Mrs Laura Wilkins
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Whilst registered as an Occupational Therapist:
1. On 21 October 2016 at Central and South West Staffordshire Magistrates’ Court you were convicted of driving a motor vehicle after consuming so much alcohol that the proportion in your blood exceeded the prescribed limit.
2. By reason of your conviction your fitness to practise is impaired.
Application to proceed in Private
1. Ms Tomlinson made an application for the hearing to take place in private. The application was not opposed by Ms Parry. Having considered the HCPTS Practice Note on Conducting Hearings in Private, and the advice of the Legal Assessor, the Panel decided that Ms Parry’s opening of the case should be heard in public but that any submissions and evidence relating to the Registrant’s private life should be heard in private.
2. The Registrant is registered with the HCPC as an Occupational Therapist. She has been employed by Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent Partnership NHS Trust, and its predecessor, since 2005.
3. On 21 October 2016 at South Western Magistrates’ Court the Registrant pleaded Guilty to the offence referred to in particular 1 of the allegation. She was disqualified from holding or obtaining a driving licence for 20 months, to be reduced by 5 months if she satisfactorily completed an approved course. She was fined £380 and ordered to pay a victim surcharge and a contribution towards prosecution costs.
4. The circumstances of the offence were that on 12 September 2016 the Registrant was involved in a minor road traffic accident when driving her car to collect her children from school. Police attended the scene and breathalysed her. She was recorded as having 190 milligrams of alcohol in her blood, the legal limit being 80 milligrams per 100 millilitres of blood.
5. By email dated 23 November 2016 the Registrant notified the HCPC that she had been convicted of the offence referred to in particular 1 of the allegation and had been banned from driving until January 2018.
Decision on Facts
6. The Panel found the allegation proved by the certificate of conviction, which was confirmed by the Registrant’s admission at the outset of the hearing.
Decision on Impairment
7. The Registrant provided the Panel with a bundle of documents including a reflective statement relating to the circumstances surrounding the drink-driving offence, a certificate of completion of an approved course for Drink-Drive Offenders, a copy of her curriculum vitae, a letter dated 30 November 2017 from her employer, and a letter dated 29 November 2017 from her mother.
8. The Panel took into account the HCPC practice note on Impairment of Fitness to Practise and accepted the advice of the legal assessor. The Panel took into account the documents in the Registrant’s bundle referred to above and the submissions of Ms Parry on behalf of the HCPC and of Ms Tomlinson on behalf of the Registrant.
9. With regard to the “personal” element of impairment the Panel considered that the drink-driving offence was an isolated incident which had no bearing on her competence as an Occupational Therapist. The Registrant had pleaded guilty and shown genuine remorse. In all the circumstances, the Panel determined that the risk of repetition was very low. Accordingly, the Panel did not consider the Registrant’s fitness to practise to be impaired having regard to the “personal” component.
10. However, the Panel also took into account the responsibility of the HCPC to uphold proper standards of conduct on the part of members of the profession and to maintain public confidence in the profession. The Panel considered that public confidence in the profession and in the regulator would be undermined if a finding of current impairment were not made.
11. Accordingly, the Panel finds that the Registrant’s fitness to practise as an Occupational Therapist is impaired by reason of her conviction.
Decision on Sanction
12. The Panel took into account the HCPTS Indicative Sanctions Policy and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel took into account the purpose of sanction is not to punish the Registrant but to protect the public and the wider public interest by upholding proper standards and maintaining the reputation of the profession. The Panel applied the principle of proportionality and considered the available sanctions in ascending order.
13. The Panel was favourably impressed by the Registrant’s evidence as to her reflections on her conviction and the steps that she has taken to address the issues which gave rise to it.
14. The aggravating factor in the case is that the Registrant potentially put her child and members of the public at risk by driving when she was considerably over the prescribed limit of alcohol.
15. The mitigating factors are as follows:-
• The drink-driving offence was an isolated incident in an otherwise unblemished 14 year career as an Occupational Therapist.
• She made full admissions to the police at the time of the offence and pleaded guilty at the Magistrates Court. She immediately informed her employer and the HCPC of her conviction.
• She has successfully completed a Drink-Drive Offenders Course.
• She has fully engaged with the HCPC in these proceedings and was open and honest in her evidence to the Panel.
• She has shown considerable remorse and insight both as to the causes of her behaviour and the consequences for herself professionally and personally.
• She has shown an impressive determination to rehabilitate herself and to avoid any future lapse.
16. As already stated, the Panel has no concerns about the Registrant’s competence or safety as an Occupational Therapist. A sanction is not required for the protection of the public.
17. The Panel was mindful that her conviction and the finding of impairment of fitness to practise are in themselves a serious mark against the Registrant as a professional person.
18. The Panel considered that, in the particular circumstances of this case, a sanction was not required in the wider public interest.
History of Hearings for Mrs Laura Wilkins
|Date||Panel||Hearing type||Outcomes / Status|
|06/12/2017||Conduct and Competence Committee||Final Hearing||No further action|