Ms Angeleque Marie Morgan
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(as amended at Substantive Hearing):
Whist registered as a Social Worker, and during the course of your employment at the Royal Borough of Greenwich you:
1. Created a letter purporting to be from Homerton University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust dated 5 August 2016 regarding planned surgery and submitted the letter to your employer to support your request for sickness leave.
2. The matter set out in paragraph 1 was dishonest.
3. The matters set out in paragraphs 1 - 2 constitute misconduct.
4. By reason of your misconduct your fitness to practise is impaired.
1. Miss Morgan (“the Registrant”) is registered with the HCPC as a Social Worker and at the relevant times was employed by the Royal Borough of Greenwich (“the Council”). On 10 August 2016 she provided the Council with a letter purporting to have been issued by Homerton University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust (“the letter”) which indicated that surgery was to be carried out on the Registrant later that month. Enquiries made by the Council indicated that the letter was fabricated. Disciplinary action was taken against the Registrant and her employment was terminated.
Proof of Service
2. Notice of today’s hearing had been sent by post on 4 December 2017 to the Registrant at the address given by her for HCPC registration purposes. A further copy was sent the same day to the Registrant by email. The Panel received legal advice and was satisfied that the hearing notice had been properly served.
Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant
3. The Registrant did not attend the hearing. She had previously participated in these proceedings by providing written representations to the Investigating Committee which were received on 10 March 2017 (“the March 2017 representations”) and, more recently, in November 2017 by replying to a Pre-Hearing Information Form in which she confirmed she would attend and gave dates to be avoided for the hearing.
4. Given the previous participation by the Registrant, the Panel asked the Hearings Officer to telephone the Registrant to check whether she would be attending. The Hearings Officer did so but could get no answer from the Registrant’s mobile phone and there was no opportunity on that phone system to leave a message. Ms Shameli told the Panel that a similar action had been taken that same morning by the HCPC Case Manager with the same outcome.
5. Ms Shameli asked the Panel to continue in the absence of the Registrant and referred to the HCPTS Practice Note: “Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant”. Ms Shameli asked the Panel particularly to take into account that although there had been some previous participation by the Registrant she had chosen not to attend despite clearly being aware of the proceedings. The HCPC had two witnesses present on Day 1 and ready to give their evidence. There was nothing to suggest that if the proceedings were adjourned the Registrant would attend on a future occasion. There was a public interest in dealing with matters such as these in an expeditious manner.
6. The Panel took into account the HCPTS Practice Note and took legal advice and was satisfied that all reasonable steps had been taken to serve notice of the hearing on the Registrant. The task for the Panel was to strike the proper balance between the public interest in proceeding with cases such as this in a timely manner and ensuring fairness to the Registrant. In exercising its discretion, the Panel particularly took into account:
(i) there is a burden on professionals to engage with their appropriate regulator in the resolution of allegations;
(ii) the Registrant had taken a conscious decision not to attend the hearing. To that extent her absence was deliberate and voluntary and amounted to a waiver of the right to appear;
(iii) the Registrant had not requested an adjournment and it was unlikely that she would attend on a later date;
(iv) the Registrant was bound to be disadvantaged to some degree by her absence;
(v) in the public interest there is a need to proceed expeditiously and also take account of the witnesses who were in attendance.
7. The Panel concluded that the fair and proper step was to continue in the absence of the Registrant.
8. At the outset of the hearing the Panel considered an application by the HCPC to amend the Allegation. Detail of the proposed amendment had been provided to the Registrant by the HCPC in a letter dated 2 June 2017. The Panel concluded that the application should be granted and was satisfied that there was no unfairness caused to the Registrant. She had been provided with very considerable written notice of the application. The proposed amendments were simply matters of detail rather than substance and the proposed additional detail better particularised the Allegation. The Registrant had raised no objection to the proposed amendments. The amended form of the Allegation is shown above.
9. Significant portions of the evidence related to the health condition of the Registrant. The Panel was satisfied it was necessary to receive those parts of the evidence in private hearing. As a consequence, there are two versions of this Decision. One is headed “Public” and does not make reference to the evidence given in private session. The other is headed “Private” and does contain such references.
10. The Panel had read the HCPC bundle which included the notes of a telephone interview between the Registrant and Witness 1 dated 18 November 2016 and notes of a disciplinary hearing which the Registrant attended on 22 December 2016. The Panel also read representations submitted by the Registrant in March 2017.
11. The Panel heard oral evidence from three HCPC witnesses, each of whom was employed by the Council:
(i) Witness 1: Performance Analysis Team Manager (Social Care) and Investigating Officer
(ii) Witness 2: Line Manager of the Registrant and Team Leader in the Inclusion, Learning and Achievement Division (at the relevant times)
(iii) Witness 3: Internal Audit and Anti-Fraud Manager
12. The Panel heard submissions on facts, statutory ground and impairment from Ms Shameli and received legal advice.
Decision on Facts
13. The HCPC has the burden of proving the facts on the balance of probabilities. No adverse inference is to be taken by the non-attendance at the hearing by the Registrant.
