Please note that the decision can take up to 5 working days to be uploaded onto the HCPTS website. Please contact one of our Hearings Team Managers via firstname.lastname@example.org or +44 (0)808 164 3084 if you require any further information.
Whilst registered as a Paramedic, you:
1) On 10 October 2014, were convicted of 3x Sexual Assault on a female.
2) By reason of your conviction described in paragraph 1, your fitness to practise is impaired.
1. The Council was represented by Matthew Corrie from Kingsley Napley Solicitors.
2. The Registrant was not present or represented.
3. The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant had been given proper notification of this hearing as a Notice, dated 10 July 2015, was sent to his registered address in accordance with the rules.
4. The HCPC applied to proceed in the Registrant’s absence. The Panel accepted the advice from the Legal Assessor and applied the principles in the HCPC Practice Note on Proceeding in the Absence of Registrants.
5. The Panel decided to proceed in the Registrant’s absence.
6. The Panel was satisfied that all reasonable steps had been taken to bring this hearing to the Registrant’s attention. In addition to proper notification being given, a copy of the Hearing Notice was sent to the prison at which the Registrant is held and to his email address. There was ample confirmation that the Registrant was aware of this hearing as he had made an application (12 July 2015) to postpone the same which had been refused, he then made an application (28 July 2015) to adjourn this hearing which was also refused and he has corresponded with the HCPC about this hearing in which he ultimately asked for the hearing to proceed in his absence.
7. The Panel accordingly had a discretion, conferred by Rule 11 of the Conduct and Competence Committee Procedure Rules 2003, to proceed in the absence of the Registrant.
8. The Panel exercised the discretion with care and caution. The Panel concluded that the Registrant’s physical absence was involuntary as he is in prison and could not secure day release to attend this hearing. However, the Registrant’s absence, in terms of a telephone link, was deliberate and voluntary as such a facility had been identified and was available which the Registrant had not taken up despite being asked more than once and recently about this. Instead the Registrant had decided that he wanted this hearing to proceed in his absence and had provided written representations that he wanted the Panel to take into account addressing the areas of importance to him on issues relevant to this hearing. Thereby he waived the right to be present by way of telephone link.
9. There was no further adjournment application. The Panel was persuaded that the Registrant may attend a hearing in the future if the case was adjourned to a time when he was no longer a serving prisoner. In the ordinary course the Registrant will be eligible for release at the half way point which will be in February 2016 but there was no confirmation of this. There was no substantiation of the Registrant’s point that he could qualify for day release from October. The Panel concluded that an adjournment of such a length would not amount to an expeditious management of the case.
10. In addition the Panel was of the view that valuable resources had already been applied and which would be lost in the event of an adjournment.
11. There were no live witnesses and as such the Registrant’s absence did not deprive his defence of the opportunity to cross examine which may have been a factor in favour of not proceeding in absence.
12. These were serious offences with a pressing need for public confidence in the profession, regulatory process and for the public to know that matters were being taken seriously. It was in the public interest for decisions to be made in a reasonable and expeditious manner.
13. Despite there being a disadvantage through the nonattendance the Panel was of the view that the public interest in proceeding was dominant. Accordingly, it was appropriate to depart from the general rule of holding hearings with a Registrant being present.
14. In all the circumstances the Panel was satisfied that it was fair and proportionate to proceed in the Registrant’s absence.
15. The Registrant was employed by East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust as a Band 5 Paramedic based at Ely Ambulance Station.
16. The Registrant’s colleagues raised concerns in 2013 in relation to inappropriate language and behaviour. Due to the severity of the allegations, the Registrant was suspended and then dismissed by the Trust.
17. The Registrant was prosecuted and convicted at Cambridge Crown Court of three counts of sexual assault on three female colleagues on 10 October 2014. On 7 November 2014 he was sentenced to 30 months imprisonment and was automatically liable to indefinite notification on the Sex Offenders Register.
18. Mr Corrie opened and summarised the Council’s case and referred the Panel to the evidence which included the Trust’s investigation documentation, written evidence from the criminal trial, a transcript of the sentencing remarks and a Memorandum of Conviction.
19. The Panel took into account the statements from LH, who had conducted the Trust investigation, who exhibited documentation from the investigation. The Panel also took into account the statement from SL, a Legal Assistant at Kingsley Napley Solicitors, who exhibited documentation from the criminal trial.
