Mr Paul Griffiths

Profession: Practitioner psychologist

Registration Number: PYL04611

Hearing Type: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 09:00 11/09/2017 End: 16:00 28/09/2017

Location: Park Inn by Radisson York City Centre, North Street, York, North Yorkshire, YO1 6JF

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Caution

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Allegation

During the course of your employment as a Practitioner Psychologist:

1. On or around 28 April 2014, you completed an assessment of Patient A that was not of an adequate standard in that:


a. You used the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale – 3rd edition (WAIS III) assessment tool which is superseded;


b. You used the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire-Revised (EPQ-r) assessment tool inappropriately to assess a disorder in a clinical setting;


c. You used the HCR-20 assessment tool inappropriately to assess a risk of sexual violence.

d. You adopted the terminology of the superseded Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 4th Edition (DSM-IV);

e. You used the International Personality Disorder Examination (IPDE) screen inappropriately.

2. You have used an illegal drug, namely heroin.

3. You posted entries regarding drug use on Facebook:


a. On or around 7 February 2014, you posted a video in which you stated that you had started using heroin ten weeks ago and that you had been using heroin on a daily basis or words to that effect;

b. On or around 9 February 2014 you stated: ‘What I did was a conscious act, and if I could guarantee the quality of the drug, then I would probably still be using it today’ or words to that effect;


c. On or around 15 February 2014 you stated: ‘I nearly died on the 31.12.13 and again on the 05.01.14 due to dirty s***** street smack! The UK drug laws are archaic, against public health and safety and the European Human Rights brigade should prosecute this uncaring country’ or words to that effect.

4. The matters set out in Paragraph 1 constitute misconduct and/or lack of competence.

5. The matters set out in Paragraphs 2 to 3 constitute misconduct.

6. By reason of that misconduct and/or lack of competence, your fitness to practise is impaired.

Finding

Preliminary Matters

1. There were various preliminary and procedural matters that had to be dealt with by the Panel during the course of the hearing. On each occasion, the Panel heard submissions from the representatives, received advice from the Legal Assessor and considered the appropriate Practice Notes.

 
Discontinuance of part of the allegation

2. Ms Eales applied to discontinue particulars 1 (a) and 1 (b). The Panel decided to grant that application for the reasons stated in a separate determination.


Amendment of the Particulars of the Allegation

3. In relation to the application to amend particulars 4 and 6, so as to delete the words “and/or lack of competence”, Ms Eales argued that, for this to succeed, except in exceptional circumstances, a fair sample of a Registrant’s work had to be considered. In this case, only one report was the subject of any criticisms and, consequently, the HCPC conceded that the statutory ground could not be found proved. Mr Bradly had no objections.


4. The Panel therefore granted this application.

 
5. Ms Eales then applied to amend particular 1(e) by deleting the word “screen” so that the particular read “You used the International Personality Disorder Examination (IPDE) inappropriately”. She indicated that this arose out of the joint experts’ report dated 28 July 2017 whereby both experts confirmed that the screen was administered appropriately, although they differed on the use of the information derived from the screen. Witness 3 was of the opinion that the “screen was used appropriately and the results from the screen were useful to inform the assessment using the IPDE Diagnostic Interview”. However, Witness 2, although of the opinion that the “IPDE screen was administered appropriately” went on to say that the results from the screen were inappropriately used to guide the substantive IPDE diagnostic assessment. The deletion of the word “screen” reflected the agreement between the experts that the screen itself had been administered appropriately. Ms Eales went on to submit that there would be no prejudice to the Registrant by allowing this amendment, since due notice had been given on 26 June 2017.

6. Mr Bradly opposed the application, mainly on the basis that the amendment was canvassed very late in the day, notwithstanding that official notice
had been given about two months beforehand. He reminded the Panel that there was a preliminary hearing on 24 June 2016, when both parties were given permission to rely upon expert evidence. In fact, Witness 2’s initial report had been dated 2 March 2015 and the HCPC had consequently been able, since that time, to formulate its criticisms of the Registrant. Furthermore, there was another preliminary hearing in January 2017, when the HCPC had another opportunity to draw this matter to everyone’s attention. The Registrant’s expert presented his report on 6 March 2017 and his evidence on this point was that the use of the screen was appropriate. No amendment was sought by the HCPC at that stage. There was then the joint report, dated 28 July 2017 (although the experts had met by telephone on a number of occasions before then). As a result of the joint report, the HCPC decided to discontinue particulars 1(a) and 1(b).

