Mrs Sigrun Legemah
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Whilst registered as a Social Worker:
1) You smelt of alcohol whilst at work on the following dates:
i) 29 December 2015;
ii) 13 January 2016;
iii) 12 February 2016;
iv) 15 February 2016.
2) In relation to Young Person A:
a) You arrived approximately one hour late for a meeting on 4 January 2016
b) You did not attend a meeting scheduled for 10 February 2016;
c) You attended a meeting on 12 February 2016 in relation to Young Person A and:
i) You smelt of alcohol;
ii) You breached confidentiality by sharing information about Young Person A during the meeting;
iii) Your manner was rude and/or unprofessional.
3) On 24 February 2014 at East Berkshire Magistrates’ Court you were convicted of: driving a motor vehicle on a road after consuming so much alcohol that the proportion of it in your blood exceeded the prescribed limit.
4) In November 2014 you did not disclose the fact of your conviction on 24 February 2014 to the HCPC.
5) Your actions in paragraph 4 were dishonest.
6) The matters set out in paragraphs 1, 2, 4 and 5 constitute misconduct.
7) By reason of your conviction in paragraph 3 and/or your misconduct in paragraph 1, 2, 4 and 5 your fitness to practise is impaired.
Service of the Notice of Hearing
1. A written notice of hearing dated 5 March 2018 was sent by HCPTS on that date by first class post to the Registrant at her registered address, giving her notice of the date, time and venue of the hearing. In those circumstances, the notice of hearing was sent to the Registrant in the appropriate form and gave proper notice of the hearing: rr. 3(1)(b), (2) and 6(1), Health and Care Professions Council (Conduct and Competence Committee) (Procedure) Rules 2003 as amended (‘the Rules’).
Application for Part of Hearing to be in Private
2. Ms Manning-Rees made an application that parts of the hearing be conducted in private to protect the private life of the Registrant.
3. The Legal Assessor referred the Panel to the HCPTS’ Practice Note, Conducting Hearings in Private, 22 March 2017 and advised that the application should be granted. The Panel agreed and directed that the parts of the hearing identified by Ms Manning Rees be conducted in private.
Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant
4. Ms Manning-Rees applied to proceed in the absence of the Registrant. She provided a chronology and a comprehensive bundle of relevant documents. She submitted that this was a case where the Registrant had engaged with the regulatory process up to a point but had since disengaged entirely and had waived her right to appear.
5. The Panel accepted the advice given by the Legal Assessor, who referred to r. 11 of the Rules, which states –
Where the registrant is neither present nor represented at a hearing, the Committee may nevertheless proceed with the hearing if it is satisfied that all reasonable steps have been taken to serve the notice of the hearing under rule 6(1) on the registrant.
6. The Legal Assessor referred to the principles relevant to the exercise of the discretion to proceed in the absence of a registrant, with reference to the decision of the Court of Appeal in GMC v Adeogba  EWCA Civ. 162, Davies v HCPC  EWHC 1593 (Admin) at  and the principles identified in the HCPTS’ Practice Note, Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant, dated 22 March 2017.
7. As the notice of hearing was sent to the Registrant in compliance with r 6(1), all reasonable steps have been made to serve the notice of hearing on the Registrant at her registered address as required by r. 11. In addition, the HCPTS posted the notice of hearing to an alternative address previously identified by the Registrant and to an email address provided by her.
8. The Panel concluded that the Registrant ceased to engage with these proceedings from 28 December 2017, when a representative of Kingsley Napley telephoned the Registrant and introduced herself, upon which the Registrant terminated the call by hanging up. She had engaged with the HCPC in the period after September 2017 and had applied for (on health grounds) and been granted an adjournment for the hearing of this case, which had originally been due to commence on 30 October 2017.
9. From early January 2018, a number of unsuccessful attempts were made by Kingsley Napley in correspondence and by telephone (voicemail) to contact the Registrant with respect to these proceedings. Three further letters were sent to her by Kingsley Napley after the notice of hearing had been sent on 5 March 2018 and two further letters were sent to the Registrant by the HCPTS about this hearing, most recently by letter dated 14 June 2018, which enclosed their letter of 7 June 2014 that had inquired whether the Registrant would be attending the hearing and/or be represented at it. There was no contact at all from the Registrant during 2018 and she made no application for a further postponement or adjournment of this case.
