Dr Rachel Leeke

Profession: Practitioner psychologist

Registration Number: PYL16969

Hearing Type: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 09:00 13/06/2018 End: 16:00 13/06/2018

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

Whilst registered as a Practitioner Psychologist:

 

1. On 7 April 2017 at South East Wiltshire Magistrates’ Court, you were convicted of:

On 22 March 2017 at Tilshead in the County of Wiltshire, you drove a motor vehicle on a road after consuming so much alcohol that the proportion in your breath exceeded the prescribed limit. 

2. By reason of your conviction as set out in paragraph 1, your fitness to practise is impaired.

 

Finding

Preliminary matters

Hearing in private.

1. Ms Hewitt on behalf of the Registrant applied for the entirety of the hearing to be heard in private so as to protect the private life of the Registrant. Ms Manning-Rees did not oppose the application. The Panel heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel had read the documents submitted by the Registrant. It determined that the entirety of this hearing should be conducted in private, so as to protect the private life of the Registrant. This is a redacted version of the private decision.


Amendment


2. At the commencement of the hearing Ms Manning-Rees on behalf of the HCPC applied to amend the Allegation so as to substitute 7 April 2017, which was the date of conviction, for 28 April 2017 which was the date of sentence. The Registrant was given notice of the HCPC’s intention to make this application by a letter dated 26 January 2018.  Ms Hewitt on behalf of the Registrant has made no objection to the proposed amendment. Having taken the advice of the Legal Assessor, the Panel determined that no injustice would be caused to the Registrant by allowing the amendment and accordingly the Allegation is amended in the terms sought.

Admissions

3. At the commencement of the hearing the Registrant through Ms Hewitt admitted particular 1 of the Allegation. No admissions were made as to Impairment.

Background

4. The Registrant is by profession a Psychologist registered as such with the HCPC. On 22 March 2017 the Registrant was driving home from work. She pulled up at the side of the road, sat in the passenger seat with the door open, and drank most of a bottle of wine before resuming her journey. The police observed the Registrant’s car and formed the opinion that the driver was intoxicated. The police arrested the Registrant. The Registrant provided a specimen of breath which produced a sample reading of 127 micrograms of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath. The legal limit is 35 micrograms of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath.

5. On 07 April 2017 and at the South East Wiltshire Magistrates Court, the Registrant pleaded guilty to an offence of driving with excess alcohol contrary to section 5 of the Road Traffic Act 1988. On 28 April 2017 the Registrant was sentenced to 180 hours of unpaid community work to be undertaken before 27 April 2018. In addition she was disqualified from holding or obtaining a driving license for a period of 30 months.

6. On 03 May 2017 the Registrant wrote to the HCPC to inform it of the conviction 

A summary of the evidence and other material before the Panel

7. The Panel has read a number of documents produced by the HCPC. These include;

• The letter from the Registrant dated 3 May 2017 informing the HCPC of the fact of her conviction.

• The memorandum of conviction and sentence from the South East Wiltshire Magistrates Court evidencing the conviction and sentence referred to above.

• Documents relevant to the police handing of the case against the Registrant.

• Statements of relevant police officers who were involved with the Registrant at the time that she committed the offence and the subsequent investigation.

8. The Panel has read a number of documents produced by the Registrant. These include:

• A 11 page statement from the Registrant together with other written material from the Registrant including her reflections on these events.

• The Registrants CV.

• The Drink Driving Course Certificate dated 21 September 2017.

• Various testimonials from professional colleagues and from family members.

• A Training Record Summary and Appraisals.
 
9. The Registrant gave extensive evidence and responded to questions from Ms Manning-Rees and from the Panel. In summary she testified as to the following;

• The nature of her work, training.

• The value that she places on her professional work and her hopes for the future.

• The shame and remorse that she feels regarding the offence.

• The wholly unacceptable nature of her actions and the dangers that such actions could have caused to others.

•  Her recognition of the damage that her actions could have done the public to the reputation of her profession and the possible impact on the view that service users would have of fellow psychologists.

• That she is adamant that there are no circumstances in which she would act again as she did on 22 March 2017.

Submissions made as to facts and impairment.

10. The Panel considered the submissions as to facts and impairment made by Ms Manning-Rees on behalf of the HCPC. In summary she said as follows;

• The fact of the conviction and sentence was proved by the Memorandum of Conviction referred to above.

• As to impairment; Ms Manning-Rees submitted that the offences for which the Registrant was convicted and sentenced, were serious. She had drunk substantially in excess of the permitted level of alcohol. It was clear from the evidence of the police, that the Registrant’s driving was seriously affected by the quantity of alcohol that she had consumed. Ms Manning -Rees submitted that it was for the Panel to determine whether there was a risk of repetition; she submitted that in this context the Panel should consider whether the Registrant had developed sufficient insight. Ms Manning-Rees further submitted that public confidence in the profession, in the HCPC in its regulatory functions, and the need to maintain proper standards of conduct within the profession would be undermined in a finding of impairment was not made.

11. Ms Hewitt acknowledged that Particular 1 of the Allegation was proved by the Certificate of Conviction. With regard to Impairment Ms Hewitt submitted that the Panel should determine that the Registrant’s fitness to practise was not now impaired.  She submitted that there was no significant risk of repetition. Further Ms Hewitt submitted that a finding of Impairment was not necessary on public interest grounds. Ms Hewitt reminded the Panel that sanctions were not intended to be punitive; in any event the Registrant had been punished by the Court. A well informed member of the public would not be surprised, if in the particular circumstances of this case, the Panel was to determine that a finding of Impairment was not necessary in order to maintain appropriate standards of conduct within the profession, or confidence in the profession itself or in the HCPC as its regulator.

12. The Panel heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor as to facts, and impairment.

13. The Panel was aware that on matters of fact the burden of proof rests on the HCPC and that the standard of proof is the civil one namely on the balance of probabilities.

Decision on facts

14. The Panel found the facts as alleged in paragraph 1 of the Allegation proved. In coming to this conclusion the Panel has relied on;

• The Memorandum of Conviction referred to above, together with the admission made by the Registrant at the commencement of the proceedings and the fact that she had pleaded guilty at the Magistrates’ Court.

Decision on Impairment

15. The Panel next considered whether by reason of the Registrant’s conviction, her fitness to practice is impaired.

16. The Panel considered the submissions made by Manning-Rees on behalf of the HCPC and those of Ms Hewitt on behalf of the Registrant. The Panel also gave great weight to the oral evidence given by the Registrant and to all the material that she has submitted to the Panel.

17. The Panel heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

18. The Panel was aware that any finding as to impairment was for the independent judgement of the Panel.

19. The Panel is aware that what is to be assessed is the Registrant’s current fitness to practise.

20. In considering this issue the Panel considered and applied the principles stated by Mrs Justice Cox in the case of the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence v Nursing and Midwifery Council; Paula Grant [2011] EWHC 927 [Admin].

21. The Panel has concluded that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired by reason of the conviction.  The Panel was impressed by the evidence of the Registrant. It concluded that she had developed good insight, was deeply ashamed at her actions and that had developed effective coping mechanisms. The Panel regarded the offence as an isolated incident which was the product of a set of circumstances which were unlikely to re-occur and that if they did, the Registrant would be much better placed to handle them. The Panel noted the danger of repetition was low. In all the circumstances the Panel determined that the Registrant was not a risk to members of the public and that the danger of repetition was minimal.

22. However the Panel concluded that public confidence in the profession, the need to uphold proper professional standards of conduct and public confidence in the profession would be undermined if a finding of present impairment was not made. In coming to this conclusion the Panel had in mind the very high level of alcohol consumed by the Registrant; the fact that the Registrant consumed most of a bottle of wine during the course of her journey and whilst she had approximately another 40 minutes to travel. She was observed “swerving within the lane, occasionally crossing the central white lines and breaking sharply without reason. On several occasions, the vehicle drifted into the opposing lane and almost collided with on-coming vehicles”. The Panel also keep in mind that the Registrant had herself said in the course of her evidence that her conduct was quite unacceptable and would be shocking to a member of the public. The Panel has therefore determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired but on public interest grounds only.

Decision on Sanction

23. Having concluded that the Registrant’s fitness to practice is impaired, the Panel proceeded to consider what Order is appropriate, and proportionate to protect the public and to safeguard the public interest.

24. The Panel has considered all the submissions that it has heard. It has accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

25. The Panel took into account the principles of proportionality balancing the interests of the Registrant with the public interest.

26. The Panel has had regard to the contents of the Indicative Sanctions Policy published by the HCPTS on 22 March 2017. The Panel is aware that sanctions should be considered in ascending order of severity. The Panel is aware that the purpose of sanctions is not punitive but to protect members of the public and to safeguard the public interest. The latter objective includes maintaining standards within the profession, together with public confidence in the profession and in its regulatory processes.

27. The Panel took into account the relevant aggravating and mitigating circumstances. The mitigating factors included the following:

• The fact that the offence was isolated and wholly out of character and the risk of repetition is very low.

• Prior to the Conviction the Registrant had an unblemished record.

• The degree of insight developed by the Registrant.

• The fact that the Registrant is truly ashamed and remorseful and has addressed the failings that gave rise to the offence.

• The favourable testimonials from work colleagues.

28. The aggravating factors included the following;

• The quantity of alcohol that the Registrant had consumed.

• The danger that the Registrant posed to other road users.

• The fact that wine was consumed when the Registrant had a further 40 minutes to travel.

29. The Panel has concluded that to take no action would be wrong. Such an outcome would be inappropriate having regard to the facts of the case. It would not serve to maintain public confidence in the profession or in the HCPC as its regulator.

30. The Panel next considered making a Caution Order. It noted that the offence was an isolated one and that there is a minimal risk of recurrence. The Panel has concluded that the Registrant has shown good insight and that the offence was much out of character. The Panel also considered that meaningful practice restrictions could not be formulated and that suspension from practice would be disproportionate. The Panel took into account the fact that the Registrant was a well-regarded practitioner and there was a public interest in allowing her to remain in practice. The Panel decided that a Caution Order was the appropriate and proportionate sanction and should be imposed for a period of 12 months. This reflects period the very high level of alcohol consumed and the unacceptable nature of the Registrant’s actions but also the numerous mitigating factors as set out above.

Order

That the Registrar is directed to annotate the register entry of Dr Rachel Leeke with a caution which is to remain on the register for a period of one year from the date this order comes into effect. 

 

 

Notes

Right of Appeal

You may appeal to the High Court in England and Wales against the Panel’s decision and the order it has made against you.

Under Articles 30(10) and 38 of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001, any appeal must be made to the court not more than 28 days after the date when this notice is served on you. If no appeal is made the Order will applay from 11 July 2018.

 

 

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Dr Rachel Leeke

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
13/06/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Caution