20. The Panel also took into account the Registrant’s letters to the HCPC containing his representations, particularly the letter of 31 August 2015.
21. The Panel took advice from the Legal Assessor.
Decision on facts
22. The Panel is aware that the burden of proving the facts is on the Council, that the Registrant did not have to prove anything and that the case was only to be found proved if the Panel was satisfied on a balance of probabilities.
23. The Panel is also aware that pursuant to rule 10(1)(d) of the Conduct and Competence Committee (Procedure) Rules 2003 that where the Registrant has been convicted of a criminal offence, a certified copy of the certificate of conviction shall be admissible as proof of that conviction and of the findings of fact upon which it was based.
24. Particular 1 is proven on a balance of probabilities on the strength of the clear evidence set out in the signed Certificate of Conviction which set out the three offences of sexual assault on females mentioned in Particular 1.
25. Count 1 related to his conduct towards Colleague 1 (C1), an emergency care assistant. C1’s evidence showed that on day shifts the Registrant would continually flirt and make sexual remarks which she shrugged off. Her evidence also showed that she dreaded doing a night shift with the Registrant as they would have been alone. During a weekend shift, when C1 and the Registrant were alone, at the station an assault took place. C1 was stood at the breakfast bar when the Registrant approached her from behind, pressed his body against her and made a grunting sound. C1 said “what are you doing” and turned around. C1 felt very nervous and the Registrant made a comment about wanting to get into her knickers. During a night shift, from which C1 could not be replaced, the Registrant during the drive, which was in the dark along isolated country roads, made sexually suggestive remarks to C1 including sucking his penis. C1’s evidence showed that she felt vulnerable. Thereafter C1 called in sick whenever she was crewed to work with the Registrant.
26. Count 2 concerned the Registrant’s actions towards Colleague 3 (C3), now a paramedic but then an emergency medical technician. It C3’s evidence showed that the Registrant failed to respect personal space and, for example, whenever they were going up stairs he would allow her to go first and then touch her bottom. C3’s evidence showed that when they were alone together either in the station or in an ambulance he would make comments asking for a blow job. He was also very persistent in suggesting that they have an affair and to have sex with each other. C3’s evidence showed that she found this very intimidating but hoped that if she ignored matters it would go away. Her evidence showed that the Registrant mentioned these matters each time they did a shift together and that as time passed his tone moved from banter to become more aggressive and threatening. In around August/September 2012 the Registrant tried to blackmail C3 into having an affair by threatening to make her life more difficult at work if she did not have an affair.
27. Count 3 was in respect of his actions towards Colleague 2 (C2) who worked as a cleaner at the Ely station. C2 became upset for a reason and the Registrant hugged her. The Registrant told C2 she was pretty and asked if she had a boyfriend. She replied that she had just met someone but was unlucky with men. The Registrant suggested a no strings affair, to which C2 said that she had to get on with work. The next time she saw the Registrant, a few days later, he asked for a hug. Although quite reluctant to do so C2 obliged and he held her tightly and kissed her. C2 was embarrassed and carried on with her work. Later on he was sat down and pulled her towards him so she was sitting on his legs and he put his hand up her shirt and inside her bra and kissed her. C2 just wanted it to be over and waited a few minutes until it was. C2 then left the station. The next time the Registrant saw C2 he approached her from behind, pressed himself into her, said he had missed her and asked can you feel how pleased I am to see you? He then asked her if she had thought any more about their affair and she replied she had a boyfriend. C2 was terrified of seeing the Registrant again and when she heard that he was coming back as a manager she “freaked out” and said she was going to quit.
28. In the Registrant’s correspondence he did not dispute the fact of the conviction but sought to challenge the facts upon which it was based.
29. The Panel declined to go behind the conviction and was satisfied that the facts underpinning the conviction were established on a balance of probabilities by virtue of the conviction.
Decision on impairment
30. In considering this aspect 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.
31. The offences were serious and had a time span between 2010 and 2012. These were not momentary errors of judgement but a deliberate and prolonged course of conduct.
