Psychologist avoids prison

A FORMER Ballarat Health Services psychologist was yesterday spared an immediate jail sentence for indecently assaulting a teenage girl he was counselling. Nicholas Didenkowski, 32, treated the 17-year-old girl at the Queen Elizabeth Centre between November, 2007, and January, 2008, for an eating disorder and self-esteem issues. During that time he touched a scar on the girl's chest during one session to entice a memory of a car accident. On another occasion during a discussion about the girl's weight he placed a hand on her stomach before moving it beneath her underwear to her pelvic bone. The Ballarat Magistrates Court heard the teenager now had trouble trusting men and continued to have dreams related to the offending. Magistrate Peter Couzens yesterday said the girl had been vulnerable and struggling to cope."Both she and her parents placed their trust in you and by your actions you have breached that trust," he said.Didenkowski had specialised in working with children and adolescents.Mr Couzens said he had received references for Didenkowski from parents of children with aspergers syndrome and autism.But he said Didenkowski's professional career was now in tatters and the court had to denounce his actions. "Vulnerable young children must not be exposed to such breaches of trust," he said. Didenkowski pleaded guilty last week to indecent assault and unlawful assault.Mr Couzens convicted Didenkowski and sentenced him to six months' jail suspended for two years on the indecent assault charge. Didenkowski was also fined $1000 for one count of unlawful assault.Didenkowski will be de-registered as a psychologist following his conviction.