Psychologist-head of children's hospital banned from practice for failing to report child sexual abuse

July 13, 2010

A leading psychologist and his former intern have been banned for three years after failing to report child sexual abuse by one of their patients.

Dr James Donnelly, former head of psychology at Sydney Children's Hospital, has been ordered to stop practising for three years from next month.

The state's medical watchdog upheld a complaint that he and junior fellow psychologist Kerri Dene failed to notify authorities one of their patients was abusing his 10-year-old daughter.

They were working at the University of New England, Armidale, in 2003 when a patient admitted molesting his daughter.

Ms Dene was treating the father but, after consulting with her supervisor Dr Donnelly, they decided not to notify authorities.

The NSW Psychologists Tribunal heard Ms Dene believed the child was not at risk as the father had voluntarily admitted the abuse and had stopped.

It was not until 2005 that Ms Dene finally contacted authorities, who then investigated.

The father later admitted to authorities that he had a history of sexual abuse dating back 43 years. He also admitted assaulting his daughter since she was about four years old, the Tribunal heard.

"Having been told Mr A [the father] was distressed he had committed a 'boundary violation' by giving a massage to [his daughter] at night, wherein his hand moved or brushed over her pubic area, it was incumbent upon Dr Donnelly to undertake further investigations if he was to appropriately consider the matter," the tribunal said.

Source: Kate Sikora, "Psychologist and intern failed to report child sex abuse," The Dailiy Telegraph, July 14, 2010.


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