Mr John E Shaw

Profession: Paramedic

Registration Number: PA03463

Hearing Type: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 29/02/2016 End: 17:00 29/02/2016

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

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Suspended

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Allegation

On 28 October 2014 at Doncaster Magistrates' Court you were convicted of the following offence:

 

1. On Thursday 12 June 2014 at Doncaster you drove a motor vehicle on a road after consuming so much alcohol that the proportion of it in your blood, namely 265 milligrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood, exceeded the prescribed limit.

 

2. By reason of your conviction as set out at paragraph 1 your fitness to practise as a Paramedic is impaired.

Finding

Preliminary Matters

Service

1.             The Panel heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

2.             The Panel was satisfied on documentary evidence that the Registrant had been given proper notice of today’s hearing in accordance with the relevant Rules. It had seen a letter dated 2 December 2015 which was sent by first class post to the Registrant’s registered address on the same date.

Proceeding in the absence of the Registrant

3.             The Panel heard submissions on behalf of the HCPC as to the power to proceed in the absence of the Registrant. The Panel considered the HCPC’s Practice Note on “Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant” and took legal advice. The Panel had regard to HCPC “Response Proforma: Service of Papers” dated 15 January 2016 in which the Registrant indicated that he did not intend to attend today’s hearing. It was clear from this that the Registrant was aware of today’s hearing and that he was not intending to attend or be represented. The Registrant had not sought an adjournment and it would appear from his responses that he was aware that the hearing would proceed in his absence.

4.             The Panel heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

5.             The Panel has decided to proceed in the Registrant’s absence and has concluded that he has waived the right to be present and to be represented. The Registrant has not requested an adjournment of today’s hearing. The Panel considered that in the absence of any proper reason for an adjournment, it was in the public interest that final hearings should take place when listed.

 

Background

6.             The Registrant, Mr Shaw, is a registered Paramedic. On 12 June 2014, at 21:10 he was found unconscious slumped over the steering wheel of his car, in Armthorpe Lane, Doncaster. He had first been seen to have stopped his vehicle in the middle of the road and then had driven across the carriageway, mounted the kerb and collided with a fence and lamppost. He was taken to Doncaster Hospital where at 01:38 on 13 June 2014, a specimen of blood was taken. When analysed, this showed that he had 265 milligrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood. On 5 September 2014, the Registrant went voluntarily to Doncaster Police Station, where he was interviewed about the matter. He said that he had consumed a large quantity of vodka after finishing work and had gone to bed. He had no recollection of anything until he woke up in hospital. He accepted that he had driven the car on the night in question. The Registrant was charged with the offence of driving with excess alcohol. On 28 October 2015, at Doncaster Magistrates’ Court, he pleaded guilty and was convicted of the offence. He was disqualified from driving for two years and made subject to a Community Service Order under which he was required to carry out 180 hours of unpaid work. He was ordered to pay the victim surcharge and costs.

7.             On 15 October 2014, the Registrant informed the HCPC of the charge against him. In further correspondence with the HCPC, the Registrant indicated that on 17 October 2014, he had resigned from the Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust where his role was a managerial post and not directly involved with patients. He was sent the relevant forms in relation to voluntary de-registration. On 20 October 2014, the Registrant made a voluntary de-registration request.

 

Decision on Facts

8.             The Panel heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

Particular 1 – proved

9.             The Panel found the allegation as set out in Particular 1 proved. It relied on the certificate of conviction from Doncaster Magistrates’ Court, which set out brief details of the matter which led to Mr Shaw’s conviction on 28 October 2014. The sentence imposed appears in the same document. Mr Shaw also admitted the conviction in paragraph 3 of his “Response Proforma: Service of Papers” document dated 15 January 2016.

 

Decision on Grounds

10.           For the reasons set out in paragraph 6 above, the Panel finds the ground, “conviction”, proved.

 

Decision on Impairment

11.           In making its determination in relation to impairment, the Panel has borne in mind that the purpose of these procedures is not to punish the Registrant for past misdoings but to protect the public against the acts and omissions of those who are not fit to practise. It has also borne in mind the HCPC’s Practice Notes regarding “Conviction Allegations” and on “Finding that Fitness to Practise is Impaired”. It has also considered the relevant HCPC Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics, in particular:

Standard 3: To keep high standards of personal conduct

Standard 13: To behave with honesty and integrity and to ensure that your behaviour does not damage the public’s confidence in you or your profession.

12.           The Panel’s task is to determine whether fitness to practice is impaired based upon the nature, circumstance and gravity of the offence. The Panel noted what the Court of Appeal had stated in GMC v Meadow [2006] EWCA Civ 1319:

“...the purpose of fitness to practise is not to punish the practitioner for past misdoings but to protect the public against the acts or omissions of those who are not fit to practise. The fitness to practise panel thus looks forwards, not back. However, in order to form a view as to the fitness of a person to practise today it is evident that it will have to take account of the way in which the person concerned has acted or failed to act in the past”.