10. In those circumstances, the Panel concluded that the Registrant had voluntarily absented herself from the hearing and had chosen not to be represented. The witnesses for the HCPC were in attendance, ready to give evidence and there was a public interest in the expeditious disposal of these proceedings.
11. Therefore, the Panel decided that it would be fair to proceed in the absence of the Registrant and decided to do so.
12. The Registrant was employed as a locum Social Worker with Surrey County Council between 8 December 2015 and 15 February 2016. During that period she worked as a member of the North East Surrey Looked After Children’s Team (‘LAC’ or ‘the LAC Team’), when there arose concerns regarding the matters to which particulars 1 and 2 of the Allegation relate.
13. Those concerns were referred to the HCPC on behalf of the Council by a written referral dated 25 February 2016. Following enquiries made of the Registrant by the HCPC, there arose further concerns, giving rise to the matters in paragraphs 3 and 4 of the Allegation.
Decision on Facts
14. The HCPC bears the burden of establishing its factual case, to the standard of the balance of probabilities.
15. In making its decision, the Panel also took into account the contents of documents made available to it (save so far as advised to the contrary by the Legal Assessor) and the submissions made by Ms Manning-Rees. In view of the absence of the Registrant, the Panel has borne in mind such points as were in favour of the Registrant on the evidence, though bearing in mind that the Registrant stated to a representative of Kingsley Napley during a telephone call on 2 October 2017 “that she will be accepting the Allegation.” The Panel directed itself in accordance with the remainder of the advice given by the Legal Assessor.
16. Insofar as the documents before it contained hearsay evidence, the Panel was advised by the Legal Assessor that the admission of such evidence was, with one exception, fair in the circumstances of this case. In deciding what weight to give to the hearsay evidence, the Panel considered, in particular, whether or not the maker of the statement had any reason not to give an honest account and the extent to which the statement had been made contemporaneously with the events to which it related.
17. The Panel heard oral evidence from four witnesses for the HCPC. These were -
SW Qualified Social Worker, Service Manager in the LAC Team of the Council;
JW Team Manager in the LAC Team, formerly a line manager of the Registrant;
EP Qualified Social Worker, Team Manager in the LAC Team, also formerly a line manager of the Registrant;
Foster Carer B Formerly the foster carer of Young Person A.
18. The Panel found each of these witnesses to be honest and their evidence to be coherent, clear and credible.
19. The following are the Panel’s findings of fact in this case. Where findings on particulars of the allegation appear together, this is for ease of presentation only and the Panel did give separate consideration to each particular and sub-particular of the Allegation.
‘Whilst registered as a Social Worker,’
20. Insofar as the Panel has found the facts alleged to have been proved, those matters took place during a time when the Registrant was registered as a Social Worker. Therefore, the stem of the Allegation has been found proved.
‘1. You smelt of alcohol whilst at work on the following dates:
i. 29 December 2015;’
21. The Panel has accepted the evidence of JW on this part of the Allegation. At about 9am on 29 December 2015, JW came into contact with the Registrant in the office premises and noticed what she described in her witness statement as “an unmistakeable smell of alcohol on [the Registrant’s] breath” and which she recalled as having described to the Registrant as “overpowering” in a meeting with her that took place later that morning. The Panel has also taken into account the contents of the note made by JW of that meeting. The contemporaneous note records that the Registrant said that she had apologised to her, having accepted that she had been drinking alcohol the night before. The Panel also accepted SW’s evidence, that JW reported this incident to her. Therefore, this sub-particular has been found proved.
‘ii 13 January 2016’
22. The Panel has accepted EP’s evidence that the Registrant smelt of alcohol on this date. In her oral evidence, EP said that she was “98% sure” that it was alcohol, having described how she had gone round to the Registrant’s desk to help her on a work matter and had detected the smell on her. EP also stated in answer to questions from the Panel that she knew that the smell was that of alcohol because of her previous experiences of alcohol in relation to alcohol use by other persons.
