Ms Julie Marie Devlin

Profession: Operating department practitioner

Registration Number: ODP15674

Hearing Type: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 09:00 20/08/2018 End: 16:00 20/08/2018

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

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Caution

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Allegation

 

1. On 17 August 2017 at Plymouth Magistrates Court you were convicted of: driving a motor vehicle after consuming so much alcohol that the proportion of it in your breath exceeded the prescribed limit.

 

2. By reason of your conviction as set out at paragraph 1 your fitness to practise as an Operating Department Practitioner is impaired.

 

Finding

Preliminary matters:

1. Ms Richardson made an application that parts of the hearing concerning the Registrant’s private life should be heard in private.  Ms Sheridan on behalf of the HCPC did not oppose the application.

2. The Panel accepted the advice of the legal assessor and accepted that, in accordance the discretion in Rule 10(1)(a) of the (Conduct and Competence Committee) (Procedure) Rules 2003, (“the Rules”), it was appropriate to hear the relevant matters in private session. 


Background:

3. The Registrant is a registered Operating Department Practitioner (ODP).  On 30 July 2017, the Registrant was involved in a roadside collision.  The Police were called by members of the public who had witnessed the collision. 

4. The Registrant failed a roadside breathalyser test.  When tested at the police station, the Registrant’s breath was found to contain 107 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath.  The legal limit is 35 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath. 

5. The Registrant pleaded guilty at the Plymouth District Magistrates Court hearing to the offence of driving whilst under the influence of alcohol and was disqualified from holding or obtaining a driving licence for 26 months. She was ordered to pay a fine of £720.00, a victim surcharge of £72.00 and ordered to pay Crown Prosecution Service costs of £85.00. 

6. The Registrant reported to the HCPC on 4 August 2017 that she had been stopped by the police in relation to the offence of drink driving.

Documents

7. The Panel received a bundle on behalf of the HCPC of 18 pages.  From the Registrant, the Panel received, as R1, four character references from professional colleagues, a certificate of completion of the Drink Driving Course and a reflective statement by the Registrant. 


Decision on Facts

8. The Registrant admitted the conviction.  The Panel had sight of a Memorandum of Conviction dated 25 August 2017 from the Plymouth District Magistrates Court.  This confirmed that on 17 August 2017, the Registrant pleaded guilty to, and was convicted of, the offence of driving a motor vehicle after consuming so much alcohol that the proportion of it in her breath exceeded the prescribed limit.  

9. On the basis of the Memorandum of Conviction, in accordance with Rule 10(1)(d) of the Rules, and on the basis of the Registrant’s admission, the Panel found the facts proved. 

 

Decision on Grounds

10. The Panel determined that the statutory ground contained in Article 22(1)(a)(iii) of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001 was made out by virtue of the conviction

The evidence of the Registrant

11. The Registrant gave evidence. She had qualified as an ODP in 1995.  She remained employed as a Band 5 ODP at the hospital where she has employed prior to the offence.  She described that on the relevant day, 30 July 2017, she was upset having seen her ex-boyfriend who had ended their relationship two weeks earlier. She had not been eating or sleeping properly.  She did not eat, but drank wine during the afternoon whilst with friends and returned home and continued drinking.  She texted her ex-boyfriend between 6.30 pm and 9.30 pm but did not receive a reply.  She then went out in her car. She now thinks because of texts she sent at the time that she was intending to visit her ex-boyfriend.   Whilst driving she “clipped” a stationery car, but did not stop.  The owner of the car followed her, stopped her and took her car keys.  He called the police, who then attended the scene.  

12. The Registrant said that the events had had a salutary effect upon her. She recognised that members of the public would not be impressed by her actions and that this could undermine confidence in her profession. She assured the Panel there would be no repetition of consuming alcohol and driving.  She loved her role as an ODP in which she believed she was valued and respected by her colleagues.


Submissions on Impairment of fitness to practise
 
13. Ms Sheridan on behalf of the HCPC referred to the Police Report which provided further detail of the circumstances of the offence.  The vehicle which the Registrant struck, or “clipped”, whilst driving was a vehicle leased by a takeaway restaurant.  Staff from the restaurant witnessed the collision.  It was the manager who came out of the restaurant and followed the Registrant in her car as she drove away.  He took the keys from her and called the police.  The Registrant had driven approximately one mile.

14. Ms Sheridan reminded the Panel that the Registrant had been found to be three times over the legal limit for consumption of alcohol.  She submitted the offence had take place in a residential area.  Members of the public had been put at potential risk of harm by the Registrant’s actions.  The Registrant had acknowledged that members of the public would not be impressed by her conduct and that the Panel should consider whether public confidence in the profession would be undermined if a finding of current impairment were not made.

15. Ms Richardson, on behalf of the Registrant, submitted that this was a one off incident which was completely out of character.  The Registrant had sought support from her GP.  There was no risk of repetition given the support the Registrant now had in place.  Whilst she accepted that the offence was a serious matter, she submitted that members of the public who knew the Registrant’s professional history and the circumstances of the offence would recognise it was a single lapse which should not be considered to undermine confidence in the ODP profession. 

