11 Feb 2009

Caregiver fined for inappropriate sex acts

9:33 pm on 11 February 2009

The Human Rights Tribunal has fined a caregiver $40,000 for inappropriate sexual behaviour with a disabled teenager who was in his care.

The tribunal said David O'Malley indulged in inappropriate sexual behaviour with a 17-year-old intellectually disabled patient and his girlfriend.

Mr O'Malley has been ordered to pay $20,000 in damages, $10,000 in exemplary damages and $10,000 in costs.

No criminal charges have been laid.

The tribunal said the 17-year-old, who has the mental age of a 10-year-old, was extremely vulnerable, had been sexually abused previously and suffered from autism and intellectual disabilities.

It said Mr O'Malley encouraged the teenager and his girlfriend to conduct sexual acts with him, without thinking about the damage done to his victims.

The teenager later tried to take his own life.

Caregiver can continue working

The Health and Disability Commission is pleased with the fine, but said it could not prevent Mr O'Malley from working again as a caregiver.

Acting director of proceedings Jason Tamm said there is no register of caregivers so Mr O'Malley cannot be struck-off.

Mr Tamm said it is up to the public and employers to be aware of caregivers who have acted inappropriately.

The Disabled Persons Assembly said the case is deeply shocking and a massive breach of trust.

The organisation's national policy researcher, Wendi Wicks, said though this case is at the high end of the spectrum, abuse of disabled people happens every day.