23. The Panel has also accepted SW’s evidence of the meeting that took place later that morning, attended by her, by EP, the Registrant and JW. SW recalled that during that meeting she had smelt alcohol on the Registrant’s breath and that the Registrant had accepted that she had been drinking, though she had denied that the amount she had drunk made her breath smell of alcohol. The Panel has taken into account the near contemporaneous note of the meeting and has accepted JW’s evidence that she did smell alcohol on the Registrant’s breath.
24. Therefore, this sub-particular has been found proved.
‘iii. 12 February 2016’
25. The HCPC’s case was based on a written statement of DW, a Social Worker who worked in the LAC Team at the time, but who is no longer employed by the Council. Her signed statement dated 25 July 2016 stated that she had smelt what she believed to be alcohol on the Registrant’s breath before she departed for a ‘planned statutory visit.’ The statement is in the form of a letter that is not addressed to any particular person. The contents of the statement are not corroborated by any of the other witnesses who gave evidence. In particular, SW did not mention it in her written statement, but in response to a question in oral evidence she stated that she had not had sight of DW’s statement and when asked why the statement had not been written until July 2016, SW responded, “I can’t help with that.” Further, the assertion that the Registrant smelt of alcohol on this occasion was not made in any of the contemporaneous documents. The statement itself was made some months after the events to which it relates. The Panel was unable to assess the credibility of DW as the maker of the statement, as she did not give oral evidence, nor was it able to assess her motivation in making the statement. In those circumstances, the Panel has found this sub-particular of the Allegation to be not proved.
‘ iv. 15 February 2016.’
26. On 15 February 2016 SW met with the Registrant and informed her of concerns raised by Foster Carer B in relation to the statutory visit that took place on 12 February 2016. In her witness statement, she recalled that she could smell alcohol on the Registrant’s breath during this meeting. She confirmed this in her oral evidence. This was corroborated by the contemporaneous email sent to her later that afternoon by LRH, a Team Manager, who she invited into the meeting and who stated in that email that she “could clearly smell alcohol as soon as [she] walked into the room.” Therefore, this sub-particular of the Allegation has been found proved.
‘2. In relation to Young Person A:
a. You arrived approximately one hour late for a meeting on 4 January 2016;’
27. The Panel has accepted the evidence of Foster Carer B on this part of the Allegation. In her witness statement, she recalled that on 4 January 2016 she had accompanied Young Person A to Brentwood, Essex in order to meet the mother of Young Person A’s boyfriend. The Registrant was over an hour late in attending the meeting. Therefore, this sub-particular has been found proved.
‘b. You did not attend a meeting scheduled for 10 February 2016;’
28. The Panel has accepted the following evidence on behalf of the HCPC. The evidence of Foster Carer B was that this meeting was a statutory visit, that was due to take place every 8 weeks. In her oral evidence she said that the meeting was due to take place at 4pm that day. She tried to contact the Registrant by phone at 5pm and at 6pm, but there was no answer. She was concerned about the Registrant’s safety and so she telephoned her office, when, as the Panel concluded from SW’s evidence, Foster Carer B spoke to the Emergency Duty Team. SW rang her back at about 8.30 pm to say that the Registrant had been located. Therefore, this sub-particular of the Allegation has been found proved.
‘c. You attended a meeting on 12 February 2016 in relation to Young Person A and:
i. You smelt of alcohol;’
29. The Panel has accepted the evidence of Foster Carer B as follows. On 12 February 2016 a meeting was due to take place to enable her and the Registrant to meet with Young Person A, her boyfriend and his father. As Young Person A was spending time at her boyfriend’s father’s house, the LAC Team and Foster Carer B wished to make sure that it was a safe and suitable place for her to stay. The Registrant told Foster Carer B by phone that afternoon that she had got lost and that she was in a public house. Foster Carer B drove to the public house, the Registrant came to her car, opened the back door and asked for a lift to the house.
