File Number: Nur22/566P
Practitioner: Ashwani Lal
Hearing Start Date:
Hearing End Date:
Name Suppression to Practitioner
Order for interim name suppression for the practitioner and suppression of any identifying details
Order dismissing permanent name suppression for the practitioner
Lied and misled legal counsel
Lied and mislead Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal
Lied and mislead the Professional Conduct Committee appointed by the Nursing Council of New Zealand
Precis of Decision:
On 25 January 2023 the Health Practitioner’s Disciplinary Tribunal (the Tribunal) heard 3 charges of professional misconduct laid by the Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) appointed by the Nursing Council of New Zealand against Ms Ashwani Ajeshini Lal, an enrolled nurse of Auckland (the nurse).
The charges summarised below, alleged that the nurse, for the purposes of a hearing before the Tribunal on 20 October 2020, was dishonest and mislead:
- A Senior Associate of Claro Law by writing and/or providing emails purporting to be from the nurse’s former employer, describing herself as the nurse’s employer on 5 separate occasions between 24 September and 6 October 2020.
- The Tribunal at its hearing by providing through counsel, a reference purporting to have been written by her former employer, knowing it to be false.
- The PCC when investigating a complaint that she had produced a false reference to the Tribunal on 20 October 2020, produced to the PCC 5 documents she knew to be false.
The conduct alleged in the three charges either separately or together amount to professional misconduct under section 100(1)(a) and/or (b) of the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act (the Act).
At the hearing, the nurse admitted the charge and that her conduct was professional misconduct deserving of a sanction.
The nurse was convicted in 2017 of two charges of dishonestly using a document for pecuniary gain. A charge was laid by a PCC against the nurse which was heard on 20 October 2020. The decision relating to this matter is PCC v Lal HPDT 1129/Nur20/478P. The Tribunal found the charge established and imposed penalties of censure, suspension for 9 months, conditions on practice for 12 months, made orders in relation to costs and name suppression to protect the privacy of the patients who had been the victim of the nurse’s conduct.
At the 20 October 2020 hearing, the Tribunal understood that the nurse had the support of her employer and this was used as a significant element in its reasoning on penalty. This was due to the nurse producing a document to the Tribunal which purported to be a supportive reference from her then employer and was supposedly signed by the nurse’s employer. It was not until publicity followed the release of the Tribunal’s decision that the employer advised the Nursing Council that the document produced, was false and that the employer had in fact refused on two occasions to give a reference.
The Tribunal had no hesitation in finding professional misconduct established in all three charges both separately and together bringing discredit to the nursing profession (s.100(1)(a) of the Act and more seriously, malpractice (s.100(1)(b)), and that the conduct was sufficiently serious to deserve disciplinary sanction.
A dishonest practitioner is a danger to the public. The profession depends on the integrity of its members, particularly when there are adverse events. The circumstances of this case left the Tribunal with no confidence that the nurse can be relied upon to give an honest account of events when it matters. Even when her dishonesty was uncovered, the nurse continued to persist with her false allegations during the PCC investigation.
The Tribunal ordered:
- Cancellation of registration
- As the nurse was in receipt of legal aid for the purposes of this hearing, the Tribunal made no order for costs which totalled $35,553.90.
The Tribunal directed publication of the decision and a summary.