7. Although Witness 2 now said that the screen was administered appropriately, she had chosen to say more and that the results were used inappropriately. She had therefore now introduced a related but wholly new criticism. This had never been made before and was, Mr Bradly suspected, simply because she had to give in on the allegation as originally drafted. The Panel noted that Ms Eales responded by indicating that this criticism had been made in Witness 2’s original report.


8. Mr Bradly disputed that the Registrant was not prejudiced by this late amendment. It was wholly unfair. The purpose of experts meeting was to narrow the issues and not to give the HCPC “another bite of the cherry”. The points made in Witness 2’s original report were not what the Panel could see now. The HCPC had not identified this criticism at that time and it was a misuse of the process, therefore, to allow the amendment.

9. The Panel considered this application most carefully, and has taken account of the submissions of the parties and the advice of the Legal Assessor. This included asking the Legal Assessor and the parties whether disallowing the amendment would have any effect upon the HCPC being able to argue
the broader criticism articulated by Witness 2. The Legal Assessor advised that the remaining word “used” had a wider meaning than “administered” and it was arguable that it could incorporate Witness 2's criticisms.

10.The Panel decided to refuse the application. It noted that both experts were instructed by their respective parties on the un-amended allegation and that the HCPC had had two opportunities to amend the particular prior to deciding, at a relatively late stage, to apply for it to be amended. The Panel considered that this was not fair to the Registrant. The Panel did note, however, that it was potentially still open to the HCPC to argue that the word “used” could incorporate Witness 2’s current criticisms.

Proceeding in Private

11.There was general consensus amongst the parties and the Panel that the Panel should consider making a direction that, when hearing evidence relating to Mr Griffiths’ health, the hearing should proceed in private.

12. The Legal Assessor referred the Panel to the Practice Note entitled “Conducting Hearings in Private”.

13.The Panel reminded itself that proceedings should normally be held in public and noted Rule 10(1)(a) of the Health and Care Professions Council (Conduct and Competence Committee) (Procedure) Rules 2003 (the Rules), which states:

“At any hearing—

(a) the proceedings shall be held in public unless the Committee is satisfied that, in the interests of justice or for the protection of the private life of the Registrant, the complainant, any person giving
evidence or of any patient or client, the public should be excluded from all or part of the hearing.”


14.The Panel was mindful that, under Rule 10 (1)

 (a), it must be satisfied that it is in the interests of justice or for the protection of the private life of a Registrant or a witness before a decision can be made to exclude the public from any proceedings. Moreover, its decision must be consistent with Article 6(1) of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), which provides limited exceptions to the need for hearings to be held in public, namely that it is “in the interests of justice or for the protection of the private life of the health
professional, the complainant, any person giving evidence or of any patient or client”.

15.The Panel decided to grant the application so as to protect the private life of Mr Griffiths by holding the hearing in private when he gave his evidence. It
considered that, as the reasons for his actions in relation to particulars 2 and 3 were directly due to his health issues, it was not possible to compartmentalise his evidence and thus it was appropriate to have him give the whole of his evidence relating to those particulars in private.

Background

16. Mr Griffiths is a registered Practitioner Psychologist (Forensic Modality). On 18 April 2014, he conducted an Independent Psychological Risk Assessment of Patient A, who was detained under the Mental Health Act, on the instructions of Patient A’s solicitor. The Registrant then prepared an Independent Forensic Psychologist’s Report dated 28 April 2014 to assist the First Tier Mental Health Review Tribunal. He then conducted a further assessment of Patient A on 20 June 2014 on the instruction of Patient A’s solicitor and produced an addendum report dated 26 June 2014.


17.On 29 June 2014 a complaint was raised about the report completed by the Registrant by Person B, a HCPC registered Forensic Psychologist who had
also assessed Patient A and prepared a report at the direction of the First Tier Tribunal. In its decision dated 1 August 2014 the Tribunal noted that one of the two psychiatrists who gave oral evidence to the Tribunal, Witness 1, was “dismissive” of Mr Griffiths’ conclusions that Patient A did not suffer from any learning disability. The Tribunal recorded that it too rejected Mr Griffiths’ opinion that Patient A did not suffer from any mental disorder. Witness 1, in a response to its request, advised the HCPC that Patient A was her patient and that Mr Griffiths’ testing of Patient A was inappropriate and had given him false hope that he would be discharged – when this did not happen, it adversely affected his therapeutic relationship with his clinical team.

18.The HCPC instructed its own expert witness, Witness 2, who provided a report dated 2 March 2015 in relation to the concerns over Mr Griffiths’ practice as outlined in particular 1 as amended. Following Mr Griffiths instructing an expert, Witness 3, the experts were instructed to produce a
joint report and did so, it being dated 28 July 2017.

19.In her report Witness 2 sets out that, in the case of Patient A, there was clear evidence that his offending history was one of sexual violence and that there had been specific concerns with respect to this behaviour over an extensive period. In her expert opinion, specific risk factors related to sexual violence were not identified in Mr Griffiths’ report to the First Tier Tribunal and both experts agreed that Mr Griffiths did not produce a comprehensive assessment of Patient A’s risk of sexual violence.


20.In addition, in his report, Mr Griffiths also referred to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (“DSM”) in his assessment of whether the patient had a learning disability. The DSM defines and classifies mental disorders. In his report, Mr Griffiths referred to DSM-IV, explaining that this had been superseded by DSM–V and detailing the differences between the two. However, Mr Griffiths then went on to use the terminology referred to in DSM-IV which had been superseded by DSM-V.

21.Furthermore, in his assessment of Patient A, Mr Griffiths used the International Personality Disorder Examination (“IPDE”) which is a tool used to assess and identify personality disorders. In using the IPDE screen in his assessment of Patient A Mr Griffiths identified the presence of Dissocial and
Schizoid personality traits. Witness 2’ expert opinion was that, whilst the IPDE screen was administered appropriately, the results from the screen were inappropriately used to guide the substantive IPDE diagnostic assessment. In the joint report, Witness 2 stated that three other
assessments reported in Mr Griffiths’ report indicated there were some reliability issues with Patient A’s self-reporting. The IPDE screen relies on patient self-report to a set questionnaire. Consequently Witness 2 considered
that his use of the screen was not good clinical practice, in that it was considered by Mr Griffiths as a reliable measure and led to him making
decisions regarding his use of the IPDE Diagnostic Interview. Witness 2 further stated that there was no reflection in Mr Griffiths’ report of the potential
lack of reliability or validity of the IPDE screen despite the indication of an unreliable response from Patient A.

22.In relation to particulars 2 and 3, Mr Griffiths had placed a video on his Facebook profile in which he made reference to his use of heroin. In addition,
he posted entries onto his Facebook page where he stated “What I did was a conscious act, and if I could guarantee the quality of the drug, then I would probably still be using it today”, with another posting stating “I nearly died on the 31.12.13 and again on the 05.01.14 due to dirty shitty street smack! The UK drug laws are archaic, against public health and safety and the European
Human Rights brigade should prosecute this uncaring country”.

23.Mr Griffiths provided representations, within which Mr Griffiths stated that he believed that he did address the risk of sexual violence in his report on Patient A and that he had identified specific risk factors. He denied using the IPDE screen inappropriately and stated that he did not solely rely on the IPDE screen in his assessment.

Decision on Facts

24.In considering this case the Panel bore in mind that the burden of proving the facts rests upon the HCPC and that the standard of proof is the civil standard of the balance of probabilities. It has taken account of all the evidence presented to it, namely the written and oral evidence of the witnesses,
including the Registrant, listed below, together with the documentary evidence provided by the HCPC and by the Registrant. It has also considered
the detailed submissions of the representatives, and has accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

25. The Panel particularly noted the Legal Assessor’s advice that, notwithstanding that the HCPC’s Procedure Rules do not have a specific
provision which indicates that a Panel can find the allegations proved by simply relying upon the Registrant’s admissions of those allegations, there
was likewise nothing in the Rules to prevent it from doing so if it was satisfied that the admissions were well-informed, not made for reasons of expediency
or duress, had been made with the benefit of competent legal advice and were reflective of the evidence otherwise before the Panel. Having
considered the matter, the Panel concluded that all those factors were satisfied and therefore decided that it would treat those admissions as
determinative of the factual particulars. The Panel announced this finding prior to hearing any evidence on the facts so that the parties could
concentrate on the disputed matters.

26.The Panel heard from one witness on behalf of the HCPC, namely Witness 2, a Registered Forensic Psychologist. She gave evidence in relation to the
remaining matters in particular 1, namely 1 (c), 1 (d) and 1 (e). The Panel has taken a pragmatic decision not to detail her evidence in its entirety since the Panel ultimately decided that there was no case to answer in relation to particular 1 (for the reasons set out below) save to say that, when asked
whether any of the three remaining particulars fell below, or far below, the standards expected of a Registered Forensic Psychologist, Witness 2
ultimately concluded that they all fell below, but not far below, those standards.

