Mr Paul Perrett

Profession: Occupational therapist

Registration Number: OT53357

Hearing Type: Review Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 09:00 19/10/2018 End: 11:00 19/10/2018

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

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Suspended

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Allegation

The following amended allegation is that which was found proved by a Panel of the Conduct and Competence at a Substantive Hearing on 29 to 31 January 2018.

During the course of your employment as a locum Occupational Therapist for Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council, you:

1. Crossed professional boundaries with Service User A in that you:

a. Offered support to Service User A, which was outside of your role, to progress her application for a Personal Independence Payment (PIP)

b. Between 6 July 2016 and 23 August 2016, sent text messages to Service User A which did not relate to your role as an Occupational Therapist

c. Visited Service User A’s home, outside the scope of your work on or around the following dates:

ii. 7 July 2016

iii. 11 July 2016

iv. 14 July 2016

v. 19 July 2016

vi. 20 July 2016

vii. 24 July 2016

viii. Between 8 and 13 August 2016

ix. 23 August 2016

d. “air kissed” Service User A during the visits as set out in paragraph 1(c)(iv) – 1(c)(vii) above

e. On or around 14 July 2016, invited Service User A to visit your boat with you

f. During a visit which took place in the first week of August 2016, leaned back into Service User A and then turned and kissed Service User A on the cheek

g. During a visit which took place in the first week of August 2016, invited Service User A to go to a café with you

h. Between 8 and 13 August 2016, prepared and delivered and/or arranged delivery of a Compact Disk to Service User A’s home

i. [Not Proved]

2. [Not Proved]

3. The matters set out in paragraph 1 and/or 2 constitute as misconduct.

4. By reason of your misconduct, your fitness to practise is impaired.

Finding

Preliminary Matters

1. The Panel has been convened to undertake a review of a substantive order of Suspension imposed in respect of the Registrant, Mr Paul Perrett, an Occupational Therapist.

2. The Registrant has neither attended the hearing nor been represented at it.

Service

3. The Panel was satisfied that the letter dated 17 September 2018, addressed to the Registrant at his HCPC registered address informing him of the date, time and location of the hearing, constituted good service of the Notice of Hearing.

Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant

4. The finding that there had been good service of the Notice of Hearing meant that the Panel had jurisdiction to entertain the application made by the HCPC that the hearing should proceed in the absence of the Registrant. In reaching its decision, the Panel carefully considered the factors identified in the HCPTS Practice Note on “Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant”.

5. The conclusion of the Panel was that the hearing should proceed in the Registrant’s absence. The reasons for this decision were as follows:

• It is apparent from the Registrant’s email dated 14 October 2018 that he is aware of the present hearing, albeit that he said that he would not be able to attend it. No reason for this inability was articulated;

• The Registrant has not applied for the present hearing to be adjourned;

• The Registrant has made in writing the submissions he would like to be considered;

• The review of the current Suspension Order is a statutory requirement and must be undertaken before the Order expires on 28 November 2018;

• In these circumstances, the public interest in the review proceeding at the present time outweighs the absence of the Registrant.

Background

6. At the time relevant to the allegations made by the HCPC against the Registrant, he was working as an Occupational Therapist for Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council (the Council). He had commenced that work in March 2015. Service User A contacted the Council for assistance and an appointment was made for her to be assessed by the Registrant on 6 July 2016. Between that date and 23 August 2016, the Registrant had contact with Service User A on a number of occasions. On 24 August 2016, Service User A telephoned the Council to make a complaint about the Registrant. On 2 September 2016, the Council referred the matter to the HCPC.

7. The substantive hearing of the HCPC’s allegations took place between 29 and 31 January 2018. The Registrant did not attend the hearing. The facts set out at the head of this document were found to be proven at that hearing. The HCPC had alleged that the Registrant’s conduct was sexually motivated, but that was not found proved by the substantive hearing panel. It was determined that the proved facts amounted to misconduct that was currently impairing the Registrant’s fitness to practise.

8. When the substantive hearing panel considered the issue of sanction, it determined that the least restrictive sanction that was appropriate was a Suspension Order. The panel decided that the appropriate length of the order was 9 months. The panel encouraged the Registrant to attend a future review hearing and said that the reviewing panel might be assisted were the Registrant to produce the following:

• a written reflective piece dealing with why the misconduct identified in this decision occurred and what steps he has taken to prevent such failings occurring again;

• confirmation that he has undertaken Continuing Professional Development, which should include the importance of maintaining proper professional boundaries;

• written confirmation, including testimonials if appropriate, of any work experience (unpaid or paid) carried out by him which would demonstrate that the concerns of the panel have been addressed.

