Anti-vaccine group wins court case

14:34 AEDT Fri Feb 24 2012
Isabel Hayes
An anti-vaccine group has won its case against the health care watchdog after the group was ordered to warn that its website "should not be read as medical advice".

The NSW Supreme Court on Friday ruled the Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) had no jurisdiction to issue a public warning about the Australian Vaccination Network (AVN).

The AVN took legal action against the commission after it ordered the group to place a prominent warning on its website stating it "should not be read as medical advice" last July.

The HCCC issued the public warning after it investigated the website following complaints from a NSW couple whose four-week-old daughter died from whooping cough.

When the AVN did not comply, the NSW Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing (OLGR) revoked the group's charitable status in October on the grounds it had failed to publish the disclaimer.

The AVN took its case to the NSW Supreme Court, arguing the commission had no power to investigate the complaints as they did not affect the clinical management or care of an individual client.

It said the public warning had directly affected its rights and led to its fundraising capacity being revoked by the OLGR.

The commission submitted it could reasonably be inferred that people accessed the AVN's website to get information about vaccinations to help them decide whether or not to have their children vaccinated.

Handing down her judgment on Friday, Justice Christine Adamson found the health service the AVN supplied had not been shown to affect the clinical management or care of an individual client.

She ruled the HCCC's investigation into the complaints and its subsequent public warning were not within the commission's jurisdiction.

However, she found the gaming minister was not legally obliged to take the public warning into account when deciding whether to revoke the group's charitable status.

She ordered the commission to pay the AVN's costs unless a different order was made within seven days.