11 Feb 2021
A pharmacist charged with a range of serious drug offences has been reprimanded and disqualified from applying for registration for three years after a tribunal finding of professional misconduct.
The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (the tribunal) found that Mr Soong had behaved in a way that constitutes professional misconduct and unprofessional cond20uct. The tribunal ordered that Mr Soong be reprimanded and disqualified from applying for registration as a registered health practitioner for three years from 19 June 2020.
The Pharmacy Board of Australia (the Board) was first advised of Mr Soong’s behaviour by the Victorian Police in December 2014. On 6 February 2015 the Victorian Police advised the Board that Mr Soong had been charged with a range of serious drug offences. Following these charges, the Board took immediate action against Mr Soong under s 157 of the National Law. The Board accepted an undertaking from Mr Soong that he would, among other things, not practise as a pharmacist and would not enter the premise of any pharmacy or pharmacy department unless in the presence of another registered pharmacist.
The Board’s investigation was placed on hold pending the outcome of the criminal proceedings.
On 30 November 2018, Mr Soong pleaded guilty and was convicted of 12 charges in the County Court of Victoria. The court found that between 4 February 2014 and January 2016 Mr Soong committed 10 indictable offences, including, possessing and trafficking drugs of dependence, failing to keep appropriate records and falsifying records in relation to Schedule 8 poisons. It also found that on 4 February 2015, Mr Soong committed a summary offence in that he unlawfully possessed Schedule 4 poisons.
Following the conclusion of the criminal proceedings, the Board recommenced their investigation into Mr Soong, and on 27 June 2019 referred the matter to the tribunal, having formed a reasonable belief that Mr Soong’s conduct constitutes professional misconduct.
In making its decision, the tribunal considered that Mr Soong, whose registration lapsed in February 2016, had not practised for a period of five years and five months. The tribunal also noted that Mr Soong spent 199 days of imprisonment, had cooperated with the Board’s investigation and had given the undertaking not to practise immediately when the matters came to light. The tribunal noted that their order was not to punish but to protect the public, to act as deterrent, and to protect the reputation of the profession.
If Mr Soong seeks re-registration after the period of disqualification, he will need to satisfy the Board that re-registration is appropriate.
The full tribunal decision is available on Austlii.