30. As the back door of Foster Carer B’s car was broken, she had to open her door for the Registrant. As she did so, she noticed that the Registrant’s breath smelt of alcohol. She was familiar with the smell of alcohol. As they entered the house, the Registrant apologised for being late and said that she had got lost, found a public house and had had a drink. The evidence of Foster Carer B was corroborated by a written record made by MG, another Social Worker on the LAC Team, who recorded a conversation she had with Foster Carer B about this incident on 15 February 2016. Therefore, this sub-particular of the Allegation has been found proved.
‘ii. You breached confidentiality by sharing information about Young Person A during the meeting;’
31. The Panel’s findings on this part of the Allegation are founded on the evidence of Foster Carer B and of SW. Young Person A was attending a programme called ‘Programme A’, a group for young females, educating them in relation to making good choices in relationships, keeping safe and understanding and managing potential risks. There were concerns held by Foster Carer B and the Registrant about the controlling behaviour shown to Young Person A by her boyfriend. Young Person A’s attendance at Programme A was therefore of particular significance.
32. During the course of the meeting Foster Carer B explained to the father of Young Person A’s boyfriend why the meeting was needed; that she was Young Person A’s foster carer and needed to know where she was going and that she would be safe. Young Person A expressed her displeasure at the Registrant, who replied saying that things were going well and if Young Person A continued to attend Programme A, she was happy for her to visit her boyfriend.
33. Young Person A’s boyfriend then asked for an explanation of Programme A, of which he had not heard. Foster Carer B explained its remit and that it was open to all young girls. The father asked why Foster Carer B and the Registrant thought that his son was controlling.
34. Foster Carer B stated that the revelation made by the Registrant could have caused very serious damage by putting Young Person A in danger, in that it may have caused her boyfriend to confront her about why she was attending and leading to him discouraging her from attending. This revelation therefore put at risk the relationship between Foster Carer B and Young Person A. The disclosure was made without the consent of Young Person A, who did not want the Registrant to disclose this information and subsequently expressed intention to Foster Carer B that she would not attend Programme A in the future.
35. In those circumstances, the Panel has concluded that the information that Young Person A was attending Programme A was of its nature confidential, and the Registrant had no justification for disclosing that information to the boyfriend of Young Person A or to his father. Therefore, this sub-particular has been found proved.
‘iii your manner was rude and/or unprofessional.’
36. Very soon after the Registrant’s arrival at the meeting, Young Person A became angry with her. She asked in forthright terms why the Registrant had to be present. The Registrant replied, stating words along the lines of, “If you weren’t coming home with love bites on your neck and weren’t being told what to wear we wouldn’t have to be here.”
37. This remark was rude to Young Person A and unprofessional in the circumstances. Therefore, this sub-particular has been found proved.
‘3. On 24 February 2014 at East Berkshire Magistrate’s Court you were convicted of: driving a motor vehicle on a road after consuming so much alcohol that the proportion of it in your blood exceeded the prescribed limit.’
38. A criminal conviction and the facts on which the conviction is based may be proved by the certified copy of the certificate of conviction: r. 10(1)(d) of the Rules. A certified copy of the Memorandum of Conviction was before the Panel, which showed that the Registrant was convicted of driving a motor vehicle on a road after consuming so much alcohol that the proportion of it in her blood exceeded the prescribed limit. Therefore, this particular of the Allegation has been found proved.
‘4. In November 2014 you did not disclose the fact of your conviction on 24 February 2014 to the HCPC.’
39. The Panel has accepted the evidence contained in the witness statement dated 9 February 2017 of AO-A, formerly a Case Manager of the HCPC. On 28 November 2014 the Registrant used the HCPC’s online portal to renew her registration for the registration period November 2014 to December 2016.
40. The online form contained a number of statements and declarations, which the applicant for registration was required to confirm by marking a cross in a box in respect of each. One of the declarations was in these terms -
“Since my last registration there has been no change relating to my good character (this includes any conviction or caution, if any, that you are required to disclose) …..”
41. The Registrant placed a cross in that box on the application form. The HCPC received no other disclosure from the Registrant of her conviction on 24 February 2014. Therefore, this particular has been found proved.
‘5. Your actions in paragraph 4 were dishonest.’
