Mental health nurse struck off after being caught on camera having sex with prisoner 

A mental health nurse has been suspended from practising and removed from the register after having an intimate relationship with a prisoner.  

The nurse is accused of having a relationship with the inmate – referred to as Mr B – between July 18 and September 30, 2021 which included a "sexual encounter".   

Deputy Health and Disability Commissioner Dr Vanessa Caldwell found the nurse in breach of the code of conduct and recommended the Nursing Council of New Zealand take follow-up action supervising, monitoring and training the nurse if she returns to practice.   

Dr Caldwell said between July and September 2021 the nurse and prisoner regularly spoke on the phone and several of the conversations contained sexually explicit content.

Video footage also shows the nurse engaging in close physical contact with the inmate and on October 4, 2021, she sent him an email "of a nature not appropriate between clinician and patient".   

"The nurse’s relationship with Mr B breaches fundamental ethical standards, given the power imbalance between clinician and patient," Dr Caldwell said in her report.   

"I do not consider that such a relationship being consensual alters this fact. This power imbalance will always mean there is the potential for abuse of the nurse’s professional position and harm to the health consumer."  

It also breaches the Nursing Council of New Zealand's code of conduct which states nurses must "maintain professional boundaries between themselves and health consumers, and that nurses must not engage in sexual or intimate behaviour or relationships with health consumers in their care".   

The Health and Disability Commissioner found the nurse in breach of the code of conduct and has referred her to the Director of Proceedings.   

She has also been suspended from practice and her name has been removed from the register of nurses.  

How the relationship unfolded   

The nurse was working for a primary health organisation which was contracted to provide mental health services to the prison – specifically for prisoners who have, or may be vulnerable to developing, mental health needs while in prison.   

Up to 10 sessions are allocated to help prisoners. On September 9, 2019 the nurse was employed as a mental health clinician working out of the prison.   

She started providing mental health services to Mr B from October 1, 2019, and between then and September 30, 2021 had a total of 105 sessions with him – eight of which were over the phone due to the COVID-19 pandemic.   

In 2021, the prisoner was found with contraband and suspected of bringing it into the prison and so the prison started monitoring his calls. At this point it became clear Mr B and the nurse were in a relationship.   

In the calls the nurse and Mr B called each other nicknames such as "my darling", "my baby", and "beautiful". The nurse never discussed inappropriate boundaries or tried to end any of the calls.   

The pair were also caught on camera engaging in a sexual encounter on September 30, 2021. In the video, the nurse and Mr B can be seen leaving the interview room and going to an area not completely visible to the camera. The nurse can be seen lying on the ground facing upwards while Mr B lies on top of her. The pair are in the position for approximately one minute and 30 seconds before getting to their feet, the report notes.   

When the nurse was confronted about the relationship she didn't respond to or refute the claims. On October 5 of the same year she resigned.   

In her resignation letter she said: "Please acknowledge my resignation from the position of Improving Mental Health Clinician at [the prison]. As you are aware, I am unable to give the one month notice as per my contract. I sincerely apologise for the difficult situation I leave behind."