A women receiving acupuncture treatment to the neck.

Unlicensed acupuncturist who burnt customer given suspended sentence

However, practitioner continues to trade after applying for licence during investigation.
05 March 2020 , Sarah Campbell

An unlicensed acupuncturist narrowly avoided prison after being prosecuted for causing horrific burns to an 86-year-old woman.

Horsham District Council successfully prosecuted Yao Wenix, who was handed a 26-week sentence, suspended for 12 months. She was also ordered to pay costs of £6,000.

The injured woman had sought the services of Yao, who was known as ‘Lala’ and had a practice on Horsham’s main High Street, following a hip problem. During the treatment session Yao used an infra-red lamp – but for far too long and too close. The woman was left with a serious, debilitating burn on her ankle, resulting in excruciating pain, permanent scarring and loss of mobility. It wasn't clear why the lamp was being used, although the injured woman had mentioned her feet were cold during the session.

Michael McGale, technical officer health & safety at the council, said that the investigation was almost thwarted by Yao refusing to identify herself. “She failed to attend a PACE interview and the invite letter was made out to ‘Known as Lala’, a first for me,” he said. “This lack of information caused a lot of frustration and limited us in the progress of the investigation.”

Eventually, McGale and his colleagues managed to identify Yao through solicitors' emails and her application (in her real name) for a skin piercing licence. McGale said: "We had the unusual situation of having to process her application during the investigation. Ms Yao passed the mainly environmental and infection-based inspection and provided membership to an acupuncture organisation based in China. Unlike with taxi licensing, for a skin piercing licence good character (ie, being a fit and proper person) is not an aspect that needs to be met."

As a result, Yao continues to trade. "Yao hindered the investigation at every opportunity and denied any negligence," he said. "She lied to both our investigators and the courts with her account of the incident, pleading not guilty. It was never our intention to prevent Ms Yao from working in her profession but we had hoped she might address the risk and carelessness she had shown. Unfortunately this does not appear to be the case as an appeal is pending."

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