A GROUP that claims vaccines cause autism, brain damage and cancer has won its case against the healthcare watchdog, with a court finding the Health Care Complaints Commission did not have the jurisdiction to issue a public warning about it.
The Australian Vaccination Network is run by Meryl Dorey, who publishes a website and newsletter, campaigns against mass public immunisation programs and promotes the use of homeopathy to prevent disease.
In July 2010, the commission issued a public warning that the group ''poses a risk to public health and safety''.
In issuing the statement, the commission said the failure of the network to include a disclaimer in a prominent position on its website that it provides information that is solely anti-vaccination could result in ''members of the public making improperly informed decisions about whether or not to vaccinate''.
The commission's investigation was sparked by a complaint by Ken McLeod from the group Stop the AVN, and the parents of Dana McCaffery, who died of whooping cough, aged four weeks.
In the NSW Supreme Court today, Justice Christine Adamson found neither the complaint by Mr McLeod nor the McCafferys was a complaint under the Health Care Complaints Act 1993.
Justice Adamson said while the network provided a health service, there was no evidence to show the information on the website had actually influenced an individual, even if the network hoped to have such an effect.
Mr McLeod said the decision exposed a gaping hole in public health legislation. ''The court did not find that Australia's leading anti-vaccination group was innocent of misleading or dangerous conduct as the commission had found,'' he said.
''Instead, the court has found that the HCCC did not have jurisdiction. This means that the AVN is accountable for their deceptive conduct to no one. Any crank and charlatan has been given a green light to spread their misinformation, and public health will suffer as a result.''
The court did not overturn the Minister for Gaming and Racing's decision to cancel the network's charitable fund-raising authority.
Justice Adamson dismissed the commission's submission that it would require only one person to read the website and decide whether to vaccinate themselves or their children for the complaint to be valid under the Act. The commission had argued it did not need to identify any particular person or a tangible result in respect to a particular ''client''.
''I consider it still to be necessary that there be a causal connection between the health service and the care of an individual client or clients, in order for the complaints to be complaints under the Act,'' she said.
As a result, Justice Adamson found the commission's investigation into the complaints, its recommendation that the network post a disclaimer and the public warning were not within its jurisdiction.
Ms Dorey says her eldest son, now an adult, was ''vaccine-injured'' from the diphtheria-tetanus-polio immunisation when he was two months old and the measles-mumps-rubella shot at 12 months. She attributes his lifelong sleep apnoea and allergies to the vaccinations. Ms Dorey maintains she is not anti-vaccination, but is ''pro-information and pro-choice''.