Guy Tanner

Profession: Paramedic

Registration Number: PA33266

Hearing Type: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 09:00 22/06/2015 End: 16:00 24/06/2015

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

Whilst registered as a paramedic and employed by the London Ambulance Service (LAS), you:

 

1. On 08 October 2013, remotely accessed your LAS e-mail account and sent out an e-mail to colleagues at LAS, the media and the Health and Care Professions Council which included open portal links (Drop Box) containing private explicit images, movies and messages involving Colleague A.

 

2. Released these private explicit images, movies and messages to colleagues at LAS, the media and the HCPC without Colleague A's consent.

 

3. On 27 September 2013, sent Colleague A a threatening text message telling Colleague A to resign from their job.

 

4. On 28 September 2013 at Deptford Station, verbally threatened Colleague A to resign from their job in that you said, "You have a week or I will go through with it" or words to that effect.

 

5. The matters described in paragraphs 1 - 4 constitute misconduct.

 

6. By reason of that misconduct your fitness to practise is impaired.

Finding

Preliminary Matters:
Service:
1. The Panel found that there had been good service of the proceedings, in accordance with rule 3 of the Health and Care Professions Council (Conduct and Competence Committee) (Procedure) Rules 2003 by notice dated 17 February 2015.
Application for proceedings to be held in private:

2. Ms Ryan made an unopposed application for this hearing to be conducted in private in part. The Panel considered the HCPC Practice Note entitled Conducting Hearings in Private and the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Practice Note states there are two broad circumstances in which all or part of a hearing may be held in private: where it is in the interests of justice to do so or where it is done in order to protect the private life of the person who is the subject of the allegation.

3. A decision to sit in private may relate to all or part of a hearing. Conducting proceedings in private is regarded as the exception. Panels should always consider whether it would be feasible to conduct only part of the proceedings in private, before deciding to conduct all of the proceedings in private. The Panel decided that this hearing should be conducted partly in private, to protect the private life of the Registrant.
Proceeding in Absence:

4. The Panel next considered whether to proceed with the hearing in the absence of the Registrant, in accordance with rule 11 of the Health and Care Professions Council (Conduct and Competence Committee) (Procedure) Rules 2003. The Panel was advised by the Legal Assessor to consider the guidance in the HCPC Practice Note entitled Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant and followed that advice.

5. The HCPC submitted that the Registrant had made a conscious decision not to attend the hearing. There had been no indication that he wanted an adjournment or would attend on a future date. The Registrant’s solicitor had ceased to represent him in the week before the hearing.

6. The Registrant was aware of the hearing, according to the oral evidence of DM. DM had attended the hearing to support the Registrant whom he expected to attend. He said he had received an email at about 08:00 on the morning of the hearing in which the Registrant wrote that he “much appreciated” DM’s offer to attend the hearing to support him.

7. In the circumstances the Panel decided to delay the commencement of the hearing and requested DM to make enquires at the home of the Registrant to establish, if possible, why he had not attended.


8. An email was received by the Panel sent by DM to the Hearings Officer at 13.23 on 22 June 2015 stating that he had not been able to see the Registrant but that he had received another email from the Registrant citing ill health for his non-attendance.

9. The Panel carefully considered the content of the two emails and the oral evidence from DM. The Panel reconvened at 14:15 and decided to proceed with the hearing in the absence of the Registrant on the following basis:

(a) There was no application for an adjournment from the Registrant and he was aware of the hearing today;

(b) The Panel concluded from the evidence available that he had voluntarily absented himself and thereby waived his right to attend;

(c) It is in the public interest that these proceedings are conducted expeditiously;


(d) Two HCPC witnesses had attended to give evidence and the relevant events had occurred in 2013.

10. Two further emails were received from DM sent at 15.28 and 18.31 on 22 June 2015. These were placed before the Panel on 22 June 2015 after the Panel had retired to consider its decision but before the Panel had announced its decision. The hearing resumed at 10.35 on 23 June when the HCPC submitted that the Panel should proceed to issue its decision.

11. The Panel, whilst sympathetic to the Registrant, remains of the view that he has voluntarily absented himself from the hearing and that it is in the interests of justice for the Panel to proceed to deliver its decision. No direct request for an adjournment has been received from the Registrant and he has chosen not to engage directly with the HCPC process. It is in the public interest for this matter to continue to proceed.

12. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor to adopt the civil standard of proof, namely the balance of probability, in respect of the factual particulars. The burden of proof is upon the HCPC as to the facts. The Panel adopted a three stage approach to decide: which of the facts are proved; whether or not the proved facts amount to the grounds of misconduct; and, if misconduct is established, to consider whether the Registrant’s fitness to practice is currently impaired.
Background:
13. The Registrant and Colleague A were both employed by the London Ambulance Service NHS Trust (the Trust) as Paramedics. They were both based at the Deptford Ambulance Station. In around May 2010, the Registrant and Colleague A entered into a relationship together and, shortly after this, they began living together.
14. Colleague A states that, during the course of 2013, her relationship with the Registrant began to deteriorate and subsequently came to an end; however, they continued to live together for financial reasons.
15. On 04 August 2013, the Registrant informed Colleague A that he had video footage of her engaging in sexual intercourse with a work colleague in their flat. Colleague A was unaware that the Registrant had set up a webcam in their flat. Following an argument, Colleague A moved out of the flat on 04 August 2013.
16. On 27 September 2013, the Registrant sent a text message to colleague A, stating that she had one week in which to submit her resignation to the Trust and that, should she fail to do so, he would report her alleged relationship with a different work colleague to Management. Colleague A was also threatened in similar terms by the Registrant verbally whilst at work. Colleague A reported both incidents to her Line Manager at the Trust and to the Police.
17. On 08 October 2013, the Registrant accessed his Trust email account remotely. He sent several copies of an email from his Trust account to a number of internal Trust email addresses and several external email addresses, including the HCPC and national newspapers. The same email was sent several times due to the large number of recipients.
18. The email contained links to sexually explicit videos and photographs of Colleague A and allegations in relation to the conduct of Colleague A and Trust staff. Information from the Registrant’s email was printed in three national newspapers, namely the Sun, the Metro and the Daily Mail.
19. Colleague A was on duty on 08 October 2013 and, at the end of her shift, was informed by her Team Leader of the email that had been sent by the Registrant. She was shown a copy of this email and describes being ‘completely devastated and upset at the contents of this email’. Following this incident, Colleague A was absent from work due to stress for a period of two months. She received support and counselling from the Trust during this period.
Decision on Facts:

20. The Panel heard oral evidence from Colleague A and ML (Investigating Officer for LAS). The Panel found their evidence to be clear, consistent and credible.

21. The Panel finds that the factual particulars 1, 2, 3 and 4 are proved on the following basis:
Particular 1:

22. The HCPC documentary evidence included a copy of the email dated 8 October 2013, sent by the Registrant, which included a list of addressees including internal Trust colleagues, managers, the HCPC and national newspapers. This was confirmed by the oral evidence of Colleague A, who described that she was alerted to the fact of the email whilst on her shift on 08 October 2013.

23. The admissions in the Trust interview made by the Registrant that he had sent the email dated 08 October 2013.

Particular 2:

24. The Panel accepted the oral evidence of Colleague A that she definitely did not consent to the sending of the emails and images. The explicit material consisted of some material which she knew about but thought he had deleted and also some material that she was unaware he had recorded. The email also included links to family photographs and photographs of her nephew as a baby.

25. The admissions in the Trust interview made by the Registrant.

Particular 3:

26. The Panel accepted the oral evidence of Colleague A that the Registrant had sent a threatening text on 27 September 2013 which she confirmed having received. The text stated that she should resign from her job within one week failing which he would tell management about her sleeping with another colleague whilst that colleague was on duty.

27. The admissions in the Trust interview made by the Registrant that he had sent the text. In the interview with the Trust the Registrant admitted he had sent this text and that he intended this to be an attempt to blackmail Colleague A, however he did not expect her to show it to management.

Particular 4:

28. The oral evidence of Colleague A, accepted by the Panel, that the Registrant repeated the threat which had been set out in the text, in the Deptford Ambulance station yard on the following day.
Decision on Grounds:

29. The Panel in reaching its decision accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor that misconduct is a word of general effect, involving some serious act or omission which falls short of what would be proper in the circumstances. The standard of propriety may often be found by reference to the rules and standards ordinarily required to be followed by a practitioner in the particular circumstances.

30. Under the HCPC standards of conduct, performance and ethics, Registrants are required to comply with the following standards:

• 3 - You must keep high standards of personal conduct.
• 13 - You must behave with … integrity and make sure that your behaviour does not damage the public’s confidence in you or your profession.

31. The Panel considers the Registrant’s conduct fell far short of what would be expected from a person of his profession. He carried out a series of premeditated actions calculated to threaten and disgrace Colleague A along with a number of her colleagues and to do so in full glare of the national media. The Panel finds such behaviour to be deplorable. The proved facts each give rise to breaches of standards 3 and 13 above and amount to misconduct.

Decision on Impairment:

32. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor to consider the HCPC Practice Note on Finding that Fitness to Practice is Impaired. The Panel has considered the HCPC Practice Note entitled Finding that Fitness to Practise is “Impaired”.

33. In determining whether fitness to practise is impaired, Panels must take account of a range of issues which, in essence, comprise two components:

1) the ‘personal’ component: the current competence, behaviour etc. of the individual registrant; and

2) the ‘public’ component: the need to protect service users, declare and uphold proper standards of behaviour and maintain public confidence in the profession.