14. The Panel made an assessment of each of the witnesses who attended the hearing. Witness 1 was very balanced, fair and clear in giving her evidence and, in particular, her account of her interview with the Registrant. She was consistent in her evidence. She accepted that the Registrant expressed remorse during that interview. Witness 2 was very credible, fair, believable, consistent, balanced, calm and professional. She felt she had a good working relationship with the Registrant and was very complimentary about the Registrant’s work. Witness 3 was consistent, reliable and credible.
Created a letter purporting to be from Homerton University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust dated 5 August 2016 regarding planned surgery and submitted the letter to your employer to support your request for sickness leave
15. Witness 2 was the Registrant’s line manager. In June 2016 the Registrant mentioned to Witness 2 that in August 2016 she would require sickness leave of between 3 and 6 weeks because of surgery. In a meeting on 26 July 2016, Witness 2 asked the Registrant to provide a clinic appointment letter in respect of pre-operative tests the Registrant said she would be having on 10 August 2016.
16. On 8 August 2016 Witness 2 sent an email to the Registrant in which she confirmed she needed to see documentation to confirm any necessary time off “for pre-op procedures and the scheduled surgery”.
17. On 9 August 2016 the Registrant emailed Witness 2 to say that she had spoken to her consultant who had issued a letter to her GP and she would scan a copy of the letter to Witness 2. Witness 2 replied by email the same day to say that the requested leave for the pre-operative test (which was allegedly scheduled for the following day) could not be confirmed until the necessary documentary confirmation had been provided.
18. Later on the same day, 9 August 2016, Witness 2 sent a further email to the Registrant to confirm that the required documentation should be provided to a nominated officer (SG - who would be covering for Witness 2 the following day) and, unless the documentation was provided, then the Registrant should attend work on 10 August 2016 and any absence on her part would be considered to be unauthorised.
19. On 10 August 2016 the Registrant emailed SG with the letter. The letter was on what appeared to be Homerton University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust letter headed paper. It was addressed to the Registrant’s GP and shown as copied to the Registrant. It went on to say that it was expected that following surgery the Registrant would stay in hospital for approximately 3 to 4 days with a requirement thereafter of a period of 4 weeks “on home rest”. It continued by saying “At the moment I would place the return to work date tentatively as 26 September 2016”.
20. When Witness 2 became aware of the letter she was suspicious as to the content and format. It appeared to her that the letter headed portion of the letter did not seem properly lined up within the document, there were page numbers missing and the letter seemed to contain (in the experience of Witness 2) more information than would normally be found in such a letter.
21. The Council made enquiries into the reliability of the letter but, at the same time, did not want to take any action which would prevent the Registrant taking leave from work for the purpose of any necessary surgery until those enquiries could be completed.
22. The Registrant’s workplace computer system was examined and there was found on that system a saved document that had the wording of the letter but which did not show the hospital letterhead. Further enquiries with the Hospital confirmed that the letter was not genuine because the Registrant was not scheduled to undergo the procedure described in the letter and the reference to a member of staff was incorrect as she no longer worked at the Hospital.
23. On 31 August 2016 it came to the notice of Witness 3 that on 24 August 2016 the Registrant had travelled by air from the UK to the Czech Republic (Prague).
24. On 13 September 2016 Witness 1 was appointed as an investigating officer to undertake an investigation into the circumstances. She was provided with documentation which included a copy of an email exchange (found on the Registrant’s work computer system) between the Registrant and a hospital in Prague which provided cosmetic surgery services. The Panel has considered that email material and it is clear that from June 2016 the Registrant was in email contact with the hospital in Prague and she was planning to arrive in Prague on 24 August 2016 for the purpose of treatment at that hospital. This was not the treatment described in the letter provided by the Registrant to her employer. The treatment was booked to take place on 26 August 2016.
25. On 18 November 2016 the Registrant was interviewed by Witness 1 as part of the investigation process. The Registrant accepted that the letter had been falsified by her and that she had used a previous letter sent to her by Homerton hospital (but in respect of earlier treatment) as the letter heading for the letter she produced in August 2016 after inserting her own created wording. She told Witness 1 that she felt the requests for supporting documentation made by Witness 2 had put her under immense pressure and were unsupportive, not necessary and very intrusive.
26. The Council subsequently pursued disciplinary action and the Registrant was dismissed from her employment.
27. Having considered all of the relevant evidence and also the admissions given by the Registrant both to Witness 1 in the workplace investigation process and in the March 2017 representations, the Panel is satisfied that this particular of the Allegation is proved.
