Mr Michael D Hampton
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The following allegation was considered by a Panel of the Conduct and Competence Committee at the substantive hearing on 10-12 April 2017.
Whilst registered as a Biomedical Scientist and employed by Public Health England, you:
1. Used inappropriate and/or offensive language about and/or to your colleagues, in that you:
a. Referred to:
i. Colleague A as a ‘backstabbing ****wit’ or words to that effect;
ii. Colleague B as a ‘****’ and ‘****sucker’ or words to that effect;
iii. Colleague C as ‘[Colleague C] ****wit’ and/or ‘****wit’ or words to that effect;
iv. Colleague D as ‘lard a***’ or words to that effect;
v. Colleague E as ‘the monster from Zagreb’ the ‘mad Croat’ and ‘useless’ or words to that effect;
vi. Colleague F as ‘General [Colleague F]’ or words to that effect;
vii. Colleague G as being ‘idiotic’ and ‘stupid’ or words to that effect;
viii. Colleague H as ‘vinegar t***’ or words to that effect;
ix. Colleague I as ‘Big Ears’ and ‘[Colleague I] Skinflint’ or words to that effect;
x. Colleague J as ‘****ing b******’ or words to that effect;
b. During a one to one meeting told Colleague A to ‘shut up’.
2. Refused to comply with requests, in that you:
a. Did not provide access to approximately four molecular databases by 25 January 2013;
b. Asked Colleague H to select strains from the culture store when you had been asked not to do so;
c. Refused to tour the laboratory to see what changes had been implemented following your absence from work;
d. Did not attend work related meetings;
3. The matters described in paragraphs 1 and 2 amount to misconduct.
4. By reason of your misconduct your fitness to practise is impaired.
The Panel at the substantive hearing found the following:
Facts proved: 1 (a) (iii); 1 (a) (iv); 1 (a) (v); 1 a (vii); 2 (c); 2 (d)
Facts not proved: 1(a)(i); 1(a)(ii); 1(a) (vi); 1(a) (viii); 1(a)(ix); 1(a)(x); 1(b); 2(a); 2(b)
Grounds: Misconduct (1 a (vii) and 2 (d) only)
The panel found the Registrant’s fitness to practise impaired and a Suspension Order of 6 months was imposed as a sanction. This decision was reviewed on 10 October 2017 and that panel imposed a further Suspension Order of 6 months.
Proof of service
1. The Panel was satisfied that notice of today’s hearing had been served on the Registrant at his registered home address.
Proceeding in absence
2. The Registrant did not appear nor was he represented. He sent an email to the HCPC after office hours on 9 October 2017, the day before the hearing, in which he referred to problems with receiving emails at his usual email address and said that he had previously asked the HCPC to contact him via a different email address. He added that he could not attend this review hearing because of a prior hospital appointment on 10 October 2017. He did not, however, ask for a postponement of the review hearing.
3. On behalf of the HCPC, Mr Thompson applied for the hearing to be conducted in the absence of the Registrant on the basis that he had been notified of the date, time and location of the hearing at his registered address and had confirmed his knowledge of the hearing date in his recent email. Mr Thompson submitted that it was in the public interest for the hearing to proceed expeditiously.
4. Having considered the revised HCPC Practice Note on proceeding in absence and the advice of the Legal Assessor on the case of GMC v Adeogba  EWCA Civ 162 (“the fair, economical, expeditious and efficient disposal of allegations against medical practitioners is of real importance”), the Panel was satisfied that the Registrant had received reasonable notice of today’s hearing. The Panel noted the content of a previous email in March 2017 in which the Registrant had referred to the “demolition” of his home address, but there was no date for that event, and the onus is on the Registrant to update the Register with any change to his contact details. The Registrant had not applied for an adjournment and had voluntarily absented himself. There was no independent evidence that he had a medical appointment. There was no indication that he would attend at a later date if today’s hearing were to be adjourned. He had made no written submissions and had not provided any update as to his current circumstances or future plans. The Panel noted the overriding public interest in dealing with matters in a timely manner and that this was a mandatory review that must take place within a month. In balancing the Registrant’s interest and the public interest, the Panel decided that it was in the public interest to proceed with the hearing in the absence of the Registrant.
5. The Registrant was a Band 6 Biomedical Scientist who commenced work with Public Health England in 1990. His role was to carry out molecular epidemiological work in the Gastrointestinal Bacteria Reference Unit. He was alleged to have used inappropriate and/or offensive language about colleagues. It was further alleged that he had refused to tour the laboratory to see what changes had been made in his absence and that he did not attend work related meetings.
The Final Hearing
6. The Registrant did not attend the final hearing, which proceeded in his absence. He was found to have used inappropriate and/or offensive language about Colleague C ([Colleague C ****wit or ****wit), Colleague D (lard ****), Colleague E (the monster from Zagreb, mad Croat, useless) and Colleague G (idiotic, stupid). It was also found that he had refused to tour the laboratory to see what changes had been made in his absence and that he did not attend work related meetings. The full details of the findings were set out in detail in the written decision of the Panel at the final hearing and there is no need to repeat them here.
