Mr Alan Wren

Profession: Operating department practitioner

Registration Number: ODP11612

Hearing Type: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 07/12/2015 End: 17:00 07/12/2015

Location: Health and Care Professions Council, Park House, 184 Kennington Park Road, London, SE11 4BU

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Caution

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Allegation

1. On 07 May 2014 at Torquay Magistrates’ Court, you were convicted of assaulting Victim A by beating her, contrary to section 39 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988.
2. By reason of your conviction described in paragraph 1, your fitness to practise as an Operating Department Practitioner is impaired.

Finding

Preliminary Matters:
Service / Proceeding in Absence:
1. The Panel found that there had been good service of the notice of hearing by a letter dated 9 September 2015.
2. Ms Jones made an application for the hearing to proceed in the absence of the Registrant. She informed the Panel that the bundle of documents were not sent to the Registrant in accordance with the HCPC standard directions which require that the bundle is served 42 days before the hearing. The Registrant was advised of this error and asked if he was happy to waive the standard notice period. On 16 November 2015 the Registrant telephoned the HCPC. It is recorded in a file note that he stated that he would not attend the hearing because a relative is seriously ill. It is recorded that he stated that “he wants the hearing…to go ahead without him”. He stated that he wanted the hearing to be “over” and that he will submit character references. The Registrant sent a Response Proforma dated 10 November 2015 to the HCPC confirming that he did not intend to appear or be represented. He has provided written representations and testimonials. Ms Jones informed the Panel that the Registrant did not respond to a letter from Kingsley Napley stating that arrangements could be made for the Registrant to participate in the hearing, even if he was not able to attend in person.
3. The Panel applied the advice of the Legal Assessor and the Guidance in the HCPC Practice Note “Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant”. The Registrant has confirmed that he is happy for the hearing to proceed and has made written representations. The Panel noted that every effort has been made by the HCPC to enable the Registrant to participate in the hearing. The Panel concluded that the Registrant’s absence is voluntary. He has not applied for an adjournment of the hearing and there is nothing to suggest that he might attend if the hearing were adjourned to a later date. The Panel decided that any prejudice to the Registrant was limited because he has set out his position clearly and that the public interest that the hearing proceeds outweighs the Registrant’s interest in attending.
Amendment to the allegation:
4. Ms Jones applied to make a minor amendment to the allegation. The allegation incorrectly refers to a conviction at “South and West Devon Magistrates’ Court”, but should read “Torquay Magistrates’ Court”. Ms Jones submitted that the Registrant was not prejudiced by this amendment which did not change the substance of the allegation.
5. The Panel agreed to the proposed amendment because it was appropriate for the allegation to refer to the correct Court. Although the Registrant did not have notice of the proposed amendment, the amendment made no change to the nature of the allegation and the Registrant was not misled by the incorrect wording.
Background:
6. The Registrant is a registered Operating Department Practitioner (ODP). In an undated letter, received by the HCPC on 17 September 2014, the Registrant notified the HCPC that in June 2014 he received a conviction at Torquay Magistrates’ Court for which he received a community service order.
Decision on Facts:
7. Ms Jones referred the Panel to the Memorandum of conviction at Torquay Magistrates’ Court. This records that on 6 February 2014 the Registrant pleaded not guilty and on 7 May 2014 was found guilty in that on 19 January 2014 he assaulted Victim A by beating her contrary to section 39 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988. The Registrant’s sentence was a community order that he must complete 100 hours unpaid work within twelve months. A restraining order was made that he should not contact Victim A, save through solicitors, until 1 June 2016. He was ordered to pay compensation of £200, a victim surcharge of £60 and costs of £350.
8. The Panel found that the conviction was proved by the certificate of conviction.
Decision on Impairment: 
9. The Panel accepted and applied the advice of the Legal Assessor and the guidance in the HCPC Practice Notes on “Conviction and Caution Allegations” and “Finding that Fitness to Practice is Impaired”. The Panel considered the Registrant’s fitness to practise at today’s date.
10. The Panel considered the nature, circumstances and gravity of the offence. The police report states that the offence occurred in a domestic context following an argument. The Registrant punched Victim A twice causing visible injuries to the left upper arm and the right eye. The Registrant confirmed that there was an argument, but denied any physical contact with Victim A.
11. The Registrant pleaded not guilty and he has continued to deny the facts of the offence. However, he did refer the conviction to the HCPC in September 2014 and to his employer in October 2014. In a statement to his employer in October 2014 the Registrant stated that “I have accepted the court’s decision and completed the community service awarded to me….I understand that a conviction for assault is a serious offence and needless to say I understand the ramifications of it. ..Can I also take this opportunity to express my deep regret and apologies for this incident and I understand that I have received a conviction …”
12. The Registrant’s position has not changed. He continues to deny the facts of the offence, but he acknowledges the serious nature of the conviction and apologises for it. In his undated letter to the HCPC Panel sent with his Proforma of 10 November 2015 he states “I would like to apologise to everybody concerned with regards to this serious issue and at the same time try to reassure the panel that there is no public safety issue concerned with my continuing practice and if allowed will continue to serve my patients and the community, to the best of my ability with kindness and consideration”.
13. The Panel first considered the personal component, which is the Registrant’s conduct and behaviour. The Panel agreed with Ms Jones submission that an aggravating factor was that the offence was of violence. The Panel noted that the offence was in the domestic sphere, but they did not consider that this made the offence either more or less serious. The Panel was concerned that there were delays in the Registrant reporting the conviction to the HCPC and to his employer. It appears that the Registrant reported the conviction to the HCPC only when he was required to renew his register entry. The Registrant also continues to deny the facts of the offence. In the Panel’s view the Registrant’s level of insight has developed and he now recognises the seriousness of his conviction. Nevertheless the Panel’s assessment is that the Registrant’s insight is incomplete.
