Mr Jonathan David Ward

Profession: Social worker

Registration Number: SW37924

Interim Order: Imposed on 10 Jul 2017

Hearing Type: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 09:00 19/07/2018 End: 16:00 19/07/2018

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

On 6 July 2017, in the Crown Court at Lewes, you were convicted of:

1. Making indecent photographs of a Child x 6

2. By reason of your conviction as set out at paragraph 1, your fitness to practise as a Social Worker is impaired.

 

Finding

Preliminary matters

Service of Notice

1. The Panel found that there had been good service of the Notice of Hearing by a letter dated 15 May 2018 which informed the Registrant of the date, time and venue of the hearing.

Proceeding in the absence of the Registrant

2. Ms Mond Wedd made an application for the hearing to proceed in the absence of the Registrant. She referred the Panel to the Registrant’s correspondence with the HCPC. In an email dated 12 July 2017 the Registrant stated that “I won’t be attending any hearings as there is clearly only one possible outcome and I have nothing to contribute”. The Registrant completed the Response Pro-forma stating that he would not attend the hearing or be represented. In a recent email dated 17 July 2018 the Registrant stated “I understand that a final hearing is being held on 19 July at the Health Care Workers Tribunal Service. I have previously confirmed that I will not be attending this or sending any representation. This remains the case.” In the same email the Registrant states that he has changed his address and requests assistance in making the change on the HCPC register.

3. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and had regard to the HCPTS Practice Note “Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant”.

4. The Panel decided to proceed with the hearing in the absence of the Registrant. The Panel noted that the Registrant is aware of the hearing and that it may proceed in his absence. The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant’s absence is voluntary. The public interest that the matter is concluded expeditiously outweighs the Registrant’s interests.


Applications relating to new evidence

5. The Panel decided that it was not appropriate to admit the document.


Background

6. The Registrant is a registered Social Worker. He was employed as a Practice Educator by Surrey County Council (the “Council”). On 5 January 2017 the Registrant referred himself to the HCPC with information that he had been suspended by his employer pending a police investigation. The Council also made a referral to the HCPC.

7. On 10 July 2017 the HCPC received information from the Sussex Police that the Registrant had been charged with six counts of making indecent images of children. The Registrant had entered a guilty plea on 6 July 2017 and was awaiting sentencing.


Decision on Facts and Ground

8. The Panel found the Registrant’s conviction on six counts of making indecent photographs of a child proved by the Certificate of Conviction issued by Lewes Crown Court on 4 August 2017.

9. The Certificate of Conviction records that the sentence imposed was seven months imprisonment suspended for two years with registration requirements and a Sexual Harm Prevention Order for 10 years. The Registrant was also required to undertake 120 hours of unpaid work and to pay costs.

10. The sentencing remarks of HH Judge Tain record the fact that the police received information about an IP address uploading what appeared to be child pornography. Further research led to the identification of the Registrant. When the Registrant was arrested three laptops were seized. The work laptop contained no unlawful images, but over one hundred images were found on the other laptops. There were 13 Category A images (of the most serious kind), 14 Category B images and 80 Category C images. A carrier bag containing female underwear, including girls’ knickers, was also found. The Registrant’s position when interviewed for a second time was that he was addicted to pornography and that largely his addiction was to adult pornography.

11. In mitigation for the Registrant, his barrister referred to the absence of any complaints in relation to his work and that he was a man of previous good character with no previous convictions.


Decision on impairment

12. The Panel applied the guidance in the HCPTS Practice Notes on “Conviction and Caution Allegations” and “Finding that Fitness to Practise is Impaired” and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel considered the Registrant’s fitness to practise at today’s date.

13. The Panel considered the nature, circumstances and gravity of the offences. The offences involve the exploitation of children, and they are of a serious nature. In his correspondence with the HCPC the Registrant appears to recognise the seriousness of his conviction in the regulatory context. He considered that there was only one outcome and he has stated that he does not object to being struck off the register.

14. The Panel noted that the Registrant entered a guilty plea, referred himself to the HCPC, and has engaged with the HCPC process. However, there was no evidence of reflection, remorse or remedial action. The Registrant has not demonstrated the current level of his insight to the Panel. The Panel concluded that there is a clear risk of repetition which involves a risk of harm to the public and to the reputation of the profession.

15. The Panel next considered the wider public interest considerations. The Registrant’s conviction has destroyed public trust and confidence in him as a Social Worker. It has had a severe impact on the reputation of the Social Work profession. Members of the public would be extremely concerned about the details of the Registrant’s offences as outlined in the sentencing remarks.

16. The Registrant remains subject to an active sentence and the Panel noted the guidance in the case of Council for the Regulation of Health Care Professionals v General Dental Council and Fleishmann [2005] EWHC 87 that as a general principle, where a practitioner has been convicted of a serious criminal offence or offences he should not be permitted to resume his practice until he has satisfactorily completed his sentence.

