Richard Hall

Profession: Occupational therapist

Registration Number: OT67018

Hearing Type: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 09:00 27/07/2015 End: 16:00 27/07/2015

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

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Struck off

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Allegation

While registered as an Occupational Therapist:

 

1.     On 13 August 2014 you were convicted at North East Derbyshire and Dales Magistrates' Court of two counts of theft.

 

2.     By reason of your conviction your fitness to practise is impaired.

Finding

Preliminary Matters:
1. The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant had been properly served with notice of the hearing. Mr Thompson made an application for the hearing to proceed in the Registrant’s absence. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and applied the principles in the HCPC Practice Note on Proceeding in the Absence of a Registrant. The Registrant had not applied for an adjournment of today’s hearing or advanced any reasons why the hearing should be adjourned. The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant had voluntarily absented himself and had waived his right to attend. The Panel considered that the Registrant would be unlikely to attend at a future date if the hearing were to be adjourned and that no useful purpose would be served by an adjournment. It was in the public interest that the allegations be heard and determined without further delay. In all the circumstances, the Panel determined that the hearing should proceed in the absence of the Registrant.

Background
2. The Registrant was employed as a Band 5 Occupational Therapist at Walton Hospital by Derbyshire Community Health Services NHS Trust (“the Trust”).
3. On 21 July 2014 the Registrant, in the course of his employment, assisted a vulnerable Service User, at her request, to obtain cash from a cash dispenser.
4. Having withdrawn the sum £200 from the cash dispenser, the Registrant withheld the Service User’s bank card. In subsequent days, by using the Service User’s bank card, the Registrant withdrew £200 on six occasions from the Service User’s bank account, amounting to £1,200.
5. On 29 July 2014 the Registrant reported his theft to the Police, who notified his employer. The Registrant sent a letter of resignation to his employer on the same day.
6. On 13 August 2014 the Registrant on his own plea of guilty was convicted by the North East Derbyshire and Dales Magistrates Court of two counts of theft and was committed to the Crown Court for sentence.
7. On 2 October 2014 at the Crown Court at Derby the Registrant was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment suspended for 24 months. He was ordered to attend as directed for two years with his Supervising Officer. He was further ordered to pay compensation of £1,200, payable at the rate of £50 a month.
8. The Registrant also reported himself to the Police and disclosed that he had a gambling addiction.

Decision on Facts
9. The Panel found the allegation proved by the certificate of conviction.

Decision on Impairment
10. The Panel noted that the Registrant had not provided any response to the allegation, information about his current circumstances, either personal or work-related, nor has he produced any references or testimonials.
11. The Panel took into account the transcript of the Sentencing Hearing at the Crown Court on 3 April 2014, which contained information about the circumstances relating to the offences of theft and the Judge’s sentencing remarks.
12. The Panel took into account the submissions of Mr Thompson. The Panel applied the guidance contained in the HCPC Practice Note on “Finding that Fitness to Practise is Impaired” and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.
13. The Panel noted the Registrant’s convictions were in breach of standard 3 of the HCPC’s Standards of conduct, performance and ethics which states that  “You must keep high standards of personal conduct” and standard 13 which states that  “You must behave with honesty and integrity and make sure your behaviour does not damage the public’s confidence in you or your profession”.
14. In determining whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired, the Panel took into account both the ‘personal’ component and ‘public’ component. The personal component relates to the Registrant’s own practice as an Occupational Therapist, including any evidence of insight and remorse and efforts to remediate his practice. The ‘public’ component includes the need to protect Service Users, declare and uphold proper standards of behaviour and maintain public confidence in the profession and the regulator.
15. With regard to the personal element of impairment the Panel had concerns about the Registrant’s ability to practise safely as an Occupational Therapist, given that the convictions were associated with his gambling habit, which, by his own admission, was of long standing.
16. There was evidence before the Panel that the Registrant had expressed shame and remorse about his conduct, and that he acknowledged the underlying causes which had resulted in his convictions.
17. Nevertheless, the Panel considered that there was a significant risk of repetition of similar conduct which could put Service Users and the public at large at risk of harm.
18. When deciding whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired, the Panel also took into account the responsibility of the HCPC to uphold proper standards of conduct on the part of members of the profession and to maintain public confidence in the profession. The Panel considered that, given the serious nature of the convictions, public confidence in the profession and in the regulator would be undermined if a finding of current impairment were not made. Accordingly, the Panel finds that the Registrant’s fitness to practise as an Occupational Therapist is impaired by reason of is conviction.
Decision on Sanction
19. The Panel considered the submissions of Mr Thompson on behalf of the HCPC. The Panel noted that the Registrant has not provided any representations, references or testimonials.
20. The Panel took into account the HCPC’s Indicative Sanctions Policy and the practice note on Conviction and Caution Allegations. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel was mindful that the purpose of a sanction is not to punish the Registrant but to protect the public and the wider public interest by upholding proper standards of conduct and behaviour on the part of Registrants and maintaining public confidence in the profession and the Regulator.
21. The Panel considered the available sanctions in ascending order of seriousness and applied the principle of proportionality, balancing the respective interests of the Registrant and the public.
22. In the Panel’s judgment, the aggravating factors in the case are as follows:

• The Registrant abused his position of trust to take advantage of a   vulnerable Service User for his own benefit;

• The Registrant’s actions were dishonest and involved the commission of criminal offences;

• The Registrant has not attended today’s hearing and has provided no evidence of remediation.

23. The Panel noted that the sentence of 12 months imprisonment suspended for 24 months imposed on the Registrant does not expire until 2 October 2016. The Panel took into account the guidance from the case of CHRP v GDC and Fleischmann  [2005] EWHC 87 Admin that, where a Registrant has been convicted of a serious criminal offence, normally the Panel should not permit him to resume his practice until his sentence has been satisfactorily completed.
24. With regard to mitigating factors, the Registrant was previously of good character and appears to have had an unblemished record as an Occupational Therapist. He reported his offences to the Police of his own volition and he pleaded guilty to the charges at the Magistrates Court. He has expressed remorse and has shown some insight into the underlying causes of his behaviour, although his insight was not sufficient to enable the Panel to conclude it would not happen again. The Panel noted that in the previous year (2013) the Registrant in applying for the Band 5 Occupational Therapist position at the Trust had stated that he had “turned his life around” but sadly the following year the offences were committed.
25. The Panel considered the various options by way of disposal in ascending order of seriousness.
26. The case is too serious for the Panel to take no action, as it involves a conviction for offences of theft from a vulnerable Service User and therefore a grave breach of trust.
27. Mediation could only be considered if the Panel would otherwise consider taking no further action.
28. A Caution Order is not appropriate because of the serious nature of the Registrant’s convictions and the risk of repetition of conduct of a similar nature in the absence of any evidence of remediation. A Caution Order would not place any restriction on the Registrant’s ability to practise as an Occupational Therapist.
29. A Conditions of Practice Order is not appropriate because the case does not relate to the Registrant’s competence as an Occupational Therapist but rather his suitability to be a member of the profession. The Panel was not satisfied that workable conditions could be formulated to address the concerns.
30. The Panel considered the criteria for imposing a Suspension Order. The Panel noted that the Registrant has not engaged with the HCPC in relation to this hearing. He has not provided the Panel with any reflection on the facts or circumstances relating to his conviction or with any reason to conclude that his conduct was out of character and would not happen again. In the Panel’s judgment, the Registrant’s conviction for offences of theft from a vulnerable Service User are such serious matters as to be fundamentally incompatible with his remaining on the Register.
31. The Panel was mindful that a Striking Off Order is a sanction of last resort and should be used where there is no other way to protect the public. The Panel’s view is that there are continuing issues and an inability to resolve matters. In the Panel’s judgment, the nature and seriousness of the Registrant’s conviction are such that he is not fit to be a member of the profession. Public confidence in both the profession and the Regulator would be undermined if he were allowed to continue in practice as an Occupational Therapist. In all the circumstances, the only appropriate and proportionate sanction is a Striking Off Order.

Order

Order:  The Registrar is directed to remove the name of the Registrant from the Register.

Right of Appeal:
You may appeal to the appropriate court against the decision of the Panel and the order it has made against you.  In this case the appropriate court is the High Court in England and Wales.
Under Articles 29 and 38 of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001, an appeal must be made to the court not more than 28 days after the date when this notice is served on you.  The order made against you will not take effect until that appeal period has expired or, if you appeal during that period, until that appeal is disposed of or withdrawn.
Interim Order:
The Panel makes an Interim Suspension Order under Article 31(2) of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001, the same being necessary to protect members of the public and being otherwise in the public interest for the reasons set out in its decision on sanction.  This order will expire (if no appeal is made against the Panel’s decision and Order) upon the expiry of the period during which such an appeal could be made; (if an appeal is made against the Panel’s decision and Order) the final determination of that appeal, subject to a maximum period of 18 months.

Notes

Conduct and Competence Committee Final hearing took place at Park House, London on Monday 27 July 2015 at 10.00am.

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Richard Hall

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
27/07/2015 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Struck off