Mr Darren A Black
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1. On 09 July 2015 a Conduct Committee for Northern Ireland Social Care Council imposed a record of admonishment on your entry in the Register for a period of two years.
2. By reason of this determination by another regulator, your fitness to practise as an Arts Therapist is impaired
Service and Proceeding in Absence
8. The Panel were satisfied that appropriate notice of this hearing had been sent to the Registrant at his registered address on 9 March and 16 March 2017 (the latter being an amended notice altering the time of the hearings from 10am to 11am.) The Notice was also sent by email to the Registrant.
9. Ms Willmann sought that the Panel proceed in the absence of the Registrant and that all reasonable efforts had been made to serve notice on the Registrant. He had replied indicating clearly that he was aware of the hearing and would not be attending or be represented today.
10. The Panel heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. He advised that if the Panel is satisfied that all reasonable efforts have been made to notify the Registrant of the hearing then the Panel has the discretion to proceed in the absence of the Registrant. He reminded the Panel that it should exercise that discretion with care. The Legal Assessor referred the Panel to the HCPC Guidance Note on Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant and to the recent case of GMC v Adeogba  EWCA Civ 62. This case makes clear that the first question the Panel should ask is whether all reasonable efforts have been made to serve the practitioner with notice. Thereafter, if the Panel is satisfied that proper notice has been given, the discretion whether or not to proceed must be exercised having regard to all the circumstances of which the Panel is aware with fairness to the practitioner being a prime consideration, but fairness to the HCPC and the interests of the public also taken into account.
11. The Panel decided to proceed in the Registrant’s absence as it is satisfied that it is both in the public interest and in the Registrant’s interest to do so. In reaching this decision, the Panel has noted there has been no request for an adjournment and indeed the Registrant clearly indicated that he would not be attending. It balanced fairness to the Registrant with fairness to the HCPC and the public interest. It is of the view that the Registrant has voluntarily absented himself and no useful purpose would be served by adjourning the hearing. This is a mandatory review and the Panel weighed its responsibilities for public protection and the expeditious disposal of the case with the Registrant’s right to be present at the hearing. In these circumstances the Panel is satisfied that it is appropriate to proceed in his absence.
Submissions for the HCPC
12. Ms Willmann reminded the Panel of its powers of review and its need to assess impairment and, if relevant, to consider sanction. She reminded the Panel of the need to act proportionately and to consider the HCPC Practice Notes on Impairment and on Sanction. She submitted that the Registrant had not addressed any of the information the previous Panel had suggested might assist. She told the Panel that the Registrant had not meaningfully engaged with the HCPC and there was no evidence that he had taken any steps to remediate his practice or to reflect on his actions. Ms Willmann sought that in the circumstances the Suspension Order be extended for a further period of time.
13. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. He reminded the Panel that its purpose today was to conduct a comprehensive appraisal of the Registrant to determine if he is fit to return to unrestricted practice. Its role is not to conduct a rehearing of the allegations or go behind the previous findings. He advised that in carrying out this assessment, the Panel must exercise its own independent judgment based on the evidence before it, considering sanctions in ascending order.
14. The Legal Assessor advised the Panel that if it determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remained impaired all the options as to sanction could be exercised by the Panel. He advised the Panel that it should bear in mind the principles of fairness and proportionality and have regard to the HCPC’s Indicative Sanctions Policy. He reminded the Panel that any order that it makes under Article 30 should not be punitive in purpose, and that it should be the least restrictive order that would suffice to protect the public and/or is otherwise in the public interest.
15. The Panel considered matters carefully and all the documents before it. It noted that the Registrant had told the HCPC in his email of 4 April 2017 he had no interest in returning to his profession as an Art Therapist. He is presently employed at a Call Centre. The Panel noted that the Registrant was given a 12 month Suspension Order to reflect and to engage further with the HCPC.
16. The Panel noted that the Registrant has not indicated any willingness to engage or to provide any further information on remediation, insight or on the effect of his actions on the reputation of, and public confidence in, the Profession. He has indicated no willingness to meaningfully engage with the HCPC and has not provided any evidence to this Panel to assist it in the review of the substantive order.
17. In all the circumstances, the Panel has decided that the Registrant’s fitness to practice remains impaired. The Panel considered the HCPC Indicative Sanctions Policy and was mindful of the need to act proportionately and keep the public interest at the forefront of its mind. Neither a Caution Order nor a Conditions of Practice Order are appropriate in this case. The nature and gravity of the misconduct is such that neither of those sanctions would be proportionate. Furthermore, workable, appropriate and realistic Conditions of Practice could not be formulated.
18. The Panel note that the Registrant has not meaningfully engaged and he has chosen to provide no meaningful information to this Panel. He has provided no evidence of remediation, insight or remorse and no willingness to resolve matters over the last 12 months. In any event, he has indicated that he has no interest in continuing his profession. In these circumstances the Panel see nothing to be gained by the imposition of a further period of Suspension nor would that serve the public interest. It determined that a Striking Off order is the appropriate sanction.
History of Hearings for Mr Darren A Black
|Date||Panel||Hearing type||Outcomes / Status|
|06/04/2017||Conduct and Competence Committee||Review Hearing||Struck off|
|29/03/2016||Conduct and Competence Committee||Final Hearing||Suspended|