Psychologist's licence suspended for affair with killer  
The Age
Selma Milovanovic
May 6, 2010

A PSYCHOLOGIST who started an affair with a brain-damaged child killer she had treated because she believed her feelings would be the ''best therapy'' will be allowed to practise again in nine months.

A tribunal has found it was not in the public interest to cancel the registration of Michelle Mair, 32, who is on sick leave from Corrections Victoria, saying such a ruling would be unnecessarily crushing.

Suspending Ms Mair until next February, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal noted ''that in some circumstances, it may be appropriate for a psychologist to have a personal and sexual relationship with an ex-client'', but that it should not start until at least two years after therapy ends.

Ms Mair confessed to the affair 2½ years after it began because she was forced to report her former lover to police for stalking.

Details of the man's brutal offending cannot be published after the tribunal suppressed his identity, describing him as an ''innocent victim''.

While Ms Mair has continued to work for Corrections Victoria since admitting the affair, a spokeswoman last night said her ''ongoing employment will be examined in light of the court's decision''.

Dr Ian Freckelton, SC, for the Psychologists Registration Board, had argued Ms Mair's registration should be cancelled. But the tribunal ruled her behaviour was a ''one-off'' and ''not predatory''.

VCAT senior member Robert Davis and members Marian Power and Gwenneth Crawford said a cancellation ''would be a crushing determination that would not be in the public interest''.

''Psychologists are an important component of the mental health system in Victoria and the well-being of Victorians,'' they said. ''This is something that must be balanced against the behaviour of [Ms Mair].

''We are of the view it is not necessary to cancel the respondent's registration in order for the public to maintain confidence in the psychological profession.''

Ms Mair began treating the killer, who was on parole, in 2005 and eventually stopped resisting him holding her hand in therapy. In January 2006, she stopped treating him. The following month - knowing he was diagnosed with a brain injury and post-traumatic stress - she drove to his house and told him she also had feelings for him.

She told the tribunal she was looking for love and had developed a rescue fantasy that her feelings ''would have the most therapeutic value for him''.

She left the man in April 2006 after he became violent. A week later, he was jailed again. Two days after he was released, she had sex with him because she was scared what might happen if she did not.

The tribunal found Ms Mair had engaged in ''unprofessional conduct of a serious nature'' and ordered her to continue seeing a psychologist for a year. When she resumes practising, she must be supervised for at least two years.