Mr Thomas Hatcher

Profession: Operating department practitioner

Registration Number: ODP31780

Hearing Type: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 06/11/2015 End: 17:00 06/11/2015

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

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: No further action

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Allegation

Whilst registered as an Operating Department Practitioner:-

 

1. On 8 September 2014, you were convicted at Bristol Magistrates' Court for driving a motor vehicle after you had consumed so much alcohol that the proportion of it in your breath, namely 77 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath, exceeded the prescribed limit.

 

2. By reason of your conviction as set out at paragraph 1 your fitness to practise as an Operating Department Practitioner is impaired.

Finding

Background:


1. The Registrant is employed as an Operating Department Practitioner at the Bristol Royal Infirmary. On 10 August 2014, at 01.15 hours, the Registrant crashed his car into a parked lorry. No one witnessed the crash. A breath test conducted at the scene produced a positive result for the Registrant being under the influence of alcohol whilst driving his motor vehicle.


2. The Registrant was arrested and later that day formally charged. At the Magistrate’s hearing on 8 September 2014, the Registrant was convicted and a driving ban of 17 months was imposed, which would be reduced by a quarter, if the Registrant attended an alcohol awareness training course. He was also fined £500, directed to pay a victim surcharge of £50, and costs of £85 were awarded to the Crown Prosecution Service.


3. The Registrant completed the alcohol awareness training course and his ban was accordingly reduced by a period of 17 weeks.


Decision on the Grounds:


4. Article 22(a) of the Health and Social Worker Professions Order 2001 (as amended) identifies a conviction as a statutory ground. 


5. The Registrant brought the fact of his arrest and being charged with a criminal offence to the HCPC’s attention by way of email on 15 August 2014. In that email he informed the HCPC that he had made his employer aware of this matter. That fact was confirmed by way of letter from Sister Jennifer Pollock of Bristol Royal Infirmary in which she stated that notwithstanding the fact that the Registrant had been charged, she had no concerns about the Registrant’s fitness to practise whilst matters were being investigated. She undertook to inform the HCPC if that view changed. 


6. By way of letter dated 17 September 2014, the Avon and Somerset Constabulary confirmed that a hearing had taken place and the Registrant had been convicted. In his email to the HCPC of 4 October 2014, the Registrant also confirmed the fact of his conviction and took the opportunity to set out the context in which the event took place. He stated that he had been at a family member’s birthday celebration in the centre of Bristol and due to his plans changing he had consumed more drinks than he had originally planned. There was heavy rain and he had not intended to drive but then changed his mind. The crash had taken place on a bend in the road in wet conditions. The Panel has evidence of the factual basis of the conviction by means of a copy of the Memorandum of Entry in the Court Records which sets out the conviction at the Bristol Magistrates’ Court on 8 September 2014. The offence was driving a motor vehicle whilst under the influence of alcohol contrary to section 5(1)(a) of the Road Traffic Act 1988 and Schedule 2 of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988.


7. That Court Entry shows that the Registrant pleaded guilty and that a certificate of completion had been issued on 18 December 2014, in relation to the Registrant’s attendance at an alcohol awareness training course.  The Panel also had evidence of the booking and payment for the alcohol awareness training course.


8. The Record of Entry also shows the financial fines and costs awarded against the Registrant as detailed above. He was given until 7 December 2014 to pay these sums. The Panel is aware that it is not entitled to go behind this finding and this Court Entry is conclusive evidence of the fact of the conviction and satisfaction of the statutory ground under the Health and Social Worker Order 2001 as amended.


Decision on Impairment:


9. The Registrant stated that he had learnt a very hard lesson and would never repeat his actions ever again. He appreciated that his judgement that evening had been very poor. He regretted his conduct and the fact that he had let his family, friends and himself down by his behaviour. He stated that his family and professional colleagues had been shocked at what he had done particularly as it was so out of character for him. The Alcohol Awareness course had made him fully appreciate how regrettable his actions were. He understood that he could have harmed someone and himself by his decision to drive. He could not forgive himself for doing something that had put his career, something that he had worked so long and hard at and valued, at risk by his momentary poor judgement.


10. The Registrant’s partner of three and a half years, SE, gave evidence on behalf of the Registrant. She stated that she and the Registrant’s family had been shocked and surprised at the Registrant’s behaviour. He was described as a good person who deeply regretted his behaviour. He was described as honest and open and had personally taken responsibility for his regrettable behaviour.


11. The Panel heard from the Council that the matters giving rise to the conviction are sufficiently serious that, in the Council’s view, a finding of impairment is warranted in the public interest.  The Registrant’s actions as found by the Court have brought him and his profession into disrepute, and the Public’s confidence in the regulatory and disciplinary process would be undermined if a finding of impairment were not made.


12. The Panel accepted the Legal Assessor’s advice, the representations of the parties and took into account the guidance issued by the Council in its Practice Note on this topic of fitness to practise.


13. The Panel has heard sufficient from the Registrant to be able to assess that he is not currently impaired on the personal component of its decision. He has expressed genuine remorse and regret for his behaviour and he has been able to articulate the reasons why he would not act in such a way again. The Panel is therefore confident that there is little or no likelihood of repetition.


14. Whilst this event occurred within the Registrant’s private life, a member of the public would naturally be concerned at the behaviour of a professional which had resulted in him breaking the law, and in the process exposing other road users and pedestrians to the risk of harm. Further, the Registrant’s actions had resulted in damage to another person’s property, the lorry owner. In addition the Registrant in questioning had admitted that at the time he appreciated that whilst he felt well in himself having been revived by the fresh air, he was aware that he had drunk more than allowed. The Panel therefore considers that these matters are serious enough for it to make a finding of current impairment on the public interest component of its decision.


Decision on Sanction:


15. The Council made no recommendation about the level of sanction; however it advanced the argument that the fact of a conviction, and a ban from driving for a relatively long period of time, were sufficient to underline the seriousness of the behaviour. 


16. The Registrant stated that his partner was now a student nurse and so dependent on a bursary. This placed the majority of the financial responsibility on him as the sole income provider for the household.


17. The Panel noted that the two professional references before it had been produced for other purposes and they had electronic, typed signatures and were not hand signed. These letters made no reference to steps of remediation or knowledge of these proceedings. The weight the Panel could place on these was therefore limited. However, these letters showed the high regard that these two senior professionals had for the Registrant’s professional abilities and professional character. The Registrant had told the Panel that during the period he had been banned from driving his employers had made provision for him to attend to business off site by taxi. In addition he has been promoted recently from a Band 5 to a Band 6 position. The Panel gave due weight to this evidence of the Registrant’s continued professional standing.


18. The Panel has taken into account the impact on personal financial circumstance that would result from the Panel imposing a sanction that restricting the Registrant’s ability to work. It has balanced those matters with the wider public interest, and the need to continue to uphold the profession’s reputation.


19. The Panel has referred to the latest edition of the Indicative Sanctions Policy (September 2015), in reaching its decision as to the appropriate and the proportionate sanction to impose in this instance.


20. To assist in its task the Panel has identified the following mitigating and aggravating factors:


• Aggravating factors


o The Registrant’s action could have resulted in serious harm to him, and to other road users.
o His conviction was for a serious matter: the Registrant had been over double permitted alcohol level.
o He had stated that he was aware of the serious potential consequences of a road traffic accident, having witnessed these in his daily professional duties.
o He had caused physical damage to another vehicle.
o The Registrant had made a decision, albeit one distorted by the influence of alcohol, to drive his car when he should not have done so.


• Mitigating factors


o He remained at the scene of the incident, made full admissions at the time, self-referred to the HCPC, and has provided full disclosure of events since.
o He has fulfilled the terms of his conviction completely, and in time.
o He has expressed regret, remorse and apology for his actions.
o He has taken steps to ensure that there is no repetition.
o He has gained, and been able to express, full insight into his previous failings.
o Through the Alcohol Awareness training course he has taken note of the very serious nature of his actions.
o He has fully engaged in the HCPC proceedings and has, in the Panel’s view, been open and honest in his testimony today.
o The Panel has sufficient evidence to support the view that the Registrant’s previous failing was out of character for him.
o This is the first occasion that he has been involved with the criminal process or disciplinary proceedings.
o He continues to enjoy the support of his employer.


21. The Panel has had the benefit of hearing the Registrant express his heart-felt feelings on his past behaviour. His description of regret for what he did was sufficiently profound to persuade this Panel that there has been personal punishment enough and there would be little served by imposing a restriction on his professional practice. The Panel has therefore decided that the finding of impairment made in the wider public interest is, in the particular circumstances of this case, a sufficient deterrent and mark of censure. The Panel has therefore made no Order in this case.


22. To ensure that this decision is proportionate the Panel considered whether a Caution Order would provide any further or appropriate level of censure. The Panel considered that as there had been no services harm to others, and there had been full personal remediation, the only basis on which this order would have an impact was as a mark of public concern. As stated above, the Panel’s view is that a finding of impairment is sufficient in this instance to mark that public concern.

Order

The Panel imposed no order.

Notes

No notes available

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Mr Thomas Hatcher

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
06/11/2015 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing No further action