Two young women were described by a sentencing judge as naïve for continuing to offer speech and language therapy and occupational therapy when they were not registered in Ireland with their UK qualifications.
Their solicitor Carrie McDermott described the prosecution in Cork District Court for acting without registration, and injunctive proceedings in the High Court earlier this year by the professional body in the area, as “using a sledge-hammer to crack a nut.” Martina Ward Clancy of Coru, the health and social care professionals council, told her barrister Tony McGillicuddy that this was the first time they had ever prosecuted anyone for using the title of speech therapist or occupational therapist where they were not entitled to do so, contrary to the Health and Social Care Professionals Act of 2005.
Lisa O’Driscoll of Ardcahon way, Coolkellure, Legenaghmore, Cork, charged with using the title of speech and language therapist, and Emma Power of Clonlea, Mount Oval, Rochestown, Cork, accused of using the title of occupational therapist, when neither was registered to do so, both pleaded guilty to six counts.
Judge Con O’Leary imposed a €100 fine on each woman on the first charge and took the other five counts into consideration and ordered them to pay €250 each towards Coru’s costs.
After hearing the prosecution case at length in Cork District Court where they pleaded guilty, Judge O’Leary said that he was disregarding any evidence of the defendants providing services that were in any way inadequate as he said the validity of allegations had not been established independently.
The judge went on to say of the prosecution that it had achieved a desirable social end in ensuring that services in this area would be provided by properly qualified professionals subject to appropriate discipline and regulation so that families can rely on these services, particularly for vulnerable children.
Ms McDermott, solicitor, said the case had attracted considerable media attention in a case where the two women were registered as the relevant therapists in the UK.
“Both of these ladies apologise. They are very very sorry. They have been vilified in the media — terrible things have been said on social media that they behaved inappropriately…,” Ms McDermott said.
During the hearing yesterday, Ms McDermott said: “These ladies have met this with dignity and held up their hands. There has been compliance. Their lives have been absolutely ruined by this.
“They both suffered stress, anxiety and devastation. They have stopped practising and have wound up their business. They are both unemployed.”
The solicitor said that the lack of recognition of their qualifications from the UK in this jurisdiction had resulted in their lives being devastated and they have “abandoned, wound up, liquidated their business.” They had been trading as directors of Bright Spots, a Cork company offering services to vulnerable children, including those with developmental disorders.
Judge O’Leary asked why they had not had their UK qualifications recognised in Ireland so that they could be registered to work as therapists. Ms McDermott said they had not attended to this as they should have done but that this was compounded by difficulties in getting the relevant documentation from the universities of Newcastle and Northumbria.
Ms Ward Clancy of Coru said injunctive proceedings in the High Court and yesterday’s district court prosecution were only taken as matters of last resort after numerous letters requiring them to cease and desist presenting as particular therapists without the necessary registration in Ireland from Coru.