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Disciplinary Process

Practice Notes



The Act

Events Calendar





Occurs when the Tribunal may suspend proceedings for any reason but will resume them at a later date.



A party who is dissatisfied with the decision of the Tribunal may apply to the District Court to reconsider the matter. A right of appeal against any decision of a District Court Judge to the High Court applies on a question of law only. In both cases this is called an appeal.


Chair and Deputy Chair:

This person is a senior lawyer who is the presiding officer at hearings, runs directions conferences, ensures that matters proceed to a hearing as soon as is possible, and is responsible for writing the Tribunal’s decisions.

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Under the 1968 Medical Practitioners Act a complaint of professional misconduct was prosecuted in the name and on behalf of the complainant. Under the new legislation the complainant no longer has prosecution status, the prosecutor being either a Complaints Assessment Committee or the Director of Proceedings.

To ensure the complainant feels that they still “own the complaint” the Medical Council has recommended that Complaints Assessment Committees appoint as prosecutor a barrister who is acceptable to the complainant and who understands the complainant’s perspective. The prosecutor will liaise with the complainant, and in most cases will call the complainant as a witness. The costs of the prosecution will be met either by the Medical Council, or by the Director of Proceedings, not by the complainant.


Complaints Assessment Committee:

Means a Complaints Assessment Committee appointed by the President of the Medical Council of New Zealand under s 88 of the Act.



Once a matter has been heard the Tribunal makes a decision which is set out in writing, signed by the presiding officer on behalf of the Tribunal and distributed to the parties involved. Whether the charge was brought by a Complaints Assessment Committee or the Director of Proceedings, that body will send a copy of the Decision to the complainant direct. If the complainant has any questions about that Decision, they should be addressed in the first instance to that body.

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Director of Proceedings:

Means the person designated under s 15 of the Health and Disability Commissioner Act 1994 as the Director of Proceedings. Disciplinary proceedings against a medical practitioner can only be brought before the Tribunal by either a Complaints Assessment Committee or the Director of Proceedings.


Directions Conference:

This is a compulsory meeting between parties, conducted by the Chair or Deputy Chair, after the medical practitioner has notified the Tribunal in writing whether he or she wishes to be heard by the Tribunal. It is usually a telephone conference. It is a discussion about the issues to be raised at the hearing, how the evidence will be put before the Tribunal, the date and location of the hearing and any other matters which have to be resolved before the hearing. The process is relatively informal, and discussions are confidential. The matters agreed are recorded by the presiding officer and forwarded to the parties.

Grounds on which a medical practitioner may be disciplined:

Section 109(1) of the Act provides if the Medical Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal is satisfied that the practitioner:

  1. Has been guilty of disgraceful conduct in a professional respect; or
  2. Has been guilty of professional misconduct; or
  3. Has been guilty of conduct unbecoming a medical practitioner, and that conduct reflects adversely on that practitioner’s fitness to practise medicine; or
  4. Has been convicted of any offence against the Health Act 1956, the Medicines Act 1981, the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975, the Accident Rehabilitation and Compensation Insurance Corporation Act 1992, the Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion Act 1977, the Births, Deaths, and Marriages Registration Act 1995 or the Coroner’s Act 1989; or
  5. Has been convicted by any Court in New Zealand or elsewhere of any offence punishable by imprisonment for a term of three months or longer, and the circumstances of that offence reflect adversely on the practitioner’s fitness to practise medicine; or
  6. Has practised medicine outside the extent permitted by, or not in accordance with the conditions of, his or her registration or any practising certificate held by him or her; or
  7. Has breached any order of the Tribunal made under section 110 of the Act –

    the Tribunal may impose any one or more of the penalties specified in section 110 of the Act.

    Section 109(2) of the Act requires that the following two types of misconduct are to be charged as professional misconduct:
  1. An alleged breach of section 11 of the Act (which requires a medical practitioner who objects on the grounds of conscience to providing advice or service with respect to contraception, sterilisation or other family planning matters to inform the person that he or she may obtain that service from another medical practitioner or a family planning clinic); or
  2. The case of a medical practitioner who, being the holder of probationary registration, general registration or vocational registration, practises medicine while not holding a current practising certificate,

In all other cases a charge should be framed for one offence only. Every charge should contain sufficient particulars to fairly inform the medical practitioner of the substance of the offence with which he or she is charged.

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Preliminary Matters:

These are pre-hearing procedural steps (sometimes referred to as “Interlocutories”) which may be taken prior to the hearing. Their purpose is to assist the presentation of facts at the hearing. The procedures include discovery (or disclosure) and inspection of documents. The need for any interlocutories will normally be discussed at the Directions Conference when timetable deadlines will be indicated.


Interim Suspension:

Imposition of Conditions of Practice At any time after a Notice of Disciplinary Proceedings has been given to a medical practitioner, the Tribunal may, if it is satisfied that it is necessary or desirable to do so having regard to the need to protect the health or safety of members of the public, make an order that, until the disciplinary proceedings in respect of which a charge is pending have been determined:–

  1. The registration of that medical practitioner shall be suspended; or alternatively
  2. That the medical practitioner may practise medicine only in accordance with conditions specified by the Tribunal.

The Tribunal may make an order under this section on the recommendation of the Director of Proceedings, or a Complaints Assessment Committee, or of its own motion. Although the Tribunal is not obliged to give any notice to a medical practitioner that it intends to make one or other of the above orders, in practice it would be unlikely to do so without first giving an opportunity for submissions to be made.

However, under s 105 of the Act a medical practitioner may apply at any time to the Tribunal for the revocation of one or other of the above orders. Also, the Tribunal may at any time, of its own motion, revoke one or other of the above orders.

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Legal Assessor:

The Legal Assessor, if one is sitting with the Tribunal, may be called upon during the course of a hearing to advise the Tribunal on matters of law, procedure or evidence. At the end of the hearing the Legal Assessor will refer to the relevant legal principles and make any submissions on the law.


Medical Assessor:

The Tribunal may on occasion appoint a medical assessor for the purpose of providing advice on medical matters. Notice of Disciplinary Proceedings: This is the Notice which the Chair must give when required under s 103 of the Act to convene a hearing of the Tribunal to consider a charge against a medical practitioner.


Notice of Disciplinary Proceedings:

This is the Notice which the Chair must give when required under s 103 of the Act to convene a hearing of the Tribunal to consider a charge against a medical practitioner.



Means either a Complaints Assessment Committee, the Director of Proceedings, or a respondent medical practitioner in any proceedings before the Tribunal, and includes any person added to the proceedings.

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Reply Checklist:

This is the document (supplied by the Tribunal) which is to be filed by or on behalf of each party after a Notice of Intention to bring Disciplinary Proceedings has been received. It is the formal response by the parties to the matters raised by the Notice of Disciplinary Proceedings. It should be filed not later than 21 days after receipt of the Notice of Disciplinary Proceedings. If no checklist is filed on behalf of the medical practitioner, then the Tribunal may proceed and the medical practitioner will be entitled to appear and be heard at the hearing only on such conditions as to payment of costs and expenses or otherwise as the Tribunal thinks fit and so orders.



The respondent is the medical practitioner who is called upon to respond to the charge.


Secretary of the Tribunal:

This refers to the secretariat administering the Tribunal from its office in Wellington.

Phone:  (04) 381-6816                      Fax:  (04) 802-4831
PO Box 11649                                  Email:

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