17. The Panel concluded that a finding that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired is required to maintain confidence in the profession and the regulatory process.

18. The Panel decided that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired on the basis of the personal component and the public component.


Decision on sanction

19.In  considering which, if any, sanction to impose the Panel had regard to the HCPC Indicative Sanctions Policy (ISP) and the advice of the Legal Assessor.

20. The Panel reminded itself that the purpose of imposing a sanction is not to punish the practitioner, but to protect the public and the wider public interest. The Panel ensured that it acted proportionately, and in particular it sought to balance the interests of the public with those of the Registrant, and imposed the sanction which was the least restrictive in the circumstances commensurate with its duty of protection.

21. The Panel decided that the aggravating features were:

• the Registrant was in a position of trust;

• the Registrant continued to practise while he was addicted to pornography;

• in his initial police interview the Registrant responded “no comment”, indicating a lack of openness at the early stage of the police investigation;

• over 10% of the images were at the highest end (category A) of the scale of seriousness.

22. The Panel decided that the mitigating features were:

• the Registrant’s previous unblemished work record;

• no unlawful material on the work laptop;

• the Registrant’s guilty plea and engagement with the HCPC;

23. Although the Panel identified mitigating circumstances, the Panel did not consider that they carried significant weight, when considered in the context of the serious nature of the Registrant’s conviction.

24. The Panel considered the options of taking no action and a Caution Order, but decided that they would not be sufficient to manage the risks the Panel has identified.

25. The Panel next considered a Conditions of Practice Order. The Panel decided that conditions would not be workable or sufficient. The nature of the Registrant’s offending behaviour could not be addressed through conditions and conditions would not adequately reflect the seriousness of the conviction or protect the public.

26. The Panel considered the more serious option of a Suspension Order. A Suspension Order would provide protection for the public because the Registrant would not be able to practise as a Social Worker. However, a Suspension Order may not be appropriate where there is no realistic prospect of rehabilitation to safe practice. The Panel considered whether a period of suspension could be used for the Registrant to take remedial action. The Panel noted that there is no evidence that the Registrant has taken any steps to remedy the addictive behaviour which underlies his offences and no evidence that he has successfully completed the rehabilitation activity requirement of his sentence. The information about the Registrant’s addiction to pornography indicates that there are psychological factors which may mean that the behaviour is not remediable. The Panel concluded that there was not a realistic prospect of rehabilitation in the circumstances.

27. The Panel also noted that the Registrant is subject to a Sexual Harm Prevention Order for a period of ten years, an order which is incompatible with registration as a Social Worker.

28. There were no factors which indicated that the more lenient option of a Suspension Order rather than a Striking-Off Order was appropriate. The Panel did not consider that the limited mitigating circumstances in this case indicated that the Registrant could return to safe practise as a Social Worker. 

29. The Panel considered that a Striking-Off Order was consistent with the ISP guidance. A Striking-Off Order is a sanction of last resort, but it may be appropriate in cases involving sexual offences.

30. The Panel therefore decided that the appropriate and proportionate sanction is a Striking-Off Order.


31. Ms Mond Wedd made an application that the HCPC application for an interim Suspension Order should proceed in the absence of the Registrant. The Registrant was advised that an application may be made in the Notice of Hearing.

32. The Panel agreed to the application. The Registrant had been informed of the possibility of an application and the circumstances of his absence did not indicate that that there was any injustice in proceeding with the application.


Interim Order Application


33. Ms Mond Wedd applied for an Interim Suspension Order on the grounds that it was necessary for the protection of the public and was otherwise in the public interest.

34. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

35. The Panel decided to make an Interim Suspension Order for a period of eighteen months to cover the appeal period and, if the Registrant were to appeal, time for conclusion of an appeal. The Panel made the order on the ground that it was necessary for the protection of the public. The Panel has found that there is an ongoing need to protect the public from risks that may arise if the Registrant were to practise as a Social Worker. The Panel considered that any other conclusion would be inconsistent with its decisions on current impairment and sanction.

36. The Panel also considered that an Interim Suspension Order was otherwise in the public interest because the concerns for the protection of the public are sufficiently high to engage the wider public interest.

37. The Panel considered the less restrictive option of interim conditions of practice, but decided that conditions would not be workable or sufficient.

 

 

Order

Order: The Registrar is directed to strike the name of Jonathan David Ward from the Register. The Registrar was also directed to suspend the name of Mr Jonathan David Ward from the Register on an interim basis for a period of 18 months.

Notes

The Interim Suspension Order imposed for a period of 18 months is to cover the appeal period.

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Mr Jonathan David Ward

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
19/07/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Struck off