27.The Panel considers it appropriate to record that, initially, Witness 2 stated that particular 1 (c) fell far below the standards expected. This particular, on which both experts were agreed, relates to Mr Griffiths’ failure to produce a comprehensive assessment of Patient A’s risk of sexual violence. However, after a break in the proceedings, Witness 2 revised her opinion as to the extent to which this fell below the standards expected. Initially, the Panel and Ms Eales understood that Witness 2 had said in this part of her evidence that she had considered other HCPC cases during the interval, the implication being that this brought about her change of opinion; Mr Bradly and the Legal
Assessor interpreted her evidence differently, believing that she had said that she had looked at other HCPC cases before attending to give evidence, the implication being that, because this was her first time giving expert evidence
for the HCPC, she wanted to familiarise herself with the principles involved. Nobody had, during that final part of her evidence, asked Witness 2 to
elaborate further on the reasons for her change of opinion. When this was raised by the Panel for clarification, the recording of the hearing was
subsequently listened to by both the Legal Assessor and Mr Bradly, who reported that Witness 2 had said something along the lines of “Before, I
looked at previous cases” (there was some background noise which made it difficult to be precise) and that she had not specifically said that she had looked at such cases in the interval.

28. Ms Eales confirmed that, after Witness 2 had completed her evidence and had been released from her oath, she had spoken to Witness 2 about the
evidence she had given (which she was perfectly entitled to do, believing that she would not have to give any more evidence). In those circumstances the Legal Assessor advised the Panel that it would be best not to recall Witness 2 to explain her reasoning and to deal with the matter on the information
before it. The Panel accepted this advice. 29. In addition, the Panel considered a witness statement from Victoria Young, a Senior Associate at Kingsley Napley, signed by her on 14 July 2017,
formally producing a number of documents which constituted the HCPC’s bundle, amounting to 457 pages. It also considered the joint experts’ report
produced by the two experts in the case, as indicated above, and watched an extract of the video posted on Facebook by Mr Griffiths in relation to particular 3 (a).


30.The Panel made the following findings in relation to the factual matters:

Particular 1 - Decision on Half-time Submission

During the course of your employment as a Practitioner Psychologist:


1. On or around 18 to 28 April 2014, you completed an assessment of Patient A that was not of an adequate standard in that:
c. You did not address the risk of sexual violence and/or identify specific risk
factors associated with that risk;
d. You adopted the terminology of the superseded Diagnostic and Statistical
Manual of Mental Disorders 4th Edition (DSM-IV); e. You used the International Personality Disorder Examination (IPDE) screen
inappropriately;

31.At the conclusion of the HCPC’s case, Mr Bradly made a submission that the HCPC had not adduced sufficient evidence to enable it to conclude, even if it found all of the facts in relation to the amended particular 1 proved, that they
amounted to the statutory ground of misconduct. Mr Bradly referred the Panel to the HCPTS Practice Note entitled “‘Half-Time’ Submissions” and to
the following passage:

“If the case proceeded to its conclusion, the decision of whether it is ‘well founded’ would require the Panel to determine whether, in its judgement, the facts alleged:

  •  amount to the statutory ground of the allegation; and
  • in turn, establish that a registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired.

Consequently, in dealing with any half-time submission, the Panel may also need to address those issues by answering the following question:

4. is the evidence which the HCPC has presented such that, when taken at its highest, no reasonable Panel could properly conclude that:

(a) the statutory ground of the allegation is met; or
(b) the registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired?

 
This question is likely to arise in one of two ways, where it submitted either
that:

i) the evidence is unsatisfactory, for example, being tenuous, vague, weak or inconsistent; or


ii) the allegation is misconceived, in that the evidence is not disputed but the undisputed facts are insufficient to establish the statutory
ground and, in turn, impairment.  If either limb of that question is answered in the affirmative then the Panel is entitled to conclude that there is no case to answer in respect of that allegation or element.”

32. Mr Bradly argued that, as Witness 2 had indicated that none of the individual
particulars by themselves amounted to conduct which fell far below the standards expected of a Registered Forensic Psychologist, then the facts
were insufficient to establish the statutory ground of misconduct and, in turn, impairment. He maintained that, although usually the question of whether a
registrant’s conduct amounted to misconduct was a matter for the Panel’s own professional judgement, in this situation there had to be evidence before
it that Mr Griffiths’ conduct actually fell far below the standards expected for the Panel to exercise that judgement. He submitted that as the HCPC’s expert had concluded that, as a fellow professional, she did not consider Mr Griffiths’ actions to have fallen far below the standards expected, there was no such
evidence upon which the Panel could rely.

 
33. The Panel took account of the Legal Assessor’s advice, who referred to the cases of Roylance v General Medical Council [2000] 1 A.C. 311, Cheatle v General Medical Council [2009] EWHC 645 (Admin), Nandi v. General
Medical Council [2004] EWHC 2317 and R v. Nursing and Midwifery Council
(ex parte Johnson and Maggs) (No 2) [2013] EWHC 2140 (Admin).

The Panel noted that misconduct must be serious and amount to a registrant falling, not just below, but far below the standards expected of a registered psychologist such that it would amount to “conduct that would be seen as "deplorable" by fellow practitioners…” The Panel also noted the Legal Assessor’s reference to the case of Schodlok v GMC [2015] EWCA Civ 769 in which the opinion
was given that where there are only a few allegations of alleged misconduct that are held individually not to be serious, they cannot or should not be regarded collectively as serious misconduct.

34. In addition, the Legal Assessor indicated that, in essence, he agreed with Mr Bradly’s submission in that the Panel would be entitled to find that no
reasonable Panel could properly conclude that sufficient evidence had been presented to prove the statutory ground of Misconduct because the HCPC’s expert (who was there to assist the Panel about the standards to be applied and was a fellow practitioner upon whose opinion it was entitled to rely) had advised that Mr Griffiths’ conduct did not fall far below the standards expected and would not be seen as deplorable by fellow practitioners. The Legal Assessor advised that, if that was the expert’s view, then the Panel was not entitled to impose its own alternative view since there was no evidence before it that the conduct did fall far below the standards expected.

35. Ms Eales had no comment to make on the application and indicated that it was a matter for the Panel.

 
36. The Panel agreed with Mr Bradly and concluded that, since the HCPC’s expert had indicated that Mr Griffiths’ actions in relation to the three remaining parts of particular 1 did not individually amount to conduct that fell far below
the standards expected, then there was no evidence before it that would justify it reaching an alternative view. In addition, the Panel, whilst recognising
that Mr Griffiths’ practice in respect of particular 1 fell below the standards expected, did not consider that the threshold for regarding the individual
failings as cumulatively serious had been reached. These were but three instances of poor practice in one report which had not, in any event, been relied upon by the Mental Health Review Tribunal.

 Accordingly, the Panel decided that, taken at its highest, no reasonable Panel could have properly
concluded that what was alleged by particular 1 amounted to the statutory ground of Misconduct. Consequently, it concluded that there was no case for Mr Griffiths to answer in respect of the totality of particular 1.

Particulars 2 and 3

2.You have used an illegal drug, namely heroin;
3. You posted entries regarding drug use on Facebook in that:


a. On or around 7 February 2014, you posted a video in which you stated that you had tried using heroin for the first time ten weeks ago and that you had been using heroin on a daily basis or words to that effect;

b. On or around 9 February 2014 you stated: ‘What I did was a conscious act, and if I could guarantee the quality of the drug, then I would probably still
be using it today’ or words to that effect;

 
c. On or around 15 February 2014 you stated: ‘I nearly died on the 31.12.13 and again on the 05.01.14 due to dirty shitty street smack! The UK drug laws are archaic, against public health and safety and the European Human Rights brigade should prosecute this uncaring country’ or words to that effect.

Found proved by way of admission

37.The Panel accepts the Registrant’s admissions in respect of particulars 2 and 3 (inclusive), which are entirely consistent with the evidence, both live and
documentary, before the Panel, and finds those particulars proved.

Decision on Grounds

38.Having found the facts proved in this matter, the Panel went on to consider whether the facts found proved, individually or collectively, amounted to
misconduct. The Panel noted the advice of the Legal Assessor as set out
above.

39.The Panel noted the submissions of Ms Eales and Mr Bradly, the latter confirming that the Registrant accepted without hesitation that the particulars found proved (2 and 3) did amount to misconduct. However, the Panel was
aware that this was still a matter for its own individual judgment.