32. Matters were not limited to one victim in isolation but related to three separate victims.
33. The Panel declined to make any findings relating to a fourth individual (C4) who had given evidence before the Crown court about her experience of the Registrant’s conduct. C4’s grievance to the Trust had not been upheld. However, the Panel took the view that C4’s evidence went to underscore the seriousness of the convictions as it was strikingly similar to that of the victims.
34. Each of the victims had vulnerability in terms of their personal circumstances. The Registrant was aware of those personal circumstances and took advantage of the vulnerability. He targeted these victims; he was persistent, manipulative and predatory
35. The nature of the sexual assaults was such that there was physical contact including personal and intimate areas preceded by verbal harassment, blackmail and threats. The Registrant persistently asked the victims to have an affair with him and took opportunities to stand close to them commenting on one occasion whilst standing behind one if she could feel how excited he was to see her.
36. The victims did not wish to engage with him in that way and this must have been clear to the Registrant
37. The Registrant abused his position of seniority and trust. The Registrant’s work as a healthcare professional meant that he should have been working to protect the wellbeing of others instead he abused his position to sexually assault his colleagues.
38. The Registrant took advantage of the isolated working environment which included the time in the ambulance station, in ambulances and in rural areas. Events took place during days and nights. The offences occurred in the working environment when there is a requirement for close trusting collaboration of colleagues working together to deliver a public service in the best interests of service users.
39. There was significant harm caused to the victims by way of considerable distress which went far beyond mere upset and lasted over an extended period which impacted on their lives and wellbeing. They were scared to go to work, took leave in order to avoid going into work and one was prepared to leave work completely. This meant that the best interest of Service users was compromised.
40. There was harm to the public as, by his actions, the Registrant undermined the ability of colleagues to deliver vital public services, the Trust would have had to organise shifts with staff who did not wish to work at all or work with him. The Registrant created an anxiety which distracted staff from doing their job.
41. The sentence of 30 months immediate custody with an automatic indefinite notification requirement on the Sex Offenders Register was a clear indication as to the gravity of the offences and the Panel agreed with the Crown Court’s assessment.
42. Whilst the Registrant was entitled to plead not guilty he was convicted. He has maintained his innocence in the face of those verdicts. He continues to blame the victims by accusing them of collusion and jealousy of his rapid promotion.
43. There was no evidence that the Registrant has even begun to address the serious issues that arise from the convictions
44. The Panel has been mindful that these convictions are very recent. The Registrant is still a serving prisoner. He is also on the Sex Offenders Register on an indefinite basis which is incompatible with HCPC registration. If the Panel were considering the Registrant for registration at this time there would be no doubt that his application would be refused
45. The Panel is of the view that the nature and circumstances of the offences are very serious.
46. The Panel is of the view that the gravity of the situation can be ascertained with reference to the sentence of 30 months immediate custody.
47. The Panel is thus of the view that the conviction is not one that is easily remedied and it has not been remedied. There remains a significant risk of reoccurrence.
48. Furthermore, the public’s confidence in the Registrant remains impaired due to the lasting effect of such serious and recent behaviour.
49. The Registrant has damaged public confidence in his profession. His actions have undermined the confidence that is placed in Paramedics who are trusted to deal with the best interests of vulnerable members of society in all circumstances and not to abuse their colleagues.
50. The Registrant’s convictions and the facts underpinning them render the Registrant in breach of Standards 1, 3 and 13 of the Standards of Conduct Performance and Ethics which obliged him to act in the best interests of Service Users, to keep high standards of personal conduct, to act with integrity and ensure that his behaviour did not undermine confidence in him or his profession.
51. Through a finding of current impaired fitness to practise, the Panel seeks to uphold proper standards of behaviour by declaring that it is totally unacceptable to behave in this way.
52. As this situation is serious there is a need to maintain confidence in the profession and regulatory process.
53. In these circumstances and having regard to the critically important public policy considerations the Panel is satisfied that the Registrant’s current fitness to practise is impaired.
54. Accordingly, the Council’s case is well-founded.
Decision on sanction
55. 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.
56. The Panel took account of the submissions made by Mr Corrie who highlighted the aggravating features associated with such serious convictions. Mr Corrie, in the interests of fairness, highlighted that the Registrant had no previous convictions, that this was his first time before the Regulator and that there were positive references attesting to his clinical ability. Given the Registrant’s absence the Legal Assessor also advised the Panel of issues that might amount to mitigation.