Decision on current impairment
 
16. The Panel considered whether by reason of the Registrant’s conviction her fitness to practise is currently impaired.
 
17. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and had regard to the HCPC Practice Note “Finding that Fitness to Practise is Impaired”, dated 22 March 2017. It kept in mind that not every conviction will automatically result in a conclusion that fitness to practise is impaired and noted that impairment is ‘forward looking’. 

18. The Panel took into account all the evidence it had heard and the submissions on behalf of the Registrant.  The offence was a serious one.  The Panel was mindful of the aggravating elements of the conviction: that the Registrant had been three times over the legal limit for alcohol, that she had struck another vehicle and had failed to stop.  She had driven on for a further mile in a residential area and had potentially put members of the public at risk of harm.  The Panel also noted that whilst her period of disqualification from driving had been reduced by having undertaken the Drink Driving awareness course, the Registrant would remain subject to the disqualification until Spring of 2019. 

19. The Panel considered that, in the light of these factors, the confidence of members of the public in the ODP profession would be undermined if a find of current impairment were not made.  

20. The Panel therefore found that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired.

 

Decision on Sanction

Submissions on sanction

21. Ms Sheridan referred the Panel to the HCPC’s indicative Sanctions Policy.  Her submission was that a sanction was required and she took the Panel through the sanctions available to it. 

22. Ms Richardson urged the Panel to take account of the mitigation evidence presented and submitted that the Registrant had demonstrated insight and remediation such that the Panel could be satisfied that the risk of future repetition was very low.  She submitted that the Panel should consider making no order or otherwise, a Caution order.  She urged the Panel not to make an order which would prevent the Registrant, as a valued, experienced and skilled ODP practitioner, from working. 


The Panels’ decision on sanction

23. The Panel took full account of the submissions made by Ms Sheridan on behalf of the HCPC and those of Ms Richardson on behalf of the Registrant.  It accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

24. The Panel was aware that the purpose of any sanction is not to be punitive, though it may have a punitive effect.  The Panel bore in mind that its primary function at this stage is to protect the public, while reaching a proportionate sanction, taking into account the wider public interest and the interests of the Registrant. The Panel has taken into account the HCPC Indicative Sanctions Guidance and applied it to the Registrant’s case on its own facts and circumstances.

25. The Panel took into account the following aggravating factors:
• the Registrant’s offence involved a high level of alcohol consumption;
• the Registrant drove under the influence of alcohol in a residential area and failed to stop after a collision.

26. The Panel took into account the following mitigating factors:
• the Registrant’s plea of guilty in the criminal proceedings;
• the Registrant’s prompt self-referral to the HCPC after her arrest and full engagement with the HCPC process, including her admission to the conviction;
• the conduct was an isolated and out of character incident;
• the Registrant has demonstrated insight and reflection in respect of her past conduct, she has taken steps to remedy her conduct and the Panel accepted her assurance that there would be no repetition of her offending behaviour;
• the Registrant has shown insight into the impact her conviction would have upon public confidence in the ODP profession;
• the Registrant’s previous unblemished disciplinary history;
• the Registrant’s 23 year career as an ODP;
• the high regard in which her experience and skills are held by the Registrant’s professional colleagues, as indicated by the four character referees, who included a Consultant Neurosurgeon, two senior nursing sisters  and a fellow ODP, who work with the Registrant and are aware of her criminal conviction; 

27. The Panel considered that the following HCPC standards had been breached in the circumstances of this case:
• The Standard of Proficiency for ODPs - Standard 3.1
“Understand the need to maintain high standards of personal and professional conduct”

• The Standard of Conduct, Performance and Ethics - Standard 9.1
“You must make sure that your conduct justifies the public’s trust and confidence in you and your profession”

28. In light of all of these matters, the Panel has considered what sanction, if any, should be applied, in ascending order of seriousness.

Mediation/No Further Action

29. The public interest would not be protected by mediation or if the Panel were to take no further action in a case of this seriousness.

Caution

30. The Panel was mindful that this was an isolated incident in an otherwise unblemished career, in which the character evidence demonstrates the Registrant is a highly regarded member of staff.  The incident took place in difficult personal circumstances.  The Registrant has satisfied the Panel that she has reflected upon the matter and she has demonstrated insight. She has appropriately sought help and has put in place support strategies.   The Panel is satisfied the risk of repetition of the offending behaviour is low and that the Registrant does not pose a risk to the public. 

31. The Panel is satisfied that in the circumstances of this case, a Caution Order for a period of 2 years will mark the seriousness of the conviction and demonstrate to the public and the profession that the Registrant’s offending behaviour was unacceptable.  The Panel was satisfied that a Caution Order for a 2 year period will ensure that public confidence in the ODP profession is maintained. 

32. The Panel went on to consider whether a Conditions of Practice or Suspension Order would be appropriate, but decided in the circumstances of this case that these would be disproportionate because the offence was out of character and the Panel is satisfied the risk of repetition is low.  

33. The Panel therefore directs that a Caution Order should be imposed for a period of 2 years.       

Order

ORDER: That the Registrar is directed to annotate the register entry of Ms Julie Marie Devlin with a Caution which is to remain on the register for a period of 2 years from the date this order comes into effect. 

Notes

No notes available

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Ms Julie Marie Devlin

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
20/08/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Caution