Mr Michael McKechnie
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Allegation 1 1) On 08 April 2014 AT Hamilton Justice of the Peace Court you were convicted of: a. Threatening or abusive behaviour (domestic, child) b. Assault to injury (child) c. Assault to injury (domestic) 2) By reason of that conviction your fitness to practise as an Operating Department Practitioner is impaired. Allegation 2 On 1 July 2015 at Hamilton Sheriff Court you were convicted of: 1. Stalking contrary to s.39(1) Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010. 2. By reason of your conviction as set out at paragraph 1 your fitness to practise as an Operating Department Practitioner is impaired.
1) On 08 April 2014 AT Hamilton Justice of the Peace Court you were convicted of:
a. Threatening or abusive behaviour (domestic, child)
b. Assault to injury (child)
c. Assault to injury (domestic)
2) By reason of that conviction your fitness to practise as an Operating Department Practitioner is impaired.
On 1 July 2015 at Hamilton Sheriff Court you were convicted of:
1. Stalking contrary to s.39(1) Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010.
2. By reason of your conviction as set out at paragraph 1 your fitness to practise as an Operating Department Practitioner is impaired.
1. The HCPC was represented by Ms Sharni Willmann. The Registrant was present and unrepresented.
2. Ms Willmann applied for any evidence in respect of the Registrant’s health to be taken in private in terms of Rule 10(1)(a) of the Conduct and Competence Procedure Rules 2003. The Panel accepted the advice of the legal assessor and considered the Practice Note on Conducting Hearings in Private. The Panel concluded that the right of the Registrant to protection of his private life and confidentiality of his health issues outweighed the general presumption of hearings being conducted in public agreed that such evidence would be taken in private.
3. On 18 November 2016 a panel of the Conduct and Competence Committee found that the Registrant’s fitness to practise was impaired by reason of four convictions as follows:- Threatening or Abusive Behaviour (domestic, child), Assault to Injury (child), Assault to Injury (domestic) and Stalking contrary to Section 39(1) of the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010. That Panel imposed a twelve month Suspension Order. The Panel today is conducting a review of that suspension order in terms of Article 30(1) of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001.
4. The Panel heard from Ms Willmann who referred to the background of the case and the circumstances which led to the imposition of the Suspension Order. The Registrant worked as an Operating Department Practitioner and was based at the Victoria Infirmary and that he returned to work on 12 May 2014 following an investigation in respect of an unrelated matter. Following his return to work, the Registrant was asked to complete a Protecting Vulnerable Groups application form in line with the ongoing program of retrospective checking of existing staff members within NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde. After receiving this form, the Registrant informed his line manager that he was unsure of how to complete the form as he had a conviction for assault in relation to an incident in January 2014.
5. It was subsequently ascertained that the Registrant had been convicted at Hamilton Sheriff Court on 8 April 2014 as follows:-
a. Threatening or abusive behaviour (domestic, child)
b. Assault to injury (child)
c. Assault (domestic)
6. On 2 May 2014, the Registrant received a community payback order with the addition of a supervision period of 12 months in addition to all three offences. The matter was thereafter reported to the HCPC. On 6 April 2015, the Registrant was arrested and interviewed by the police as he had been accused of harassing Person X. The harassment consisted of the Registrant telephoning Person X on her mobile telephone and on her landline telephone, contacting her and her family members by telephone, sending text messages and contacting her via Facebook.
7. The police checked Person X’s landline telephone log and the Registrant had telephoned her or nine occasions on 5 April 2015 and 137 occasions on 6 April 2015. On 1 July 2015, the Registrant was convicted of:
Stalking, contrary to section 39(1) Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010. The Registrant was sentenced on 10 August 2015 at Hamilton Sheriff Court to an unpaid work order of 100 hours to be completed within six months, and subject to a non-harassment order for two years against Person X starting on 10 August 2015.
8. Ms Willmann advised the Panel that the HCPC was seeking an extension of the current Order to allow the Registrant an opportunity to produce references and supporting documentation to demonstrate that he has addressed his personal issues and would demonstrated continual professional development.
9. The Panel heard from the Registrant that he had now reflected on his past behaviour and that he was not proud of his conduct and felt both shame and remorse. He advised the Panel that his conduct was directly related to personal issues in his life which he had now addressed and in respect of which he had support measures in place. The Registrant advised that he was keen to get back into practice but recognised that he would need a structured programme to enable him to do so. He advised the Panel that he was currently volunteering with a charity, helping people with addiction issues, homelessness and mental health issues. He advised the Panel that he could produce references from this charity.
10. The task of the Panel today is not to go behind the decision of the previous panel but to determine whether or not the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired and consequently and what, if any, order should be made when the current order expires. The Panel has considered the submissions of Ms Willmann and the submissions of the Registrant together with the advice of the Legal Assessor. The original panel found the Registrant had displayed a degree of insight by virtue of his guilty plea. However, the previous panel was of the view that the Registrant’s convictions for assault and threatening or abusive behaviour demonstrated that he was capable of behaviour which was completely out of control and although this behaviour did not occur in a professional setting, lead that panel to have concerns about the potential risk to vulnerable patients in his care. In addition, that Panel had not seen any evidence of remorse or remediation.
11. This Panel is encouraged by the Registrant’s recent meaningful engagement with the regulatory process and by the steps taken by him to address the underlying factors which contributed to his convictions. The Panel is also of the view that the Registrant has demonstrated a commitment to helping people through his voluntary work. However the Panel is of the view that while he has begun to address his issues and now acknowledges the impact of his conduct on his profession, he still has to take further steps to fully remediate his conduct. The Panel has therefore concluded that his fitness to practise remains impaired, both on the personal element and the wider public component. The Panel has therefore concluded that an Order remains necessary.
12. The Panel next considered the sanctions available to it in ascending order of severity. The Panel is aware that the primary function of any sanction is to address public safety from the perspective of the risk the Registrant may pose to those using or needing their services in the future and determine what degree of public protection is required. The Panel must also give appropriate weight to the wider public interest which includes the deterrent effect on other registrants, the reputation of the profession and public confidence in the regulatory process.
13. The Panel considered that to impose a Caution would not be sufficient to address the wider public interest considerations or to protect the public, in the absence of independent verification of the Registrant’s current circumstances and given the risk of repetition identified by the previous panel. The Panel also considered that a Conditions of Practice Order would not be appropriate as it would not address the underlying issues relating to his current impairment.
14. The Panel next considered extending the current Suspension order. The Panel is satisfied that this would achieve the necessary degree of public protection and that it would also give the Registrant a further opportunity to provide evidence to demonstrate to a future reviewing Panel that he has fully addressed the matters which brought him before the HCPC. The Panel has concluded that this would be a proportionate sanction in all the circumstances.
15. Given his recent engagement and expressed commitment to the profession the Panel is of the view that a Strike Off Order would be disproportionate at the current time.
16. This Order will be reviewed by another panel prior to its expiry. That panel may be assisted if the Registrant were to continue with his engagement and attend the future review hearing. It may also assist a future panel if the Registrant were to produce the following:-
• References from staff who are in a management/supervisory capacity at the charity where he volunteers, confirming that they are aware of his background and attesting to his current character and conduct
• Evidence as to how he has updated his CPD, e.g. any courses he has attended or educational material he has read.
• Evidence of work in a healthcare setting with supporting testimonials as to his character and conduct may also be of assistance to a future panel.
17. The Panel considers that a period of twelve months would be appropriate and would allow the Registrant sufficient time to produce the necessary documentation. However, it would be open to the Registrant to apply for an early review, if he is in a position to produce the evidence set out above within a shorter time frame.