Andrew Barrett

Profession: Paramedic

Registration Number: PA37057

Interim Order: Imposed on 22 Jun 2015

Hearing Type: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 09:00 23/06/2016 End: 16:00 23/06/2016

Location: Health and Care Professions Council, 405 Kennington Road, London, SE11 4PT

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Struck off

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Allegation

On 15 July 2015 at Norwich Crown Court you were convicted of the following offences:

 

1. Sexual Assault on a female - no penetration.

 

2. Sexual Assault on a female - no penetration.

 

3. Possess an indecent photograph/pseudo - photograph of a child.

 

4. By reason of your convictions as set out at paragraphs 1 - 3, your fitness to practise as a Paramedic is impaired.

Finding

Preliminary matters

1. The Registrant has been given notice of today’s hearing, by letter dated 14 April 2016 sent to the registered address of the Registrant, in accordance with rule 3 of the Procedure Rules 2003 which state: In these Rules a reference to the sending of a notice or other document to any person is a reference to it being sent—… (b) in the case of a health professional, to his address as it appears in the register…(2) All communications to be sent for the purposes of these Rules may be sent by post and any such communication shall be treated as having been sent on the day on which it was posted. The notice of hearing was sent to the Registrant at the following address: HMP Littlehey, Perry, Huntingdon, PE28 OSR.

2. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor to consider the HCPC Practice Note entitled Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant. The Panel also took into account the recent case law (not included in the Practice Note) and decided to proceed in the absence of the Registrant today on the grounds that he has waived his right to attend. The Panel is satisfied a fair hearing can take place in his absence. The Panel is satisfied that he no longer wishes to appear on the HCPC register, as stated in his letter dated 25 June 2015. He has failed to provide the HCPC with his current address and to comply with his duty to ensure that his HCPC registered address is updated, as appropriate. He has been released from prison and therefore did not receive the notice of hearing, according to a letter dated 10 May 2016 from HM Prison Service. From the tone and content of the Registrant’s letter dated 25 June 2015 the Panel is satisfied that he would not attend on a future date if this hearing was adjourned. Therefore the Panel decided it is in the public interest to proceed with the hearing today. 

3. Article 22(1)(a)(iii) of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001 provides that one of the grounds upon which an allegation may be made is that a Registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired by reason of: “(iii) a conviction or caution in the United Kingdom for a criminal offence…”

4. Conviction and caution allegations are not about punishing a Registrant twice. The Panel was advised by the Legal Assessor to consider the guidance in the HCPC Practice Note entitled Conviction and Caution Allegations and duly followed that advice. The Practice Note states: A conviction or caution should only lead to further action being taken against a Registrant if, as a consequence of that conviction or caution, the Registrant’s fitness to practise is found to be impaired. …

Background

5. The Registrant is an HCPC registered Paramedic. He was convicted at Norwich Crown Court on 15 July 2015 following guilty pleas to 2 counts of sexual assault on a female – no penetration and 1 count of possession of an indecent photograph/pseudo photograph of a child (Category C). On 1 September 2015 he was sentenced to a total of 16 months imprisonment, given a Sexual Harm Prevention Order for 10 years, required to sign the Sex Offenders Register for 10 years and to forfeit his mobile phone. He was ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £100 and he may be placed on the Barring List. By 10 May 2016 he had been released from prison. The Registrant was a friend of the female victim’s family. He was asked by the victim’s mother to act as “responsible adult” and adopted a parental role in relation to the victim in 2013. Between May 2013 and March 2015 he sent numerous text messages of a sexual nature and indecent photographs of himself to the victim with requests that she send indecent photographs to him of herself, which she eventually did. He was in the victim’s home at the time of the first assault. He hugged the victim and touched her bottom and her breasts under her clothing. This continued until the victim’s mother returned home. At the time of the first assault the victim was aged 14. At the time of the second assault she was aged 15 and was being driven in the Registrant’s car. He began stroking her thigh and genital area as he was driving. As a result of these assaults the victim suffers from anxiety (particularly in respect of ambulance crews), she has self-harmed and has had regular nightmares. Her school behaviour has deteriorated and she now finds it difficult to trust older men.
6. The Registrant has resigned from the East of England Ambulance Service and was working as an electrician at the time of his Court appearance, for sentencing. He had been excluded from the home he shared with his partner and 5 year old daughter and was living with his parents at that time.

7. The Council relies on the Certificate of Conviction dated 17 September 2015 to prove the facts of the conviction and sentence. The sentencing remarks of HH Judge Bate state that the Registrant pestered the victim with sexually explicit texts and messages and committed 2 sexual assaults upon her, despite being a trusted visitor to her home. 

Decision on Impairment

8. The Panel took account of the HCPC Practice Note on Finding that Fitness to Practice is Impaired. 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.
 
9. There is evidence of remorse by virtue of the Registrant’s admissions and guilty pleas. He has had an exemplary career in the Ambulance Service. He says he suffered post-traumatic stress disorder, due to his work as a Paramedic. The Registrant stated by letter dated 25 June 2015 sent to the HCPC that he does not intend to return to Paramedic practice.