13.           So far as the personal component is concerned, the Panel considers that the conviction for driving with excess alcohol is a serious matter involving an obvious risk to other road users. The Panel took the view that, in the period since the offence, the Registrant had demonstrated real and developing insight into the matter. Initially, he concentrated on the fact that he “had not injured himself, nor damaged any third party, street furniture or my car”, before later being clearly aware of the impact of his offence on what he called “his craft”. This indicated to the Panel that the Registrant had shown an awareness of the impact of his conviction on his profession. The Panel also noted the Registrant’s resignation prior to conviction from his employment with the Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust and that he had referred himself to the HCPC. These features show that he has reflected appropriately on his conviction.

14.           The Panel also took into account the Registrant’s remorse as evidenced in his written representations. In considering the likelihood of repetition and the extent to which the Registrant had remedied his shortcomings, the Panel noted the Registrant’s statements that he had not had an alcoholic drink for over a year, that the offence was a “one-off” and that at the time, he had been in a middle management role under a considerable amount of stress in a service which was under public scrutiny. There was no independent evidence to confirm these matters. The Panel noted the Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust letter dated 13 February 2015 to the HCPC which confirmed the Registrant’s resignation and indicated that up to his resignation, there had been no cause for concern regarding the Registrant’s fitness to practice. The Panel had no information about the current employment status of the Registrant. In all these circumstances, the Panel concluded that the Registrant’s fitness to practise was impaired on personal component grounds.

15.           In relation to the public component, the Panel has concluded that an informed member of the public would expect a regulatory body such as the HCPC to make a finding of impairment in a case such as this where a registrant is found slumped over the steering wheel of a car with an amount of alcohol in his blood substantially above the legal limit The Panel was satisfied that public confidence in the paramedic profession would be undermined if it did not make a finding of impairment in this case. The public has a right to expect its paramedics to ensure that their behaviour does not fall below acceptable and professional standards such that the public’s confidence is damaged. It also has a right to expect a regulatory body to uphold standards of behaviour and conduct on behalf of members of the paramedic profession.

16.           The Panel has therefore found that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired on both the personal and public component grounds.

 

Decision on Sanction

14.           In considering the appropriate and proportionate sanction in this case, the Panel was referred to and took account of the HCPC Practice Note on “Indicative Sanctions Policy”. It also received and accepted legal advice. The Panel took account of the Registrant’s written representations.

15.           The Panel considered the mitigating and aggravating factors. In relation to aggravating features, the Panel took note of the nature of the offence, and in particular the level of alcohol involved and the fact that the Registrant had driven his car across a carriageway even after he had been found slumped over the steering wheel. These factors created clear risks of serious harm to other road users. In addition, the Panel took the view that the nature of the offence involved a risk to the reputation of the profession.

16.           The Panel took the following mitigating factors into accounts:

    the level of insight shown by the Registrant;

    that this was an isolated incident in a career of 32 years as a paramedic where there was no evidence of any previous disciplinary proceedings;

    that his employers had indicated that up to the date of the offence, there had been no fitness to practise issues;

    that he had pleaded guilty to the offence and had resigned his employment and states he has retired, which indicates there is a reduced risk of his re-offending in the future;

    that he had referred himself to the HCPC and engaged with the regulatory process.

17.           The Panel considered the available sanctions in ascending order of seriousness. It had in mind that the purpose of a sanction was not to punish the Registrant but to protect the public. It decided that to take no action in this case would not be appropriate or proportionate given the nature of the offence concerned. It was satisfied that in order to ensure the public was properly protected, it had to consider a more severe sanction.

18.           In relation to the sanction of mediation, the Panel was of the view that this was a wholly inappropriate type of sanction in the circumstances of this case.

19.           The Panel next considered a Caution Order and concluded that this was not the appropriate sanction in this case. Although the Registrant had shown insight and appears to have taken some remedial action to reduce the risk of a recurrence of the events that led to his offending, the offence itself could not be described as relatively minor or at the lower end of the scale.

20.           The Panel took the view that a Conditions of Practice Order was not the appropriate sanction in this case. There were no conditions which it could devise which would be sufficiently relevant to the nature of the conviction involved and which would be workable and measurable. Although the Registrant had resigned his employment and his current employed status is unknown, there were no clinical concerns at the time of that resignation and the offence had occurred when he was off-duty.

21.           The Panel next considered a Suspension Order. It took account of the relevant paragraphs in the “Indicative Sanctions Policy” and determined that a Suspension Order for 12 months was the appropriate and proportionate sanction in this case. It took the view that the Registrant was able to resolve or remedy the matters that had led to his offending and there was some information that he had already sought to do this, although this had not been independently verified. The period of 12 months would give the Registrant time to reflect further on the offence, consider what steps he may want to take if he decides, on reflection, to return to his profession and it would provide the necessary level of public protection. It also marks the wider public interest by sending out a message to other registrants about the likely consequences of drink driving, and it protects the reputation of the paramedic profession and public confidence in the regulatory process.

22.           The Panel considered whether it would be appropriate and proportionate in the circumstances of this case to strike the Registrant from the Register but concluded, for the reasons set out in paragraph 21 above, that such a sanction would be unduly punitive.

Order

That the Registrar is directed to suspend the registration of Mr John E Shaw for a period of 12 months from the date this order comes into effect.

Notes

The order imposed today will apply from 28 March 2015.

 

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Mr John E Shaw

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
24/02/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Suspended
29/02/2016 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended