A PSYCHOLOGIST who was struck off for burning the files of a key witness in the sensational Hatfield murder trial, has turned up as a counsellor in Byron Shire. The authorities are investigating whether he is exploiting a loophole in the law. THE psychologist at the centre of the 2000 Irena Hatfield murder trial is under investigation for continuing to practise after being struck off.
Former SCU counsellor Shunyam Peinecke was deregistered in 2004 for three years by the Psychologist Registration Board of NSW after an investigation by the Health Care Complaints Commission found him guilty of professional misconduct.
The commission found Mr Peinecke guilty of providing false and misleading information to the Local and Supreme Court of NSW in the Irena Hatfield murder trial.
He had destroyed the patient files of a key witness against Ms Hatfield, who had been charged with murdering her husband.
However, despite the ban, Mr Peinecke has set up shop as a counsellor in the Brunswick Valley Health Centre in Dalley Street, Mullumbimby.
The case has highlighted the legal loopholes available to deregistered psychologists to reinvent themselves as counsellors, and the lack of regulations surrounding the therapeutic industry in general.
Mr Peinecke has again raised the ire of the registration board by continuing to advertise his credentials as a psychologist in the local media, while his business card also describes his service as 'counselling psychotherapy'.
Mr Peinecke now describes himself as a Sandplay counsellor, a Jungian-based therapy that he claims can assist in grief, trauma, loss separation and anxiety.
Under section seven of the Psychologists Act 2001 it is an offence for a person who is not a registered psychologist to indicate that the person practises psychology or is qualified to practise psychology.
The Deputy Registrar of the Psychologists Registration Board of NSW, Melanie Faithfull, yesterday told The Northern Star the board has listed Mr Peinecke for investigation at its October 4 board meeting.
"We are aware of the advertisements and we can't comment on this until we have determined whether Mr Peinecke is seen to be 'holding out' as a psychologist," Ms Faithfull said.
Yesterday Mr Peinecke would only say: "After receiving legal advice I am unable to make any comments."
When asked if he was intending to continue his practice at Mullumbimby, Mr Peinecke abruptly ended the conversation.
NSW Health Minister John Hatzistergos said he will be seeking legal advice on how to further regulate the industry.
As it stands, anyone can legally set up shop as a counsellor or therapist, no matter what their qualifications.
Yesterday the homeopath who practises in the same building as Mr Peinecke said she was unaware that he had been struck off as a psychologist.
"He pays his rent and for his own phone, and he is not a part of my business," Christina Buhse said. "It comes very much as a surprise to me (that he is deregistered)."
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