Miss Anita Henderson

Profession: Social worker

Registration Number: SW111155

Hearing Type: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 09:00 31/08/2018 End: 16:00 31/08/2018

Location: Health and Care Professions Tribunal Service (HCPTS), 405 Kennington Road, London, SE11 4PT

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Struck off

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Allegation

Whilst registered with the Health and Care Professions Council as a Social Worker, you:

1. On 19 September 2017, were convicted at Newcastle Crown Court of:

a. Obtain money transfer by deception, contrary to section 15A of the Theft Act 1968;

b. Fraud contrary to section 1 of the Fraud Act 2006;

c. Fraud contrary to section 1 of the Fraud Act 2006.

2. By reason of your convictions your fitness to practise is impaired.

Finding

Preliminary Matters

Service

1. The Panel has seen a copy of the Notice letter dated 26 June 2018, which contains all relevant information. It also has seen a certificate certifying the fact of posting by first class post to the Registrant’s registered address. The Notice letter was sent in sufficient time in advance of today’s hearing. The Panel therefore came to the decision that it had evidence before it that there had been good service in accordance with the Rules.

Proceeding in the absence of the Registrant

2. The HCPC submitted that the hearing should proceed in the absence of the Registrant. As there has been no engagement by the Registrant, it could not be assumed that she would attend if this matter were adjourned. The HCPC emphasised that it was in the public interest that this matter proceed today without further delay or additional cost to the public.

3. The Panel heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor on the matters that it should consider during its deliberations on this issue and the two HCPTS Practice Notes which refer to “Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant” and “Postponement and Adjournment of Proceedings”.

4. The Panel was aware of the need to exercise its discretion to proceed in the absence of the Registrant with great care and caution.

5. The Panel decided to proceed in the absence of the Registrant. Its reasons are as follows:

• The Registrant has not made an application to adjourn today’s hearing;

• Reasonable steps have been taken to serve the Registrant with Notice of this hearing;

• The HCPC has taken appropriate steps to establish whether the Registrant’s legal representatives are aware of this hearing and are instructed. In this regard, the Panel noted that on the morning of this hearing, following enquiry, a reply in the following terms was received: “We have not been formally instructed by the client in relation to this matter – we have contacted her on several occasion and on the last occasion and was advised by the client that she did not see a point in [having] a solicitor”;

• The Registrant has not directly engaged with the HCPC other than sending the HCPC information that she was the subject of criminal proceedings;

• There is no reason to suppose that if the hearing were adjourned, the Registrant would attend a resumed hearing;

• In all the circumstances, the Panel considered that the Registrant has made an informed decision not to attend and has voluntarily absented herself;

• There is public interest in this matter being heard expeditiously.

Background

6. The Registrant is a newly qualified Social Worker and was employed by Sunderland City Council (the Council) in the Adult Social Care and Learning Disabilities Team in January 2017.

7. The Registrant self-referred to the HCPC on 12 April 2017 following receipt by her of a postal requisition outlining the criminal charges against her. The offences relate to financial fraud in relation to making false declarations of earnings from businesses that were owned and operated by the Registrant to enable her to gain three mortgages from Building Societies. The offences occurred over several years.

8. After the Registrant’s self-referral to the HCPC, the Council conducted an internal investigation. From the Council’s internal investigation, it appeared that the criminal charges were known to the Registrant in 2016 but that she did not share this information with the Council at the start of her employment.

9. The case was heard at Newcastle Crown Court on 19 September 2017, where the Registrant pleaded guilty to three charges, with a fourth charge “to lie on the file”. The Registrant was sentenced to 9 months’ imprisonment, suspended for 6 months, all counts running concurrently.

Decision on Facts and Grounds

10. The facts that lead to the Registrant’s conviction are identified within the transcript of the sentencing hearing on 19 September 2017. They are:

• That between 12 October 2006 and 17 October 2008, the Registrant obtained three mortgages from Building Societies, having provided applications that were fraudulent by virtue of the defendant providing false accounts in support of inflated earnings;

• The first mortgage arose from the submission of a handwritten application claiming a net profit of just over £33,000, when her real income was in fact just £9,000. The Building Society advanced £68,000 for the purchase of a property;

• The second mortgage of £97,000 was advanced against declared income for two years of £77,000 for the purpose of buying a property. The Registrant’s income was in fact £66,466;

• The third mortgage of £63,000 was borrowed against a property owned by the Registrant. It was stated that this advance had been given to a third party. The Registrant declared income of £101,592 to obtain this advance at a time when her real income was £3,000;

• The risk of loss, albeit that there was none, to the Building Societies was £228,198.35.

11. Article 22(a) of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001 (as amended) identifies a Conviction as a statutory ground. The Panel had evidence of the Convictions by means of a copy of the Certificate of Conviction issued by the Crown Court. The Panel found that this was conclusive evidence of the fact of the conviction.