57. The Panel could not identify any further mitigation beyond the Registrant’s right to practice in his chosen profession and that the references also stated that the Registrant was a gentleman.
58. The Panel reminded itself that this is a serious case involving departures from fundamental duties which involved sexual assaults over a prolonged period, perpetrated against vulnerable colleagues in breach of a trusted position and which caused significant harm.
59. The mitigation was limited and these convictions revealed a different side to the Registrant’s character from that suggested in the references and commented upon by the sentencing judge.
60. Thus, the lapses were certainly not of “a minor nature” as they represented a disregard for fundamental principles with actual serious harm.
61. The lapses were repeated and persisted over a prolonged period (2010 to 2012). Three colleagues were directly affected. There is a significant risk of recurrence as the Registrant has shown no insight. He has failed to show any remedial action.
62. Accordingly, the seriousness of this case meant that taking no action was not an option and a Caution Order, even for the maximum duration, was inadequate as such an Order is suitable for “slightly more serious” cases.
63. The Panel then considered and excluded the imposition of a Condition of Practice Order on the grounds that such an Order was inappropriate when there is such a high risk of recurrence and the public need to be protected. Such an Order would not address the public protection or reassurance requirements nor act as a deterrent for others in such a serious case.
64. The Panel then went on to consider the imposition of a Suspension Order for up to 12 months and concluded that such an order was insufficient from every perspective. It would not reflect the seriousness of the case, it would not be an adequate deterrent, and it would not restore confidence in the profession and would undermine confidence in the regulatory process. In addition, there was no merit in imposing an Order that was capable of being reviewed as it is clear that the Registrant is unwilling to address the issues and is unlikely to develop any insight. The matters are far too serious to remedy in any event.
65. In such circumstances the Panel had no alternative but to invoke the Order of last resort and to impose a Striking Off Order when there is serious and deliberate wrong doing such as an abuse of trust and sexual abuse and there is no other way to protect others from the risk presented because of the lack of insight and continual denial and unwillingness to remedy matters. The nature and gravity of the offences are such that any lesser sanction would lack the deterrent effect and undermine confidence in the profession and this process.
66. This Order will demonstrate to the public and the profession that the Registrant’s behaviour has been completely unacceptable as he has undermined the good work of other paramedics and those who support the ambulance staff. His behaviour undermines public trust and professional standards. It is essential that a sanction is imposed that protects the public and ambulance staff from the risks that this Registrant presents and that a clear message is sent to other paramedics that this behaviour is unacceptable. A clear message should go to the public that high standards will be maintained in this important and valued profession.
67. In the Panel’s view this Order reflects the seriousness of a case in which the interests of vulnerable colleagues and Service Users were actually compromised, the serious harm was significant, the matter persisted for a prolonged period, the failure was compounded by the fact that these were offences perpetrated in the work environment by taking advantage of seniority. The Registrant is still serving a 30 month sentence and will be on the Sex Offenders Register on an indefinite basis.
68. Only such an Order can sufficiently reinforce the requirement to uphold and declare proper standards of behaviour when fundamental standards have been breached such as the need to act in the best interests of service users, to maintain high standards of personal conduct and to act with integrity. This Order will make it plain that it is totally unacceptable to behave in this way.
69. This Order will act as an adequate deterrent to others who may contemplate departing from fundamental and core duties.
70. This Order will restore confidence in the profession as members of the public will be aware that those who act in such a way have no place in the Paramedic profession and that the practising profession are aware of the consequences of such conduct.
71. The Order will maintain confidence in the regulatory process as members of the public will be reassured by the fact that cases such as this are taken seriously and departures from fundamental and core duties such as these are not tolerated.
72. The Panel took account of the fact that that such an Order is punitive in nature and that it will permanently prevent the Registrant from practising in his chosen profession.
73. These individual considerations were balanced against the Registrant’s interests including his integrity to practise in his chosen profession. The Panel concluded that the public’s rights were dominant.
74. In all the circumstances the Panel believes this to be a necessary and proportionate sanction.
That the Registrar is directed to strike the name of Colin Hakin from the Register on the date this order comes into effect
History of Hearings for Colin Hakin
|Date||Panel||Hearing type||Outcomes / Status|
|18/09/2015||Conduct and Competence Committee||Final Hearing||Struck off|