Particular 1 is proved
The matter set out in paragraph 1 was dishonest
28. The Panel has taken into account the guidance on the test for dishonesty as that is set out in the case of Ivey v Genting Casinos (UK) Ltd t/a Crockfords (Respondent)  UKSC 67:
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.
29. The Panel is satisfied that the actual state of mind of the Registrant was that she knew she was not due to have the medical treatment at Homerton Hospital as was asserted in the letter. She created a document that was false and she provided the false letter to the Council with the intention that the Council would be misled by the letter in order to obtain sickness leave. The Registrant committed a sophisticated fabrication over a period of time to which she gave serious thought and planning.
30. The Panel is further satisfied that ordinary decent people would clearly see the Registrant’s actions as dishonest.
Particular 2 is proved
Decision on Grounds
The matters set out in paragraph 1-2 constitute misconduct
31. Misconduct may be defined as a word of general effect, involving some act or omission of sufficient seriousness which falls short of what would be proper in the circumstances.
32. The action of the Registrant was a breach of the HCPC’s Standards of conduct, performance and ethics (2016) Standard 9 – Be honest and trustworthy.
33. The Panel concluded that the action of the Registrant was a serious falling short of what would be proper in the circumstances. It clearly amounts to misconduct. The conduct was a breach of trust for personal gain. Honesty and integrity are essential in the role of a registered Social Worker in a position of trust.
Misconduct is proved
Decision on Impairment
34. In her oral evidence Witness 2 confirmed that she worked with the Registrant as the Registrant’s line manager on a daily basis. She said that the Registrant was “absolutely” one of the most diligent Social Workers she had worked with. Her detailed assessments were always produced in an exceptionally quick time. She was very pleased with the Registrant’s practice. The Registrant would always be the first to offer help to other practitioners. Her timekeeping was good. She said she was shocked by the Registrant’s actions as it had been totally out of character.
35. The Panel has taken into account the HCPTS Practice Note “Finding that Fitness to Practice is Impaired”. The Panel is considering whether the fitness to practice of the Registrant is impaired as at today’s date. The Panel is bound to take into account both the public and personal components.
36. The personal component of impairment includes the consideration of insight, remediation and risk of repetition by the individual registrant and the public component includes the need to protect service users, declare and uphold proper standards of behaviour and maintain public confidence in the profession.
37. In considering the personal component, a factor to consider is the extent to which the Registrant has shown insight and has taken remedial action. The Panel has noted all that the Registrant has said in the March 2017 representations. She has accepted responsibility for the false letter. However, she puts some element of blame on her Manager saying she felt at the time under such pressure that she had “no other choice” other than to “amend” the document. The Panel did not accept this.
38. The Registrant had, in her submissions, said she did not want to discuss matters regarding the operation because of embarrassment. However, the Panel does not accept this as likely because there was evidence before the Panel which demonstrated that on previous occasions, the Registrant had willingly discussed personal health matters with Witness 2.
39. The evidence shows that the Registrant was planning the Prague treatment from the end of June 2016. The Panel does not accept that requests made by Witness 2 in July and August 2016 put undue pressure on the Registrant. The Registrant was seeking a significant period of sickness leave and the Panel’s view was that it was perfectly reasonable for the Council to ask for documentary confirmation of the reasons for the request.
40. The Panel is satisfied that, despite the provision of the March 2017 representations, the Registrant has shown only limited engagement in these proceedings. The Panel finds that the Registrant does not have full insight as to her personal responsibility, the gravity of her action, or the impact of her actions on her colleagues, service users and the Council. Moreover, she lacks insight into the impact of the breach of trust on the reputation of the social work profession. There is little evidence of remediation. As a consequence of this conclusion there is a potential risk of repetition.
41. There is evidence that, at the time in question, the Registrant undertook her professional duties with a good standard of skill and care. However, this is a case where the Panel must keep in mind the public component factors and the need to declare and uphold proper standards of behaviour and maintain public confidence in the profession. The Registrant committed an act of serious dishonesty within the workplace. That dishonesty has brought the Social Work profession into disrepute and amounts to a serious breach of one of the fundamental tenets to be followed by a Social Worker.
42. When the Panel brings together the lack of insight and remediation and potential risk of repetition on the part of the Registrant and the public component factors referred to above, the Panel has concluded that the fitness to practice of the Registrant is currently impaired on both the personal and public components.
Decision on Sanction
43. The Panel has considered the appropriate order and has taken into account the HCPC “Indicative Sanctions Policy”. The purpose of sanctions is not to be punitive. The primary purpose is to protect members of the public. Relevant other objectives are to maintain the reputation of the Social Work profession and confidence in this regulatory process.