40.The Panel further noted Ms Eales’ submissions that a number of standards in both the HCPC’s Standards of conduct, performance and ethics, (the 2012 version) and in the Standards of Proficiency for Psychologists, had potentially
been breached.


41.The Panel finds that the Registrant is in breach of the following paragraphs of the HCPC Standards of Proficiency: Practitioner Psychologists:

1.a.8 – understand the obligation to maintain fitness practice;
-‘understand the need to maintain high standards of personal conduct’
-‘understand the importance of maintaining their own health’

34. The Registrant is also in breach of the following paragraphs of the HCPC Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics:


3 –‘You must keep high standards of personal conduct’.

4 – ‘You must provide (to us and any other relevant regulators) any important information about your conduct and competence’ (on the basis that, although Mr Griffiths told the Panel in evidence that, when posting the video, he intended to self-refer what he had done to the HCPC, he did not actually do so);

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’.


35.The Panel finds that, individually, each of the Registrant’s actions in posting what he did on an unrestricted part of his Facebook account which could be viewed by members of the public, including former patients, which not only
admitted that he had taken heroin, possession of which was illegal, but which advocated the use of an illegal drug, falls well below the standards expected of a Practitioner Psychologist. The Panel is in no doubt that fellow practitioners would find his actions to be deplorable.

36.The Panel therefore concludes that the proved Particulars 2 and 3 amount to Misconduct.

Decision on impairment

37.The Panel first assessed Mr Griffiths’ credibility and found him to be an open and credible witness who was candid about his health conditions. Much of Mr Griffiths’ evidence on oath, and the questioning of him under cross-examination and by the Panel, related to his health at the time he took heroin and publicised this on Facebook. His motivation for doing this was explored
at length.


38.In considering impairment the Panel applied the guidance in the HCPTS Practice Note “Finding that Fitness to Practise is Impaired” and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. It took note of the observations on impairment included by Ms Eales and Mr Bradly in their respective closing submissions.

39.In respect of the personal component, the Panel finds that Mr Griffiths’ misconduct is capable of remediation, that it has been remediated and that
the risk of repetition is low. It further accepts that there is quite significant evidence before it that he has addressed the circumstances that led him to
take the actions that he did and that he has a regime in place which on its face would prevent a re-occurrence. In addition, the Panel accepts that Mr
Griffiths has reflected deeply about these matters, he is very remorseful and has sufficient insight that what he did was utterly wrong, so as to make it
unlikely that there will be any repetition.

40.Having said that, the Panel would comment that, although Mr Griffiths has accepted that his actions had the potential to damage the reputation of the
Psychology profession, he appears not to have reflected on what the impact might have been to any of his then current or former patients who might have accessed his Facebook page and seen what he had posted. Such persons would likely have been particularly vulnerable and, possibly, drug users or potential drug users, who might have found some legitimisation for such use from what Mr Griffiths had posted.


41.In addition, the Panel considers that Mr Griffiths might have done more to remove the postings from his Facebook page. His testimony was somewhat
contradictory. He had made some effort to restrict public access to the postings but could not assure the Panel that this had been successful.
Moreover he was also concerned that it might be suggested that he was tampering with evidence if the postings were deleted before the fitness to
practise proceedings were concluded. However, he did not appear to have considered contacting the HCPC for permission to remove them, or advice
on the point. These last two matters aside, the Panel is satisfied that Mr Griffiths has demonstrated sufficient insight into his misconduct to cause it to
conclude that he is not currently impaired on the personal component.

42.The Panel went on to consider the wider public interest in maintaining confidence in the profession and declaring and upholding proper standards
of conduct and behaviour. Notwithstanding its conclusion that Mr Griffiths has personally remediated the circumstances that gave rise to his illegal drug use, namely factors relating to his health that are unlikely to be repeated given the
regime that he is now following with the support of his GP, his misconduct is serious and it is necessary to mark its unacceptability. Instead of approaching
his, albeit new, GP, Mr Griffiths chose to self-medicate, with what Mr Bradly described as “disastrous” consequences. Moreover, there can be no doubt that Mr Griffiths should not have advertised his drug use in the way that he
did, nor make political statements regarding the law on the misuse of drugs. The Panel has an important role in upholding standards of behaviour and
cannot be seen to condone misconduct of this nature. The Panel’s assessment is that public confidence would be undermined if the Regulator
did not take action in these circumstances and find, in the wider public interest, that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired. In doing
so the Panel notes the guidance given in the Practice Note ‘that the need to address the “critically important public policy issues” identified in the case of Cohen v GMC [2008] EWHC 581 (Admin) – to protect service users, declare
and uphold proper standards of behaviour and maintain public confidence in the profession – means that it cannot adopt a simplistic view and conclude that fitness to practise is not impaired because since the allegation arose, the
registrant has corrected matters or “learned his or her lesson”.