Decision on Impairment

12. The Registrant provided no evidence or submissions for the Panel’s consideration. The HCPC noted that, in the absence of any such information from the Registrant, there was no evidence on which the Panel could assess whether the Registrant has gained any insight into her behaviour, feels remorse, or apologises for her actions. This being the case, it could not be argued that the Registrant has remedied her previous behaviour, if indeed multiple acts of dishonesty can be fully remedied.

13. The HCPC stressed that being honest and trustworthy are fundamental tenets of being a professional. The HCPC submitted that the matters giving rise to the Convictions were grave, including as they do several instances of dishonesty over a considerable period of time, such that a finding of impairment was clearly warranted in the public interest. The Registrant’s actions as found by the Crown Court brought her and her profession into disrepute and the public’s confidence in the regulatory and disciplinary processes would be undermined if a finding of impairment were not made.

14. The Panel accepted the Legal Assessor’s advice and took into account the guidance issued by the HCPTS in its Practice Note on “Finding that Fitness to Practise is ‘Impaired’”.

15. In the Panel’s view, it was unfortunate that the Registrant chose not to engage with the HCPC process. If this Panel had the benefit of knowing how this individual had reflected on her behaviour, it would have been in a position to assess whether there was a likelihood of the behaviour being repeated. In the absence of such information, the Panel concluded that, in relation to the personal component of its decision, there was, and remains, impairment of the Registrant’s fitness to practise.

16. In relation to the public interest component of its decision, the Panel came to the conclusion that although the events that led to the Convictions were historic, they were very serious in nature, intentional, repeated over a period of time, and so supported a finding of impairment in the wider public interest.

Decision on Sanction

17. The HCPC highlighted to the Panel that three convictions for fraudulent behaviour were sufficient in themselves to underline the seriousness of the behaviour and the adverse impact it would have on the profession’s reputation. This being the case, the Panel would, in the HCPC’s view, be considering a sanction at the upper end of the range. That range of sanctions in a conviction case included the power to strike the Registrant’s name from the Register on a permanent basis.

18. In reaching its decision, the Panel took into account the “Indicative Sanctions Policy” issued by HCPC. It appreciated that any sanction imposed must be proportionate and appropriate in all the circumstances of this case.

19. To assist it in assessing the relevant level of sanction, the Panel identified the following mitigating and aggravating factors.

Mitigating factors:

• The Registrant pleaded guilty to the offences at the Crown Court;

• There appeared to be difficulties in the Registrant’s life at the time of the original offence, although this Panel had no certain information on this;

• The Registrant brought the fact of the criminal proceedings to the attention of the HCPC prior to the case being heard at the Crown Court.

Aggravating factors:

• There were multiple acts of dishonest behaviour over a long period of time;

• Although not a matter relating to the offences, the Panel noted that the Registrant chose not to disclose the fact that she was the subject of criminal proceedings to her employer at the time of her appointment;

• There were three Convictions for fraudulent appropriation of funds in excess of £228,000.

• The dishonesty was for personal gain and personal advancement. It was spent on properties including a holiday home in Spain.

• These matters did not come to light for many years, and initially the Registrant’s response was one of obfuscation.

20. As advised by the Legal Assessor, the Panel started its consideration of this matter from the bottom of the scale of possible sanctions. It considered that taking no action would not be appropriate in this instance, and neither was mediation appropriate. A Caution Order would not, in the Panel’s view, be sufficient to mark the seriousness of the matters that led to the Conviction. A Conditions of Practice Order would not address the dishonesty element that was underlying to these Convictions.

21. In relation to the imposition of a period of suspension, the Panel noted that it had no evidence or information whatsoever from the Registrant that would have assisted it in assessing whether a period of suspension would be proportionate or appropriate; for instance, her reflection on her behaviour and the gaining of insight into her former criminal activities. There was no information from the Registrant about her current professional or personal life, no references, and no written indications of insight, remorse and understanding of the impact of her actions on the profession. The Panel considered that, in the absence of any such information, and any engagement by the Registrant, this Panel could not exercise any leniency in relation to such serious dishonest acts.

22. In addition, the Panel noted at this stage of its deliberations that, whilst these matters arose from actions outside of the Registrant’s professional duties, they would seriously impact on her profession’s reputation and would have undermined the public’s confidence in the profession. The Panel also noted that any sanction should act as a deterrent to others intending to act in the same way.

23. The Panel therefore came to the conclusion that the matters were so serious, and so fundamentally at variance with the Registrant remaining a member of her profession, that they warrant the Registrant’s removal from the Register on a permanent basis.

Order

That the Registrar is directed to strike the name of Ms Anita Henderson from the Register on the date this Order comes into effect.

Notes

No notes available

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Miss Anita Henderson

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
31/08/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Struck off