Psychologist Lawyers Toronto
How we help psychologists
We represent psychologists charged with criminal offences or who are facing allegations of professional misconduct, including complaints, investigations, and disciplinary proceedings before the College of Psychologists of Ontario (“CPO”).
What do I do if I receive a complaint from the College of Psychologists of Ontario?
Psychologists who are the subject of a complaint will be notified by the College of Psychologists of Ontario (“CPO”) and will generally have 30 days to respond. The CPO typically provides the psychologist with a notice of complaint, a copy of the complaint materials provided by the complainant, and the psychologist’s prior complaint history, if any.
It is essential that you have a lawyer and get good legal advice when you receive a complaint. Whether and how you respond to the CPO complaint and investigation is an important decision that will impact the rest of the proceeding. A well-crafted response can show the College that the complaint is unfounded and resolve the issue at an early stage. But sometimes it may not be in your best interest to provide a detailed response. Every case is different and you should consult a lawyer to help you make these important decisions. At Goddard & Shanmuganathan LLP, we have years of experience we can use to help you make the right decisions.
Frequently asked questions regarding psychologist complaints
What will happen after I receive a complaint from the College?
Complaints about psychologists are reviewed by CPO’s Inquiries, Complaints and Reports Committee (ICRC). The ICRC considers the possible risks that a member’s conduct may pose by assessing both impact risks and recurrence risks. This includes looking at the impact of the member’s conduct on specific individuals, the general public, and the profession (“impact risks”) and the member’s history, practices and processes, and awareness of the concerns identified (“recurrence risks”). The ICRC uses the “ICRC Risk Assessment Table” to reach an outcome.
Once an investigation is completed, the ICRC can order a range of different outcomes, including:
- No further action;
- Providing advice to the member;
- Asking for an undertaking from the member;
- Cautioning a member;
- Requiring specified continuing education or a remediation program;
- Referring the matter to the Discipline Committee
Can I appeal a decision of the Inquiries, Complaints and Reports Committee that I disagree with?
Psychologists can request a review of the ICRC’s decision. A review takes place before the Health Professions Appeal and Review Board (the “Board”). A panel of the Board will assess (1) whether the ICRC’s investigation was adequate and (2) whether the ICRC’s decision was reasonable. The party who requested the review is asked to comment on these two issues and the other party has an opportunity to respond. The Board will also receive a copy of all materials that the ICRC’s decision was based on.
A lawyer who has experience dealing with professional regulatory bodies and review boards can assist psychologists through this process and help with preparation and drafting materials for the review.
After the review, the Board will issue a written decision. The Board may decide to:
- Confirm the ICRC’s decision;
- Refer the matter back to the ICRC;
- Require the ICRC to do certain things; and/or
- Make recommendations to the ICRC.
What happens if I am referred to the Discipline Committee?
Referring a psychologist to the Discipline Committee is the most serious disposition the ICRC can make. It can have significant consequences on a psychologist’s ability to practice. It is therefore important for psychologists to understand the disciplinary process and consult counsel who has experience in this area.
The psychologist and the CPO are considered parties to the proceeding. There may be additional parties, such as a complainant or a public interest group. The CPO will be represented by legal counsel and the Discipline Committee has its own legal advisor.
A hearing before the Discipline Committee is considered a formal, legal process. The member will receive a Notice of Hearing that outlines the allegations of misconduct.
A pre-hearing conference may be held before the formal hearing. These are confidential and are not open to the public. During the pre-hearing conference, issues relating to the disclosure and exchange of information will be discussed along with any other relevant legal issues, such as whether preliminary motions are required. Procedural matters will also be canvassed and what, if any, facts and evidence the parties can agree on. Additionally, the parties will discuss whether any or all of the issues can be settled.
The discipline hearing itself is similar to a trial. Evidence is presented under oath and witnesses are subject to examination and cross-examination. The psychologist member and the CPO present their arguments and the CPO has the burden of proving the allegations against the psychologist. Hearings are open to the public unless the Committee orders otherwise.
After a hearing, the Discipline Committee can make a finding of incompetence or professional misconduct. If such a finding is made, the Committee can impose a penalty which may include:
- Revoking the psychologist’s certificate of registration;
- Suspending the psychologist’s certificate of registration;
- Imposing terms, conditions, and limitations on the psychologist’s certificate of registration;
- Reprimanding the psychologist; and
- Imposing a fine payable to the government of Ontario.
Additionally, when a psychologist is found guilty of professional misconduct after a discipline hearing, a summary of the decision is published on the CPO register. The Discipline Committee may also order a psychologist to pay all or part of the CPO’s costs and expenses.
While psychologists are not required to be represented by legal counsel, given the seriousness and complexity of discipline hearings, it is prudent to consider retaining a lawyer who has experience with professional regulation matters.
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