44. In deciding what, if any, sanction to impose, Panels should ensure that any sanction is proportionate and strikes a proper balance between the protection of the public and the rights of the registrant.
45. The aggravating features in this case are:
• the dishonesty on the part of the Registrant was a sophisticated fabrication maintained over a period of time
• the action of the Registrant amounted to a breach of trust towards her employer for personal gain
• the Registrant has shown only limited insight in respect of the gravity of her action and her personal responsibility for that action
• there is potential risk of repetition
• the action of the Registrant created disruption to colleagues, service users, the Council and damage to the reputation of the Social Work profession in respect of which the Registrant has shown little insight
46. The mitigating features are:
• there has been no previous HCPC action taken against the Registrant.
• the Registrant admitted fabricating the letter both in her workplace investigation interview and in her response to the HCPTS Investigating Committee
• it is clear that prior to her dishonest act the Registrant was considered by her employer to be a very good social worker
• there has been some previous engagement in this regulatory process, although on a limited basis
47. In this case it is not appropriate to make no order because of the serious nature of the Allegation that is now proved. Mediation is not appropriate because the failings of the Registrant were neither minor nor isolated. Further, the Registrant has not shown that she fully understands the nature and effect of her impairment.
48. A Caution Order is not appropriate. Although this was an isolated event it was not of a minor nature and, further, the Registrant has not shown full insight and nor has she taken remedial action.
49. The Panel has considered a Conditions of Practice Order. Such an order will be appropriate where a Panel is confident a registrant will adhere to the conditions, is genuinely committed to resolving the issues they seek to address and can be trusted to make a determined effort to do so. There has been limited engagement by the Registrant. There remains a significant lack of insight on her part regarding the matters set out above and identified as aggravating features. The Panel has no evidence that allows it to be confident that the Registrant is genuinely committed to resolving the issues and that she will make a determined effort to comply with conditions. The Indicative Sanctions Policy indicates that conditions of practice are unlikely to be suitable in cases of dishonesty. The Panel is satisfied that there are no conditions of practice that would address the identified misconduct and which would be workable and enforceable and has concluded that such an order is not appropriate.
50. A Suspension Order may be appropriate where the allegation is of a serious nature but unlikely to be repeated and, thus, striking off is not merited.
51. Although the Panel has found above that there is a potential risk of repetition of dishonesty, that finding is made in the absence of evidence from her of full insight and remediation. The Registrant committed a serious act of dishonesty but, at the same time, the Panel takes into account that the Registrant was a very capable Social Worker.
52. There is nothing to show that the Registrant has any psychological or other difficulties preventing her from understanding and seeking to remedy her past failure.
53. The Panel is satisfied that the correct and fair approach is for the Registrant to have an opportunity to demonstrate full insight, learning and remediation in respect of her past dishonesty including the aggravating factors set out above.
54. In considering whether a Suspension Order is the appropriate and proportionate sanction the Panel considered the criteria for a Striking Off Order. That Order should be used where there is no other way to protect the public. The Panel believes that, given the Registrant’s past good performance as a Social Worker, she has the experience and potential to properly reflect upon her past failure and show sufficient insight and remediation to demonstrate that she can again practise safely as a Social Worker.
55. The Panel is satisfied that a Striking Off order would not be a proportionate sanction.
56. Therefore, the Panel has decided to make a Suspension Order and has concluded that the appropriate period for the Order is 9 months. In doing so the Panel has noted the caution expressed in the Indicative Sanctions Policy as to suspension for periods of less than one year. However, the Panel is satisfied that nine months is the correct and proportionate term because that is sufficient to maintain public confidence in the Social Work profession and this regulatory process and to create a deterrent effect on both the Registrant and the wider profession. In addition, the Panel is satisfied that nine months is a sufficient period for the Registrant to show necessary insight and remediation.
57. The Suspension Order will be reviewed prior to its expiry. This Panel cannot bind the assessment that will be made by any future Reviewing Panel. However, it may assist any such Reviewing Panel, and the Registrant, if at or before any future review the Registrant produces:
(i) a written reflective piece dealing with the impact of the misconduct identified in the Panel’s Decision on service users, her employer and the Social Work profession and what steps she has taken to prevent such failings occurring again.
(ii) confirmation that she has undertaken continuing professional development.
(iii) written references or testimonials regarding her character, trustworthiness and integrity.
58. The Registrant is encouraged to attend any future Review hearing and it is likely that any future Reviewing Panel will benefit from her attendance.
History of Hearings for Ms Angeleque Marie Morgan
|Date||Panel||Hearing type||Outcomes / Status|
|08/05/2019||Conduct and Competence Committee||Review Hearing||Struck off|
|11/12/2018||Conduct and Competence Committee||Review Hearing||Suspended|
|19/03/2018||Conduct and Competence Committee||Final Hearing||Hearing has not yet been held|