42. The proper approach in law to the meaning of dishonesty was recently authoritatively stated by the Supreme Court in Ivey v Genting  UKSC 67, where Lord Hughes giving the judgment of the court stated, at  -
“…. When dishonesty is in question the fact-finding tribunal must first ascertain (subjectively) the actual state of the individual’s knowledge or belief as to the facts. The reasonableness or otherwise of his belief is a matter of evidence (often in practice determinative) going to whether he held the belief, but it is not an additional requirement that his belief must be reasonable; the question is whether it is genuinely held. When once his actual state of mind as to knowledge or belief as to facts is established, the question whether his conduct was honest or dishonest is to be determined by the fact-finder by applying the (objective) standards of ordinary decent people. There is no requirement that the defendant must appreciate that what he has done is, by those standards, dishonest.”
43. The Panel has borne in mind that an allegation of dishonesty requires cogent evidence to establish it and a very careful consideration of all relevant factors before such a finding is made: In re H (Minors) (Sexual Abuse: Standard of Proof)  AC 563 at 586D-H and In re B  UKHL 35 at , Quereshi v GMC  EWHC 3729 (Admin) at .
44. The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant was required to disclose her conviction and that she failed to do so. Was that non-disclosure dishonest? The circumstances were that the conviction had occurred just over 9 months before the Registrant made the application. The penalty imposed by the court included a disqualification from holding or obtaining a driving licence for a period of 12 months.
45. On 14 July 2016 a Case Manager of the HCPC wrote to the Registrant by email, asking her why she did not disclose her conviction at the time of her conviction or when she renewed her registration in 2014. She also raised a number of other questions. On the same day, the Registrant responded by email as follows, -
“I do not recall disclosing this information to the hcpc …..
[F]or renewing my registration I completed the form to the best of my ability. By 2014 I had been waiting for the fitness to practice [sic] process to come up with a conclusion since my self-referral in 2013. I hope this makes sense.”
46. The declaration sought in the form raised a simple, clear question and the reason given by the Registrant in her email did not provide an explanation (relating as it did to a different matter) as to why she made the untrue declaration. It is unlikely that the Registrant had forgotten about the conviction, particularly as the disqualification was still in place. She was required to make a positive indication of agreement to the facts declared by placing a cross in the box, which she did. The Panel has concluded that the making of this false declaration by the Registrant, which she knew was untrue, was dishonest by the standards of ordinary decent people. Therefore, this particular of the Allegation has been found proved.
Decision on Grounds
47. The certified copy of the Memorandum of Conviction showed that the conviction was in the UK, at the East Berkshire Magistrates Court. The conviction related to a criminal offence under s.5(1)(a), Road Traffic Act 1988 and Schedule 2 to the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988, as declared on the Memorandum. Therefore, the statutory ground of criminal conviction has been established.
48. The facts proved will amount to the statutory ground of misconduct if the conduct fell short of what would have been proper in the circumstances and was serious: Roylance v GMC  1 AC 311, PC at pp. 330 to 331. The necessary degree of seriousness has been described as ‘conduct which would be regarded as deplorable by fellow practitioners’: Nandi v GMC  EWHC 317 (Admin).
49. In deciding whether the facts proved constituted misconduct, it is also necessary to take into account the relevant professional codes and standards, giving the appropriate weight to those matters, while bearing in mind that a breach or breaches of those codes and standards does not in itself, or do not of themselves as the case may be, establish misconduct.
50. In view of the findings of fact made by the Panel, it has concluded that the Registrant failed to comply with those parts of the HCPC’s Standards of conduct, performance and ethics (2012) and (2016) (‘the Standards’) that are set out below.
51. The findings made in respect of particulars 1 i, ii, 2 a., 3, 4 and 5 engaged the 2012 Standards. In view of those findings, the Panel concluded that the Registrant failed to comply with the following, -
Standard 1 – ‘You must act in the best interests of service users. …’
Standard 4 - ‘You must provide (to us …) any important information about your conduct and competence. … In particular, you must let us know straight away if you are:
- convicted of a criminal offence….’
Standard 7 ‘You must communicate properly and effectively with service users …’
Standard 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. You must justify the trust that other people place in you by acting with honesty and integrity at all times. You must not get involved in any behaviour or activity which is likely to damage the public’s confidence in you or your profession.’
52. The findings made in respect of particulars 1 iv, 2 b., and 2 c. engaged the 2016 Standards. In view of those findings, the Panel concluded that the Registrant failed to comply with the following, -
Standard 1 ‘Promote and protect the interests of service users and carers.
Standard 1.4 ‘You must make sure that you have consent from service users or other appropriate authority before you provide care treatment, or other services.’
Standard 1.7 ‘You must keep your relationships with service users and carers professional.’
Standard 2 ‘Communicate appropriately and effectively.’
Standard 2.1 ‘You must be polite and considerate.’
Standard 2.2 ‘You must listen to service users and carers and take account of their needs and wishes.’
Standard 2.3 You must give service users and carers the information they want or need, in a way they can understand.’
Standard 2.5 ‘You must work in partnership with colleagues, sharing your skills, knowledge and experience where appropriate, for the benefit of service users and carers.’
Standard 5 ‘Respect confidentiality.’
Standard 5.1 ‘You must treat information about service users as confidential.’
Standard 5.2 You must only disclose confidential information if:
- you have permission;
- the law allows this;
- it is in the service user’s best interests; or
- it is in the public interest, such that it is necessary to protect public safety or prevent harm to other people.’
Standard 9 ‘Be honest and trustworthy.’
Standard 9.1 ‘You must make sure that your conduct justifies the public’s trust and confidence in you and your profession.’
53. The Panel has concluded that the facts found proved under paragraphs 1 i, ii and iv, 2, 4 and 5 of the Allegation not only amounted to non-compliance by the Registrant with the 2012 and 2016 Standards in the respects set out above, but in addition the Panel has concluded from the facts proved that the Registrant’s conduct crossed the threshold of seriousness necessary to establish a finding of misconduct. Therefore, the statutory ground of misconduct has been established.
Decision on Impairment
54. The Panel directed itself in accordance with the advice given by the Legal Assessor, who referred to the relevant case law, including CHRE v NMC & Grant  EWHC 927 (Admin) at  – , to the guidance given in the HCPTS’ Practice Note, Finding that Fitness to Practise is Impaired and to the Overarching Objective contained in Art. 3(4) and 3(4A) and paragraph 18(10A) of Schedule 1, Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001, as amended.
55. The Panel has therefore asked itself whether or not the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired.
56. The Registrant has shown some insight into those aspects of her misconduct related to alcohol use...
57. However, the Registrant did acknowledge at that meeting that she was very aware of the impact of her smelling of alcohol would create with service users and that it is not acceptable in the field of social work.
58. In the telephone call that took place on 2 October 2017 between the Registrant and a member of Kingsley Napley, the Registrant stated that she no longer drank alcohol in addition to stating that she will be accepting the Allegation.
59. In the light of these matters, the Panel has concluded that the Registrant has in the recent past taken positive steps to address and to solve the problems caused by her misuse of alcohol.
60. However, in the light of her subsequent disengagement from the fitness to practise process (set out in more detail in the introductory paragraphs of this Decision), the Panel is unaware whether or not the Registrant has maintained that progress and has no knowledge at all of her current level of insight into this aspect of the misconduct.
61. The Registrant has demonstrated no insight into her misconduct so far as it concerns the wrongful disclosure of confidential information and her rude and unprofessional manner as found by the Panel. The Panel has already identified the potentially serious consequences of the disclosure, which placed Young Person A at risk of harm and endangered the foster placement.
62. The response given to the HCPC by the Registrant in her email of 14 July 2016 demonstrates no insight into her dishonest failure to disclose the fact of what was a criminal conviction of some gravity, which was relevant to her fitness to practise as a Social Worker. No insight into these matters or their seriousness has been shown by the Registrant.
63. In the circumstances, the Panel has concluded that the misconduct (so far as capable of being remediated) has not been remediated. There is a complete lack of insight from the Registrant in relation to her dishonesty and wrongful disclosure of confidential information in particular, and generally into other aspects of her misconduct and the Panel is not satisfied that such insight as the Registrant has shown with respect to her misuse of alcohol has been sustained or is sufficient.
64. Accordingly, there is a risk of repetition of each aspect of the misconduct established by the facts proved.
65. The Panel refers to the following passage from the judgment of Cox J. in CHRE v NMC & Grant, -
‘76. I would also add the following observations in this case having heard submissions, principally from Ms McDonald, as to the helpful and comprehensive approach to determining this issue formulated by Dame Janet Smith in her Fifth Report from Shipman, referred to above. At paragraph 25.67 she identified the following as an appropriate test for panels considering impairment of a doctor's fitness to practise, but in my view that test would be equally applicable to other practitioners governed by different regulatory schemes.
"Do our findings of fact in respect of the doctor's misconduct, deficient professional performance, adverse health, convictions, caution or determination show that his/her fitness to practise is impaired in the sense that s/he:
a. has in the past acted and/or is liable in the future to act so as to put a patient or patients at unwarranted risk of harm; and/or
b. has in the past brought and/or is liable in the future to bring the medical profession into disrepute; and/or
c. has in the past breached and/or is liable in the future to breach one of the fundamental tenets of the medical profession: and/or
d. has in the past acted dishonestly and/or is liable to act dishonestly in the future."’
66.In view of the Registrant’s misconduct and criminal conviction, the fact that honesty is a fundamental tenet of social work practice, the Panel’s conclusions concerning the issue of insight and the future risk of repetition of all aspects of the misconduct, it has concluded that all four parts of this test for identifying impaired fitness to practise have been met in their entirety.
67.In those circumstances, a finding of impaired fitness to practise is necessary not only so as to protect the health, safety and well-being of the public, but also in order to declare and uphold proper professional standards and conduct for members of the social work profession and to maintain public confidence in the profession.
68.Therefore, the Panel has decided that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired.
A Transfer to the Health Committee?
69.…the Panel decided not to transfer the case to the Health Committee.
Decision on Sanction
70. Ms Manning-Rees drew the Panel’s attention to the purpose of sanctions and to the particular considerations of public protection and the wider public interest, as referred to in passages from the HCPTS’ Indicative Sanctions Policy, 22 March 2017 (‘ISP’). She drew attention to the Panel’s findings, including lack of insight and the risk of harm. She stated that a severe sanction was to be expected in cases of dishonesty: Igboaka v GMC  EWHC 2728 (Admin).
71. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor, who also referred to the principles from the ISP and drew attention to the statutory overarching objective which the Panel was required to have regard, namely the protection, promotion and maintenance of the health, safety and wellâ€being of the public; and the promotion and maintenance of public confidence in the profession and proper professional standards and conduct for members of the profession: Article 3(4),(4A) and paragraph 18(10A) of Schedule 1 of, the 2001 Order. He advised that the Panel should consider the seriousness of the dishonesty in context and not approach the question of sanction on the basis of any general rule in cases relating to the regulation of a different profession: Hassan v General Optical Council  EWHC 1887 (Admin).
72. The primary function 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 his or her services. However, in reaching its decision, the Panel must also give appropriate weight to the wider public interest, which also includes the deterrent effect to other registrants, the reputation of the profession and public confidence in the regulatory process.
73. The Panel has taken into account the following aggravating factors –
• the dishonesty was serious;
• the Registrant showed no insight into her dishonesty in the explanation she gave to her regulator for her failure to disclose her criminal conviction;
• she has shown little insight into very important aspects of her misconduct, namely her breach of confidentiality and rude and unprofessional manner during the visit that took place on 12 February 2016;
• there is a risk of repetition of her dishonesty and of those other acts into which no insight has been shown.
74. The Panel did take into account the following mitigating factors, -
• the Registrant had no previous adverse fitness to practise findings against her;
• she had accepted the Allegation;
• she took positive steps in 2016 to address her alcohol misuse, …
• the facts proved under particulars 1 and 2 of the Allegation took place within a short period of time and were in substance isolated.
75. The Panel considered the available options in ascending order of severity. This was plainly not a ‘no action’ case in view of the gravity and nature of the impairment.
76. Mediation would be an insufficient response in view of the risks of repetition, the seriousness of the misconduct, the Registrant’s lack of insight into her dishonesty and other grave aspects of her misconduct. Mediation is also a consensual process, unsuited to the facts of this case.
77. A caution would provide no protection to the public in view of the continuing risk that the Registrant would present to service users. The Registrant has limited insight, has taken only limited remedial action and the misconduct is not ‘relatively minor in nature’: see paragraph 28, ISP.
78. The Panel next considered whether to impose a Conditions of Practice Order. Paragraph 33, ISP states –
‘Conditions of practice will rarely be effective unless the registrant is genuinely committed to resolving the issues they seek to address and can be trusted to make a determined effort to do so. Therefore, conditions of practice are unlikely to be suitable in cases:
• where the registrant has failed to engage with the fitness to practise process, lacks insight …;
• where there are serious or persistent overall failings; or
• which involve dishonesty, ….’
Conditions of Practice would be inappropriate in this case in view of this guidance and the conclusions reached by the Panel in relation to the issues concerning the Registrant’s lack of engagement with the fitness to practise process, her lack of insight and her dishonesty.
79. The Panel next considered an order of suspension. The Panel noted the Registrant’s lack of insight and the risks of repetition of the misconduct. The Registrant has brought the profession into disrepute and has been dishonest, so breaching one of the fundamental tenets of the profession. There would also be some concern on the part of members of the public that a Social Worker was given a criminal conviction for drink driving.
80. However, the Panel considered that the Registrant has shown a measure of insight into her alcohol misuse, even though the Panel has not been able to ascertain whether the Registrant’s progress has been sustained and, in particular, whether or not she has stopped drinking, as she said was the case during the telephone call on 2 October 2017. She also expressed a wish to return to social work in the Spring of 2018, during a telephone call with a representative of Kingsley Napley that took place on 19 October 2017. Despite the Registrant’s lack of insight into other aspects of her misconduct, she did accept the Allegation.
81. Accordingly, the Panel concluded that an order of suspension would be appropriate to secure the required degree of public protection. The period of suspension in the circumstances should be 12 months. That length of time is both necessary to give the Registrant the opportunity to remediate her misconduct insofar as the same is capable of being remediated. An order of suspension of 12 months is also necessary in order to maintain public confidence in the profession and to declare and uphold standards of proper professional conduct in relation to what was serious misconduct and a criminal conviction of some gravity.
82. The Panel did consider whether an order of striking off was appropriate but concluded that such an order would be disproportionate in the circumstances. The misconduct relating to Foster Carer B and Young Person A was essentially isolated and occurred in a short period of employment of less than 3 months in which, as JW told the Panel, there were no other complaints from service users and the Registrant’s initial work was otherwise good. There is no other adverse fitness to practise history.
83. All in all, the Panel has concluded that there is a possibility that the Registrant could take the steps necessary to become a safe and effective practitioner once again.
84. As regards the criminal conviction, members of the public are likely not to consider that this requires an order of striking off even in combination with the misconduct found, given that the offence took place during a period when the Registrant was unemployed, i.e. not working as a Social Worker, and the conviction took place over 4 years ago and the Registrant has taken important steps since to solve her issues with alcohol.
85. The Panel has further concluded that, weighing the criminal conviction and misconduct with the aggravating and mitigating factors and all the other matters to which it has referred in its decision on the issue of sanction, the public interests at stake are met in this case by an order of suspension for 12 months and that an order of striking off would not be appropriate.
That the Registrar is directed to suspend the registration of Mrs Sigrum Legemah for a period of 12 months from the date this order comes into effect.
The Panel imposed an Interim Suspension Order of 18 months to cover the 28 day appeal period.
History of Hearings for Mrs Sigrun Legemah
|Date||Panel||Hearing type||Outcomes / Status|
|02/07/2019||Conduct and Competence Committee||Review Hearing||Struck off|
|02/07/2018||Conduct and Competence Committee||Final Hearing||Suspended|