14. The offence was an isolated incident, as a single offence with no other convictions and no evidence of any propensity to violence. The Registrant’s circumstances have changed and the Panel’s assessment is that the risk of repetition is low. The Registrant has completed his community order. He has provided very positive testimonials. He has expressed remorse and apologised to the Panel.
15. Although there are positive aspects of the Panel’s assessment, the Panel’s overall view on the basis of the personal component is that the Registrant’s current fitness to practise is impaired, taking into account the gravity of the offence and the incomplete insight.
16. The Panel next considered the public component which includes the important considerations of maintaining confidence in the profession and the regulatory process. In this case the criminal offence had no connection to the Registrant’s practice as an ODP and there are no patient safety concerns. Members of the public would note the Registrant’s long and otherwise unblemished career, the very positive testimonials and the fact that he is otherwise of good character. Nevertheless, the offence was of a violent assault. This is a socially unacceptable crime and a breach of a fundamental tenet of the profession. There was a serious breach of the HCPC Standards of Conduct Performance and Ethics. In particular the Panel found that there was a breach of standard 3 “you must keep high standards of personal conduct” and standard 4 “you must provide (to us and any other relevant regulators) any important information about your conduct and competence”. The breach of standard 4 was because the Registrant did not inform the HCPC of his conviction straight away as required.
17. In these circumstances a finding that the Registrant’s current fitness to practise is impaired in relation to the public component is required to maintain public confidence in the profession and the regulatory process.
18. On the basis of both the personal component and the public component the Panel concluded that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired.
Decision on Sanction:
19. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and applied the guidance in the HCPC Indicative Sanctions Policy. The Panel bore in mind the purpose of a sanction which is not to punish the Registrant, but to protect public safety and the wider public interests of protecting the reputation of the profession, acting as a deterrent to other Registrants and maintaining confidence in the regulatory process.
20. The Panel identified the following aggravating factors:
• The gravity of the offence involving violence
• The Registrant’s insight is incomplete
• Breach of the HCPC Standards.
21. The Panel identified the following mitigating factors:
• An isolated lapse in a long and otherwise unblemished career
• Low risk of repetition
• The Registrant’s developing insight and his remorse
• The conduct was out of character
• Positive testimonials.
22. The conviction was unrelated to the Registrant’s practice and there are no patient safety concerns. The Panel was impressed with the quality of the testimonials from senior practitioners and senior doctors. For example a testimonial from a Consultant Cardiothoracic Anaesthetist who has known and worked with the Registrant for 22 years states that the Registrant’s “interpersonal skills and dealings with patients are exemplary” and he describes the Registrant as a “terrific asset to the ODA profession”. The testimonials confirm that the Registrant is a skilled and valued practitioner and the Panel concluded that there is a public interest in the Registrant being able to continue to practise.
23. The testimonials are also supportive of the Registrant’s general character and confirm that the criminal offence was out of character for him. An example is the testimonial from a Senior Consultant who states “we were all surprised to hear he was involved in a domestic violence case which is contrary to his kind nature”.
24. The Panel considered the sanctions in ascending order of severity. The Panel decided that to take no action would not provide sufficient deterrent to other Registrants, nor uphold the reputation of the profession and public confidence in the regulatory process. The seriousness of the conviction and the Registrant’s incomplete insight need to be marked by a very clear indication from the Regulator that the Registrant’s behaviour was completely unacceptable for an ODP.
25. The Panel next considered mediation, but this is not appropriate in the circumstances of this case.
26. The Panel considered a Caution Order. The Panel decided that there were a number of factors that indicated a Caution Order was appropriate, particularly that this was an isolated lapse and that there was a low risk of repetition. The Panel decided that the level of the Registrant’s insight was sufficient for a Caution Order to be appropriate particularly because the Registrant has recognised the seriousness of his conviction. In the Panel’s view a Caution Order is in the public interest because it will allow a skilled ODP to continue to practise. A Caution Order would strike an appropriate balance between the Registrant’s interests in continuing to practise and the public interest in marking the seriousness of the Registrant’s conviction and declaring that it is unacceptable.
27. The Indicative Sanctions Policy states that the benchmark for a Caution Order is three years, but that the Panel should start with the lowest period for a Caution Order of one year. The Panel considered a one year Caution Order, but decided a shorter period than the benchmark would not be proportionate to the seriousness of the criminal offence. A Caution Order of three years, which is the benchmark, is proportionate and would be sufficient to be a deterrent to other Registrants and to protect the reputation of the profession and the regulatory process.
28. The Panel considered the more severe sanctions of a Conditions of Practice Order or a Suspension Order. The Panel decided that conditions would not address the public interest considerations in this case and are not appropriate. A Suspension Order would not be proportionate. It would remove a skilled practitioner from practise which is not in the public interest and it would be disproportionate, taking into account all the mitigating circumstances.
29. The Panel decided that a Caution Order for three years is the appropriate and proportionate sanction.

Order

The Registrar is directed to annotate the register entry of Alan Wren with a caution which is to remain on the register for a period of three years from the date this order comes into effect.

Notes

No notes available

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Mr Alan Wren

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
07/12/2015 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Caution