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In April 2011 the Australian Vaccination Network Inc. (AVN) launched legal action against the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) in the NSW Supreme Court, challenging the HCCC’s juridisction in their investigation of the AVN in 2009. Details of that investigation are outlined in the previous post NSW HCCC Investigation.

In a media release by the AVN [1] (12 July 2010), Meryl Dorey described the HCCC investigation as an “outrageous attack on free speech” and further stated that “… the organisation does not believe that it falls under the jurisdiction of the HCCC as they are neither healthcare providers nor health educators.

This legal challenge, as of October 2011, is still ongoing.

Update: 25 February 2012

The final hearing of the AVN’s challenge took place in the Supreme Court of NSW on 22 February 2012. The ruling was handed down on 24 February 2012, and should be made public next week. In the meantime, please read an excellent summary of these events The wash-up from the AVN judgement – what does it mean? at The Skeptics’ Book of Pooh-Pooh.

Update: 29 February 2012

The NSW Supreme Court judgement is now available at Australian Vaccination Network Inc v Health Care Complaints Commission [2012] NSWSC 110

I am not a lawyer, but I note the following points of interest concerning jurisdiction:

  • the AVN was determined to be a health service provider under the Act;
  • the AVN does fall under the jurisdiction of the HCCC;
  • by extension, other non-professional groups or individuals acting in a similar way to the AVN also fall under the jurisdiction of the HCCC;
  • an affected individual only has to have been influenced by the defendent and not necessarily have come to harm.
The NSW Supreme Court ruled in the AVN’s favour, in this instance, because the original complaints failed to provide evidence of a person who was influenced by the AVN. This is merely a technicality of jurisdiction that, rightfully, was upheld. It is important to note that if the complainants had been asked by the HCCC at the start of the investigation to provide such evidence they could have done so, and the results of the HCCC investigation would still be in effect.

As far as the AVN is concerned, this judgement simply shows that this particular investigation did not meet the jurisdictional requirements of the Act. The judgement does, however, outline what is needed for future complaints against the AVN, or similar groups, to meet jurisdictional requirements.


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