7. The panel at the final hearing found that the use of inappropriate and/or offensive language towards colleagues was part of an objectionable work culture at the laboratory and that he had caused particular distress to Colleague G, which was tantamount to bullying. The use of such language amounted to misconduct in that case only. Whilst the Registrant’s refusal to tour the laboratory was not so serious as to be regarded as misconduct, his refusal to attend work meetings for training purposes fell well short of what was to be expected of a Biomedical Scientist and it amounted to misconduct.
8. The Registrant’s fitness to practise was found to be impaired on personal grounds because he had failed to show any remorse or to engage meaningfully with the regulatory process. There was a risk of repetition of this misconduct in the absence of any evidence of insight or remediation. In considering the public component, the panel at the final hearing concluded that the Registrant had failed to maintain proper professional standards.
9. In determining the appropriate sanction, it was decided that the misconduct was too serious to warrant taking no action or a Caution Order. There was no information as to the Registrant’s current circumstances or whether he was willing or able to comply with a Conditions of Practice Order, which would not have protected the public interest in any event. In view of the serious nature of the misconduct and the lack of evidence of insight or remediation, the panel concluded that a Suspension Order of six months’ duration was the proportionate and appropriate sanction for the protection of the public and the wider public interest, and that it would give the Registrant the opportunity to demonstrate insight.
10. The Registrant was advised that a future Review panel would be assisted by his engaging with the HCPC and by evidence of insight and remediation such as a reflective piece and testimonials from paid or unpaid work.
This Review Hearing
11. This is the first review of the Order. Mr Thompson for the HCPC reminded the Panel of the history of the case and of their powers as to extending, continuing, varying or revoking the order or imposing another order. He highlighted concerns about the Registrant’s fitness to practise because the Registrant had failed to engage with the HCPC or to provide any information as to his level of insight, employment or other circumstances.
12. In relation to sanction, Mr Thompson for the HCPC noted the continuing absence of engagement and reminded the Panel of the need for proportionality. Whilst he made no specific submission as to the appropriate sanction, he invited the Panel to give the Registrant clear guidance as to what he must do to prepare for a future review hearing if the current Suspension Order is extended.
13. A substantive review is a two stage process. The first task of the Panel is to decide whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired and if so, to then consider what, if any, sanction should be imposed upon his registration. In reaching its decision, the Panel has considered all the relevant material and had regard to the HCPC Practice Notes on Impairment and the Indicative Sanctions Policy. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor on the principles of proportionality and fairness in considering impairment and sanction.
14. The Panel had firmly in mind that the purpose of this hearing was to conduct a thorough appraisal of the Registrant’s current fitness to practise, including an assessment of future risk, and that this was not a rehearing of the original case or previous reviews.
15. The Panel noted that there was no update from the Registrant on his present circumstances or plans. The Registrant had not heeded the advice of the panel at the final hearing that it would be assisted at a future review of the order by providing evidence of insight and remediation, such as a reflective statement and/or testimonials. There was no evidence of a change in circumstances, no indication that he had remedied his misconduct or reflected on his behaviour, no evidence of insight and no assurance that the misconduct that was found in relation to particular 1(a)(vii) and 2(d) would not be repeated. The Panel therefore concluded that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remained impaired.
16. In making this finding in relation to the personal component, namely his present circumstances and whether he posed a continuing risk, the Panel had in mind the absence of further information about the Registrant’s current circumstances and his limited engagement. The Panel also considered that a finding of impairment was necessary in the wider public interest to protect service users and to maintain public confidence in the profession.
17. The nature of the original misconduct was too serious to make no order or to impose a Caution Order and neither outcome would provide sufficient public protection. The Panel then considered whether a Conditions of Practice Order was the proportionate and appropriate sanction at this stage, but concluded that such an order was neither achievable nor workable in the absence of evidence of insight or engagement.
18. The Panel decided that the Registrant should be afforded a further opportunity to demonstrate that he has insight and can engage with his regulator. Accordingly, the Panel concluded that a short extension of the Suspension Order was the appropriate and proportionate sanction at this stage for the protection of the public and in the wider public interest.
19. The Panel gave serious consideration to the alternative sanction of striking-off, but considered that it was disproportionate at this stage. In making that decision, the Panel was also mindful that the Registrant might have health issues which may have affected his ability to fully engage with these proceedings. The Registrant should be aware that there will come a stage when these review proceedings will inevitably conclude either with his successful return to unrestricted practice or with his removal from the register, whether voluntary or otherwise.
20. This Panel therefore repeats and adds to the advice of the panel at the final hearing that a future Review panel may be greatly assisted by the Registrant engaging with the HCPC by attending the next hearing and providing evidence of insight and remediation in the following ways:
• A reflective piece which addresses the specific findings of misconduct, including an understanding of the distressing effect of offensive language and the effect of his failure to attend work related meetings;
• Testimonials from paid or unpaid work;
• Evidence of any efforts to maintain professional knowledge and skills, including evidence of continuing professional development (CPD);
• Evidence of the Registrant’s state of health (if relevant) from his medical practitioner.