennington, now 65, who has held senior management positions in prisons, had counselled the prisoner, then 27, for eight months while he was in a maximum security unit in 2012.

Their sexual relationship began two weeks after the prisoner’s release from Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre on bail for other charges in early April, 2012, Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal heard.

Ms. Pennington was financially generous towards the ex-prisoner, they began a franchise business and lived together from September, 2012, until the relationship broke down in 2013, the tribunal said.

The ex-prisoner said he never received any therapeutic counselling or treatment from Ms. Pennington after his release and she did not refer him to another counsellor for ongoing treatment.

The ex-prisoner said in a statement to the Office of the Health Ombudsman last year that he and Ms. Pennington had become friends in jail.

He claimed she told him that she was leaving the jail work but she could be his “psych” reference for getting bail on other charges he was facing.

“She arranged the bail and it worked,” the ex-prisoner said.

“It was a condition for me to do my 'psych' work with her while I was on bail, it was just a gimmick to get me bail.”

He said he never received any therapeutic counselling or treatment from Ms. Pennington after his release and she did not refer him to another counsellor for ongoing treatment.

The tribunal said that she should have referred him to another professional, having held herself out as willing to provide treatment to the patient but having no intention of doing so.

“After I had been released from jail in 2012, Lidia said I was fairly independent of my medication and would not really need it, so I started to go off my medication during the year,” the ex-prisoner said.

“It was not any good for me as I ended up getting back on to drugs. I was not in a good place at the time. That was before we had broken up.”

Ms. Pennington, who has not practised as a psychologist since 2012, admitted that she never provided her lover with any therapeutic treatment after his release from jail.

She admitted to having a business relationship, but denied having a romantic relationship with the patient, but the tribunal found there was a sexual relationship.

Documents before the tribunal revealed Ms. Pennington and the ex-prisoner went on movie and restaurant dates and she would stay overnight with him at his mother’s home before they began living together.

She gave him gifts of jewelery, gym equipment, clothing and a ragdoll kitten they named Nitro and she occasionally put money in his bank account.

The tribunal said the extent of the power imbalance between the psychologist and the patient during the

course of their therapeutic relationship was very large.

“He was a vulnerable person because of his background and treatment needs,” the tribunal said.

That power imbalance was further exacerbated by Ms. Pennington involving herself in his release on bail.

In 2017, the man’s treating psychologist made a complaint to the Office of the Health Ombudsman, after the patient told of the sexual relationship with Ms. Pennington.

At the time the man was a high security patient at The Park Centre for Mental Health.

The tribunal found that by engaging in a close personal, business and sexual relationship with the patient, Ms. Pennington transgressed the boundaries of a therapeutic relationship.

It also found that she failed to provide and failed to ensure, by transferring his care to another psychologist, that the patient received ongoing psychological care and treatment.

It did not find the OHS had proven that she attempted to deceive Queensland Corrective Services.

On October 12, the tribunal ordered that Ms. Pennington be reprimanded for professional misconduct and unprofessional conduct.

She was disqualified from applying for registration as a health professional for 12 months.

Source: Kay Dibben, “Prison psychologist disqualified over relationship with ex-inmate,” The Courier Mail, Nov. 5, 2021, URL: https://www.couriermail.com.au/truecrimeaustralia/police-courts-qld/prison-psychologist-disqualified-over-relationship-with-exinmate/news-story/f88f45d1ccd2859c6231423391b78dcc


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