43.The Panel feels it appropriate to mention Mr Griffiths’ current state of health.

By his own admission, he is not fit to practisebecause of his current health issues, notwithstanding that he feels they are improving to the extent that he predicts that he might be in a position to return to work sometime next year,
he suggests in 6 months’ time (although there is no evidence from any treating medical practitioner to support this). The Panel appreciates that there
is no “health” allegation before it and that the HCPC may only have been notified of his condition in the last few weeks so that no decision has yet been taken whether to investigate the matter further. Moreover, it notes that Mr Griffiths is acting appropriately in abiding by the current HCPC standard

(“Manage your health - 6.3 You must make changes to how you practise, or stop practising, if your physical or mental health may affect your performance or judgement, or put others at risk for any other reason). However, the Panel
considers that it is important that both Mr Griffiths and the HCPC keep this matter under careful review – his remediation programme has not been in
place for long and has yet to be tested in a work situation.

Decision on Sanction

44.In reaching its decision on sanction the Panel took account of the submissions of Ms Eales and Mr Bradly, the Indicative Sanctions Policy (“ISP”) document and the advice of the Legal Assessor, which it accepted.

The Panel was mindful that the purpose of sanctions is not to be punitive, although they may have that effect. It appreciated that the primary purpose of any sanction is to address public safety from the perspective of the risk which the registrant concerned may pose to those who use or need their
services. It noted, however, that in reaching their decision, panels must also give appropriate weight to the wider public interest, which includes: the
deterrent effect to other registrants; the reputation of the profession concerned; and public confidence in the regulatory process. In addition, the
Panel noted that it must act proportionately, which requires it to strike a balance between the interests of the public and those of the registrant.

Mitigating and Aggravating factors

45.The Panel took account of the various mitigating factors namely:

x
This matter was essentially one isolated incident which was brought
about by Mr Griffiths’ underlying health issues;
x
These incidents took place 3½ years ago with no apparent repetition;
x
There was a particular purpose behind Mr Griffiths taking heroin
(namely pain relief) which he did not allow to go beyond that purpose
and indeed which he brought to an end himself; in essence, he
recognised the risks and the potential for harm if he continued to use
heroin and, through such self-awareness, withdrew from its use;
x
The Panel has found that Mr Griffiths is not impaired in relation to the
Personal component and has accepted that he has expressed


remorse, has remediated the underlying reason for his actions, has
demonstrated insight and that the likelihood of repetition is low;

x


Mr Griffiths has demonstrated great resourcefulness in progressing
to where he is today and has fully engaged, notwithstanding his
health issues, with the Fitness To Practise process throughout.

46.However, the Panel also noted the following aggravating features:
x
The Registrant not only indulged in an illegal act of buying and
possessing heroin, he also chose to publicise it in a manner whereby
he identified himself as a Forensic Psychologist and did so on his
Facebook page which had open access to the public, with complete
disregard both to patients who might have viewed it and to the
reputation of his profession;

x
In the Panel’s opinion these acts of publication, particularly in relation

to the video, were done in a lucid and coherent manner; here the
Panel disagrees with Mr Bradly’s submission that it showed a man
who was not thinking rationally – the Panel found Mr Griffiths’
demeanour in the video to be of someone who was self-aware and
clear-thinking;

x
The Registrant failed to self-report this matter to the HCPC and failed
to take sufficient steps to remove the postings and the video from his
Facebook page; moreover, insofar as he was concerned with
suggestions that he might be tampering with evidence, he failed to
approach, or take advice from, the HCPC, his regulator, about the
matter. Accordingly, the postings remained accessible to the public
for over three-and-a-half years.

Consideration of Sanction

47.Given the seriousness of the misconduct and the aggravating factors, the
Panel took the view that this was not a case that could be appropriately dealt
with without a sanction. It noted paragraph 8 of the ISP which states:

“Even if a Panel has determined that fitness to practise is impaired, it is
not obliged to impose a sanction. This is likely to be an exceptional
outcome but, for example, may be appropriate in cases where a finding
of impairment has been reached on the wider public interest grounds
identified above but where the registrant has insight, has already taken
remedial action and there is no risk of repetition”.