10. 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 honesty and integrity and make sure that  your behaviour does not damage the public’s confidence in you or your  profession.

11. The public places confidence in the Paramedic profession and the breach of trust in this case was serious because the Registrant was a role model who abused his position of trust to pressurise the victim with indecent texts and images. His grooming and predatory behaviour prior to the assaults was deliberate and pre-meditated. The impact upon his victim has been serious, damaging and enduring.

12. He denied the offences initially to the victim’s mother but then made admissions to the police and pleaded guilty. He was of previous good character and he has undertaken counselling, although the outcome of this and the Sexual Harm Prevention Order has not been clarified in any recent information from the Registrant. Therefore the impact on his insight, his behaviour, his attitudes or his capacity to remediate is not known.

13. The Panel finds that the Registrant failed to comply with standards 3 and 13 above.

14. In considering impairment, there is no definition to be relied upon but it is sometimes described as a negative subsisting impact on a person’s performance.  It is a matter for the judgment of the Panel, there is no burden or standard of proof to be applied at this stage.  It is important to note that the test of impairment is expressed in the present tense. In considering this stage of the process, the Panel has taken into account the “critically important public policy issues” identified by the High Court in the case of Cohen v GMC.

15. In this case the principle issue is the maintaining of public confidence and upholding proper standards of conduct outside the workplace. The Registrant was acting in a way which was out of character, as stated by the sentencing Judge.  However, his conduct through the abuse of trust of the mother and the child the predatory nature of his behavior and his sexual abuse of the child is incompatible with HCPC registration. It would seriously undermine public confidence in the profession and the regulatory process if this serious criminal conduct did not result in a finding of impairment.

16. The Panel’s role is to protect the public and maintain the high standards and reputation of the profession concerned. In this case the Panel is satisfied that the sexual abuse of a child combined with the abuse of trust perpetrated by the Registrant massively outweighs the mitigating circumstances. Accordingly the Panel finds that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired.

Sanction
 
17. The purpose of fitness to practise proceedings is not to punish Registrants, but to protect the public. The Panel has considered the HCPC Indicative Sanctions Policy (ISP).

18. The public interest includes the need to protect the public, and uphold the reputation of the profession and maintain public confidence in the HCPC regulatory process. In deciding what, if any, sanction to impose under Article 29 of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001, the Panel has had regard to the principle of proportionality and the need to balance the interests of the public with those of the Registrant, in accordance with the advice of the Legal Assessor.

19. The Panel heard submissions from Miss Hill in relation to the mitigating and aggravating factors before considering (in ascending order) what, if any, sanction to impose.

20. The criminal offences in this case include the sexual abuse of a child on more than one occasion combined with serious breaches of trust. The Panel gave careful consideration to the convictions which they found entirely incompatible with his role as a Paramedic.

21. There is a significant risk that damage has been caused to the reputation of the Paramedic profession. The Registrant has demonstrated no real insight into the harm caused to the victim by him. The Panel is not satisfied that the Registrant has remediated his predatory and sexualised behaviour.

22. The mitigating features are:

• The Registrant pleaded guilty and he had a previously unblemished  record during an exemplary career as a Paramedic. However the conduct leading to his criminal behaviour was in his personal life and therefore his exemplary career has a lot less relevance.

23. The Panel has decided that it is necessary to impose a sanction to mark the seriousness of the Registrant’s convictions. The Panel finds a caution order would be contrary to the ISP, due to the Registrant’s serious criminal behaviour. Furthermore, it is not in the public interest for him to practice when the period of the Sexual Harm Prevention Order and the Sex Offenders Registration have not yet expired.

24. The ISP states in relation to conditions of practice that:

The imposition of conditions requires a commitment on the part   of the  Registrant to resolve matters and therefore conditions of   practice are  unlikely to be suitable in cases:... involving…    breach of trust…

25. The Panel concludes that conditions of practice are wholly inappropriate and not a proportionate sanction as they would not be sufficient to protect the public in this case.

25. The Panel finds suspension is not appropriate as the Registrant’s criminal behaviour is incompatible with appearing on the register.

26. The Panel concludes striking-off is the only appropriate sanction in this case to maintain public confidence in the regulatory process, the reputation of the profession and the protection of the public.

27. This sanction will ensure other Registrant’s are left in no doubt that this criminal conduct falls far short of the regulatory, professional standards.

 

Order

The Registrar is directed to strike the name of Mr Andrew Barrett from the Register.

Notes

The Panel imposed an Interim Suspension Order to cover the 28 day appeal period.

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Andrew Barrett

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
23/06/2016 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Struck off
01/06/2016 Conduct and Competence Committee Interim Order Review Interim Suspension
11/03/2016 Investigating committee Interim Order Review Interim Suspension
21/12/2015 Investigating committee Interim Order Review Interim Suspension
01/07/2015 Investigating committee Interim Order Application Interim Suspension