Mohammad T Azad
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1. Sexual Assault
2. By reason of your conviction as set out at paragraph 1 your fitness to practise as a Physiotherapist is impaired.
1. The HCPC sent a Notice of Hearing to the Registrant’s registered address on 01 October 2015. The Notice set out all the relevant information about today’s proceedings. A copy of that notice was also sent to HMP Lincoln where the Registrant was imprisoned. The Panel was therefore satisfied that service had been effected in accordance with the Rules.
Proceeding in absence
2. Miss Jones applied for the hearing to proceed in the Registrant’s absence. She submitted that the Registrant was aware of this hearing today and that he had responded to say that he would attend if he was available. There is nothing before the Panel today which would indicate that he would be likely to attend if the matter were to be adjourned.
3. This Panel had regard to the HCPC Practice Note on proceeding in absence and it has also accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.
4. The Panel considered that it is appropriate to proceed in the absence of the Registrant. It is unclear whether the Registrant is still in custody but given that he received a 12 month custodial sentence he would be expected to have been released on license by now. In any event, given that the Registrant has previously communicated from prison if he wished for this hearing to be adjourned he could have made such an application. The Panel has considered that there is a strong public interest in proceeding with this case and it also considered that given the serious nature of the allegations it would be in the interest of justice for this matter to proceed.
5. The Registrant practised as a physiotherapist. The Registrant was convicted at Nottingham Crown Court of 1 count of sexual assault on 05 March 2015 and was sentenced on 01 May 2015 to 12 month’s imprisonment; included on the adult barred list; ordered to sign the sex offenders register for 10 years; and given a restraining order for 5 years.
6. At the relevant time the Registrant was employed by Nottingham Healthcare Foundation Trust. The Registrant had attended at the home of the complainant on a number of occasions to carry out physiotherapy sessions which were entirely proper. On all occasions bar the last, the complainant’s fiancé was present in the house.
7. On that occasion the Registrant twice placed his hand inside the bra of the complainant without any physical or therapeutic justification. The Registrant was convicted following a trial.
Decision on Conviction and Impairment
8. The Panel considered all the documentation before it and drew no adverse inference from the Registrant’s non-attendance. The Panel was satisfied on the basis of the Certificate of Conviction that the fact of the Conviction is properly made out. The Panel considered the circumstances surrounding the conviction. It considered that the sexual assault was a serious breach of trust. The seriousness of the conviction is reflected in the judge imposing a custodial sentence, placing the Registrant on the adult barred list, ordering him to sign the sex offenders register for 10 years and placing a restraining order on him for 5 years.
9. The Registrant’s conduct represented a significant departure from that which is acceptable from a registered Physiotherapist. His behaviour represents a serious breach of trust. The sexual assault took place in the service user’s own home and as can be seen from the judge’s sentencing remarks it had a serious impact upon her. The Panel considered that the Registrant’s conviction contravened the following HCPC Standards of Conduct Performance and Ethics:
Standard 1 – You must act in the best interest of service users.
Standard 13 – You must…. make sure that your behaviour does not damage confidence in you or your profession.
10. Notwithstanding that the Registrant self-referred, the Panel considered that there is a risk of repetition of the behaviour identified in the conviction given that the Registrant shows a lack of insight in that he still denies the facts. The Registrant breached the trust and confidence placed in him by his service user and he has undermined public confidence in the profession.
11. The Panel has taken into account that the purpose of these procedures is not to punish or re-punish the practitioner for past misdoings but to protect the public against the acts and omissions of those who are not currently fit to practise.
12. The Registrant has damaged public confidence in him and his professional conduct. The Panel also considered that a finding of current impairment was also required in the wider public interest. A failure to make a finding in the above circumstances would undermine confidence in the profession and regulatory process and would not uphold proper standards of behaviour. In any event the Registrant is still serving his sentence imposed by the criminal court.
13. Accordingly, the Panel concluded that the Registrant’s fitness to Practise is currently impaired by reason of his conviction.
Decision on sanction
14. The Panel considered the submissions of Miss Jones and it had regard to the written submissions of the Registrant. Miss Jones also informed the Panel that the appeal of the criminal conviction was heard and dismissed in the Court of Appeal on 28 July 2015.
15. In considering what, if any, sanction to impose, the Panel had regard to the HCPC Indicative Sanctions Policy and the advice of the Legal Assessor.
16. The Panel also took into account the HCPC’s Practice Note on Conviction and Caution Allegations. In particular it noted:
Although inclusion on the sex offenders’ database is not a punishment, it is intended to secure public protection from those who have committed certain types of offences. Generally, Panels should regard it as incompatible with HCPC’s obligation to protect the public to allow a registrant to remain in or return to unrestricted practice whilst subject to a notification requirement as a sex offender.
17. The Panel took into account the mitigation that it could infer from the papers, namely that this was the first time the Registrant was before his regulator and prior to his conviction he was a man of good character. However, it also considered a number of aggravating factors: in particular, the Registrant denied the allegations and was found guilty after trial. He maintains his innocence and he demonstrates little if any remorse for his actions. The conviction is particularly serious and demonstrates a significant departure from acceptable standards. The sexual assault took place in the complainant’s own home which particularly aggravates the breach of trust that the service user placed in the Registrant.
18. Accordingly, given the seriousness and circumstances of this case to take no action would be wholly inappropriate. The Panel also considered that a Caution Order would not be appropriate as the assault was deliberate and there is no insight or remorse. A Caution Order, even for the maximum duration, is neither sufficient nor proportionate and it would not maintain public confidence in the profession.
19. The Panel then considered the imposition of a Conditions of Practice Order. However, it excluded it as an available sanction on the grounds that such an Order is inappropriate where there is no evidence of insight. Above all such an Order requires confidence to be placed in the Registrant and due to the serious breach of trust and that he is still subject to a sentence of imprisonment, a Conditions of Practice Order is neither appropriate nor proportionate.
20. The Panel then went on to consider the imposition of a Suspension Order. Such an order would provide public protection in that the Registrant would be unable to practise as a physiotherapist for a period of time. During any period of suspension a registrant would be expected to be able to develop insight and remedy his behaviour. However, the Registrant has not provided this Panel with any evidence such that it could conclude that the conduct would not occur again.
21. His conviction for such serious matters fundamentally undermines public confidence in the profession and breaches fundamental tenets of the profession. The Panel therefore considered that a Suspension Order would be inappropriate. The Panel were particularly concerned with the Registrant’s continued denial of the sexual assault and his latest communications to the HCPC demonstrate his continuing lack of understanding of the significance of his conviction for a sexual offence.
22. The Panel considered that the only appropriate and proportionate sanction is one of striking off. Such a sanction will maintain public confidence in the profession. Further a Striking Off Order will send out a clear message to the profession and the public. To impose any lesser sanction would undermine confidence in the profession and the regulatory process.
23. A Striking Off Order prohibits the Registrant from practising in his chosen profession as a physiotherapist; however, the Panel concluded that the public interest in maintaining confidence in the profession outweighs the Registrant’s right to practice in his profession.
An interim suspension order was imposed to cover the 28 day appeal period.
History of Hearings for Mohammad T Azad
|Date||Panel||Hearing type||Outcomes / Status|
|11/12/2015||Conduct and Competence Committee||Final Hearing||Struck off|
|12/10/2015||Conduct and Competence Committee||Interim Order Review||Interim Suspension|