48.The Panel did not consider this to be a case which justified an exceptional
outcome. It was concerned about the very serious nature of the misconduct
which involved an illegal act and the publication of that act. Moreover, it
noted paragraph 6 of the ISP and in particular that Panels had to give
appropriate weight to the wider public interest, which included the deterrent
effect to other registrants, the reputation of the profession concerned and
public confidence in the regulatory process. The Panel did not consider that
taking no action would satisfy that requirement and would be insufficient to
mark the unacceptability of the Registrant’s actions.

49.The Panel therefore went on to consider the various sanctions, beginning
with the least onerous. The Panel noted the existence of the sanction of
mediation but concluded that it was not appropriate since Mr Griffiths’
actions did not result in any employer taking disciplinary proceedings
against him.

50.The Panel next considered a Caution Order, which is deemed to be
appropriate (paragraph 28 of the ISP):

“where the lapse is isolated, limited or relatively minor in nature, there is
a low risk of recurrence, the registrant has shown insight and taken
appropriate remedial action. A caution order should also be considered
in cases where the nature of the allegation means that meaningful
practice restrictions cannot be imposed but where the registrant has
shown insight, the conduct concerned is out of character, the risk of
repetition is low and thus suspension from practice would be
disproportionate. A caution order is unlikely to be appropriate in cases
where the registrant lacks insight.”

51.The Panel noted that factors mentioned therein were commensurate with the
facts of this case – the lapse was isolated; there was a low risk of recurrence;
Mr Griffiths has shown insight and he has taken appropriate remedial action.
Moreover, in the Panel’s view, such an outcome would meet the
proportionality test described in paragraph 9 of the ISP in that it is a suitable
means of attaining the degree of public protection identified by the Panel; it
takes account of the wider public interest, such as maintaining public
confidence in the profession; is the least restrictive means of attaining that
degree of public protection; and is proportionate in the strict sense and strikes
a proper balance between the protection of the public and the rights of the
registrant.

52.As for the length of the Caution, the Panel noted paragraph 29 of the ISP
which stated:

‘In order to ensure that a fair and consistent approach is adopted, Panels
should regard a period of three years as the ‘benchmark’ for a caution

order. However, as Panels must consider sanctions in ascending order,
the starting point for a caution is one year and a Panel should only


impose a caution for a longer period if the facts of the case make it
appropriate to do so.’

53.The Panel did not consider that the “benchmark” period of three years was
sufficient to mark the seriousness of Mr Griffiths’ actions, which it reminded
itself were: deliberately carrying out an illegal act, publicising it in a manner
that might have resulted in it being viewed by patients, identifying himself in
that publication as a registered psychologist, and continuing the period of
access to the publication for a significant length of time. This was therefore
a case where something more than a “benchmark” sanction was
appropriate. Accordingly, the Panel decided that a caution of four years
was sufficient to mark the unacceptability of his actions. The Panel did go
on to consider the next most onerous sanction, that of a Conditions of
Practice Order, and noted that this is appropriate where a failure or
deficiency is capable of being remedied and where the Panel is satisfied
that allowing the Registrant to remain in, or return to, practice, while subject
to conditions, minimises the risk of future harm to service users. The Panel
determined that a Conditions of Practice Order was not appropriate in this
case since Mr Griffiths’ identified failings did not impinge upon his clinical
practice and, in any event, the Panel had concluded that he was not
impaired in relation to the personal component.

54.Accordingly, the Panel felt that a Conditions of Practice Order would not be
relevant in this particular situation. The Panel did consider imposing the
next most onerous sanction, namely that of Suspension. The Panel noted
that the ISP indicated that a Suspension Order should be considered where
a Panel believes that a caution or conditions of practice would provide
insufficient public protection or where the allegation is of a serious nature
but unlikely to be repeated and, thus, striking off is not merited. However, in
the circumstances of this case, the Panel considered that a Suspension
Order would be disproportionate. Accordingly, the Panel concluded that the
proportionate response is to make a Caution Order for a period of four years.

Order

No information currently available

Notes

The Conduct and Competence final hearing of Mr Paul Griffiths took place in North Yorkshire at Park Inn by Radisson on the following dates: 11th, 14th, 15th, 18th & 21st  September 2017.

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Mr Paul Griffiths

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
11/09/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Caution