9. The HCPC Case Manager reminded the Registrant of these suggestions by email on 1 October 2018. On 14 October 2018, the Registrant replied to that email stating that he would not be able to attend the review presently being undertaken, but that he would be sending a reflection before it occurred. On 17 October 2018 he sent two emails containing a total of three attachments. The documents attached included one entitled, “Reflection on Incident with Sandwell council” dated 17 October 2018. Additionally, two documents were sent that the present Panel has fully considered but which will not be identified in this public determination because they are of a confidential nature.

10. In her submissions to the Panel today, the Presenting Officer outlined the background to the case. She submitted that it was the HCPC’s position that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is still impaired because he had not developed full insight into his shortcomings, in particular by focusing on his own personal shortcomings and not reflecting on how his actions affected Service User A. The Presenting Officer also submitted that the issue of any further sanction was one for the Panel to determine, but that the HCPC suggested that a further period of suspension should be imposed.

Decision 

11. The Panel has approached the decision it is required to make by first deciding whether the substantive hearing panel’s decision that the allegation was well founded is still impairing the Registrant’s fitness to practise. If the answer to that first question is that there is no continuing impairment of fitness to practise, then there should be no further sanction imposed when the current period of suspension comes to an end. If, on the other hand, there is continuing impairment of fitness to practise, then the Panel must consider whether a further sanction is required when the current period of suspension ends. If a further sanction is required, then ordinary sanction principles apply; it is not to be imposed to punish the Registrant, and must be the least restrictive outcome consistent with the need to protect the public and to maintain a proper degree of confidence in the Occupational Therapy profession and the regulation of it.

12. The Panel has applied the approach just described. It has heeded the guidance contained in the HCPC’s Indicative Sanctions Policy. When the Panel considered whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is still impaired, the Panel concluded that it is. The reasons for this decision are as follows:

• The Panel recognises that the Registrant’s reflections recorded in the document dated 17 October 2018 are positive and demonstrate that he has come some way towards achieving a degree of insight into his actions. However, the reflections demonstrated are not complete for two reasons. One is that by referring to issues in his personal life which he said explained his behaviour, he has not accepted full personal responsibility for his actions. The other is that he has not fully acknowledged the consequences of his actions on Service User A or on the reputation of his profession. The Registrant’s insight being incomplete in these respects, the Panel is unable to conclude that he would not repeat behaviour of the sort found against him. It follows that his fitness to practise is impaired upon consideration of the personal component;

• The Panel is also satisfied that the wider public interest requires a finding of impairment of fitness to practise given the risk of repetition, and the absence of full acknowledgement on the part of the Registrant of the consequences of his actions on Service User A and his profession.

13. The Panel therefore decided what sanction would be appropriate upon the expiry of the present period of suspension. The Panel concluded that it would be inconsistent with its duty to protect the public to permit the Registrant to practise as an Occupational Therapist while the risk of repetition remains significant. It follows from this that the only sanctions that could be realistically considered were those of Suspension and Striking Off.

14. The Panel concluded that in fairness to the Registrant, he should be given a further opportunity to demonstrate that the risk of repetition has been sufficiently reduced that consideration should be given to permitting him to return to practise as an Occupational Therapist. That being so, the making of a Striking Off order would be disproportionate at the present time. It follows that a further period of suspension is required. In the judgement of the Panel, a suspension order for six months is sufficiently long for the purposes for which it is imposed.

15. Just as the substantive hearing panel made suggestions to the Registrant as to the steps that he might take, so too does the present Panel make suggestions. They are made recognising that the panel undertaking the review will make the decision on any future review, and they are not intended in any way to bind or influence that future decision.

• The Registrant is urged to consider attending the future review. A future panel has to make the important decision as to whether his fitness to practise is still impaired, and that is a judgement that is difficult to make without a direct, personal involvement;

• The Registrant should consider preparing a further reflective piece addressing the reasons why the present Panel has concluded that his fitness to practise is still impaired;

• The Registrant should consider providing evidence that he has undertaken focused professional study or training on maintaining proper professional boundaries, indicating what steps he has taken, or would take, to prevent such failings occurring again;

• The Registrant should consider providing up-to-date information concerning any paid or unpaid employment;

• Professional and personal testimonials might also assist the future reviewing panel.

16. The Registrant should be aware that when the future review is undertaken, the sanction range available to the panel undertaking the review will be the entire sanction range up to, and including, the sanction of Striking Off.

17. Finally, the Panel advises that the additional documents it received from the Registrant today, namely the reflective piece dated 17 October 2018 and the two documents of a personal nature, are made available to the panel undertaking the review of the Suspension Order made today.

Order

The Registrar is directed to suspend the registration of Mr Paul Perrett for a further period of 6 months upon expiry of the current Order.

Notes

This Order will be reviewed by 28 May 2019.

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Mr Paul Perrett

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
19/10/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Suspended