Double Jeopardy does not Prohibit Disciplinary Proceedings

Z v Dental Complaints Assessment Committee [2008] NZSC 55 (25 July 2008) This case involved a dentist who was criminally charged with the indecent assault of three patients. He was acquitted of these charges but was then subjected to professional disciplinary action.

The dentist claimed that the subsequent charges by the Dental Complaints Assessment Committee were contrary to the common law principle against double jeopardy and in breach of s 26(2) of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.

The Supreme Court considered the principal issue to be whether the decision to initiate disciplinary proceedings, insofar as they concerned allegations that were the subject of acquittal by the jury, amounted to an abuse of process.  Particular consideration was given to the standard of proof that applies to disciplinary proceedings under the Dental Act.  A majority of the Supreme Court held that there was no abuse of process and the Disciplinary Tribunal could properly consider the alleged indecent assaults.

The decision is available at