34. Unfortunately the Registrant has not engaged with the HCPC process. In relation to the personal component the Panel therefore has no evidence before it from the Registrant, that he has any insight into his behaviour, nor has he expressed any remorse. Furthermore there is no evidence that he has remediated his behaviour such that the Panel can be assured that such behaviour might not reoccur. There is no information available concerning the Registrant’s employment history following his dismissal by the Trust on 07 April 2014. In these circumstances the Panel concludes that there remains a risk of repetition.

35. Turning to the public component, the Panel finds that this was serious misconduct demonstrating a reckless disregard as to how his behaviour risked harming the reputation of the Paramedic profession. It is incumbent upon the Panel to declare and uphold the HCPC standards of conduct and maintain public confidence in the profession.

36. Accordingly the Panel finds the Registrant’s fitness to practice to be impaired on both personal and public policy grounds.

Decision on Sanction:

37. In coming to its decision on sanction the Panel has given careful consideration to all the circumstances of this case and all the evidence which contributed to its findings on the facts, the statutory grounds and current impairment. It has considered the submissions made by Ms Ryan on behalf of the HCPC and has heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. In accordance with that advice the Panel has had due regard to the HCPC Indicative Sanctions Policy. The Panel has noted that any sanction must be proportionate and that it is not intended to be punitive although it may have a punitive effect. Furthermore it should be no more than is necessary to meet the legitimate purposes of providing adequate protection to the public and otherwise meeting the wider public interest in protecting the reputation of the Paramedic profession, maintaining confidence in the regulatory system, and declaring and upholding proper professional standards. The Panel has sought to balance the public interest against the rights of the Registrant to practise his chosen profession.

38. The Panel first identified the aggravating and mitigating factors that it should take into account. The aggravating factors are:

• Damage to the reputation of the profession by failing to maintain appropriate professional standards.

• The Registrant showed a reckless disregard for the potential and actual harm which was caused to the public and his profession, by sending an email containing sexual images of Colleague A to the national media.

• Highly private and personal matters were put into the public domain in relation to Colleague A and members of her family without their consent.

• Blackmail threats were made by the Registrant to Colleague A.

• There has been no evidence presented to the Panel from the Registrant to demonstrate insight, remorse or remediation.


39. The mitigating features of the case are that:

• The Registrant felt bullied by the LAS management and had asked to be transferred to a different station because of the stress he was suffering working alongside colleague A. The LAS had refused to accede to his request to be transferred.

• The Registrant acted inappropriately in response to an emotional situation.

• The Registrant made admissions during the Trust interview in relation to factual particulars 1, 2 and 3.

• The Registrant has health problems.

40. With those factors in mind the Panel then considered the available sanctions in ascending order of severity and concluded that to take no action or to impose a caution would not meet the need to protect the public or the wider public interest as it would involve no effective restriction on the right of the Registrant to practise, despite the risk of repetition of the misconduct demonstrated in this case.

41. The Panel next considered whether a conditions of practice order would be appropriate.

42. The HCPC Indicative Sanctions Policy states:

“The imposition of conditions requires a commitment on the part of the Registrant to resolve matters and therefore conditions of practise are unlikely to be suitable in situations where problems cannot be overcome such as serious overall failings, lack of insight...”

In the Panel’s view a conditions of practise order would not be suitable in this case because no verifiable or appropriate conditions could be formulated to deal with the misconduct found in this case.

43. Accordingly the Panel next considered whether a suspension order would be appropriate.

44. The HCPC’s Indicative Sanctions Policy provides that a suspension order may be appropriate where the allegation is of a serious nature but there is a realistic prospect that repetition will not occur and, thus, that striking off is not merited.

45. The Panel noted that a striking off order is a sanction of last resort for serious, deliberate or reckless acts where there is a lack of insight and in the Panel’s view this is just such a case. The Registrant’s lack of engagement with the HCPC means that the Panel has no information about the Registrant’s current employment or any evidence that he has appreciated the severity of his actions. Given that there is no evidence from the Registrant two years after the events in question of any insight, remorse or remediation the Panel concludes that there is no realistic prospect that the misconduct will be remediated. Furthermore the sanction of a suspension order is not sufficiently serious to declare and uphold proper standards of professional behaviour and maintain public confidence in the profession and in the regulatory process, in view of the aggravating features and the nature and extent of the misconduct.

46. The Panel has decided that a striking off order is required to meet the legitimate requirements of a sanction in this case and is proportionate in all the circumstances. Such a sanction is appropriate in cases where there is no other way to protect the public or where the nature and gravity of the allegations are such that any lesser sanction would lack deterrent effect or undermine confidence in the profession or the regulatory process. The Panel has concluded that a striking off order is the only appropriate and proportionate sanction in this case.

Order

The Registrar is directed to strike the name of Guy Tanner from the Register on the date this order comes into effect.

Notes

This Conduct and Competence Final Hearing took place at the HCPC on 22 - 23 June 2015.

The Panel imposed an interim suspension order to cover the appeal period.

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Guy Tanner

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
22/06/2015 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Struck off