Ms Katherine Margaret Trivett

Profession: Social worker

Registration Number: SW85542

Hearing Type: Review Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 12:30 29/10/2018 End: 17:00 29/10/2018

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

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Struck off

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Allegation

As amended at the Substantive Hearing that took place on 2-3 Nov 2017:

During the course of your employment as a Senior Support Worker with Out There Supporting Families of Prisoners Limited, whilst registered as a Social Worker with the Health and Care Professions Council, between 03 December 2012 and 01 August 2016, you:

1. Did not maintain professional boundaries in relation to Person A, in that;

a) you exchanged letters of a personal nature with Person A.

b) you transferred £150.00 from Person A's post office account into an unknown account because he told you he was being threatened, and you:

i) did not inform the prison Safer Custody Team about this;
ii) did not inform your employer about this.

c) during a prison visit you gave a pen to Person A.

d) during a prison visit as a legal visitor, you allowed Person A to kiss you on the cheek.

2. The matters set out in paragraph 1 constitute misconduct.

3. By reason of your misconduct your fitness to practise is impaired.

At the substantive hearing, the panel found the following facts proved: 1(a), 1(b), 1(b)(i), 1(c), 1(d) and facts not proved: 1(b)(ii). 

The panel at the substantive hearing decided that the facts proved amounted to misconduct and that the Registrant's fitness to practise was currently impaired. It therefore imposed a Suspension Order for a period of 12 months.

Finding

Preliminary Matters

Service

1. The Panel determined that there was good service under the HCPC’s procedural Rules of the appropriate Notice of Hearing of this Review dated 28 September 2018 sent to the Registrant’s last known registered address by first class post. The letter referred to the time, date, venue and nature of today’s hearing, being a Review of the sanction imposed by a final hearing Panel on 3 November 2017.

Proceeding in Absence

2. The Panel took into account the submission on proceeding in the absence of the Registrant from the HCPC and it accepted the Legal Assessor’s advice. In reaching its decision the Panel also paid regard to the HCPC’s Practice Note on Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant. The Panel also noted that the Registrant was not present nor was she represented at the final hearing on 2-3 November 2017. The Panel has also noted the Registrant’s email dated 2 October 2018. In that email, the Registrant made it clear that she would not be attending the hearing today nor would she be represented. Furthermore, the Registrant did not request any adjournment.

3. The Panel also took into account the wider public interest in the prompt disposal of hearings, particularly as this is a mandatory review of a sanction, upon the expiry of which, with no other action, the Registrant would be free to return to unrestricted practice. The Panel has also concluded that it is unrealistic and unlikely that, if this hearing is adjourned, the Registrant would engage, in any form, on the next occasion. It is the Panel’s judgement that the Registrant has absented herself voluntarily.

4. For these reasons, the Panel has determined that the hearing shall take place in the absence of the Registrant. 

Background

5. From 3 December 2012 until August 2016, The Registrant was employed at a small registered charity called ‘Out There Supporting Families of Prisoners’ (Out There).

6. In 2012 Person A, who was serving a prison sentence, referred his partner, Person B, to Out There for support, and the Registrant was the allocated case worker. Person A was released from prison in April 2015. Person B died suddenly in September 2015 and the Registrant, with permission from Out There, supported Person A. He was then recalled to prison in November 2015 and the Registrant continued to support him.

7. F, who was the Registrant’s line manager, raised concerns regarding the relationship between the Registrant and Person A in late 2015 and suggested to the Registrant that the relationship was ‘a little bit too close’. However, the Registrant replied that there was nothing to worry about.

8. During one of their regular supervision sessions, in February 2016, FC and the Registrant discussed Person A. It was noted that Person A was ‘vulnerable because of his current situation and his recent bereavement’ and they agreed that ‘there is a need to be extra vigilant in maintaining professional boundaries in these circumstances’. On 18 July 2016, FC received a telephone call from GJ, the Senior Probation Officer for the North West National Probation Service, who informed her that correspondence had been intercepted between the Registrant and Person A and passed on to Person A’s Probation Officer. An email was sent from GJ to FC detailing concerns regarding the contents of the correspondence between the Registrant and Person A. FC met the Registrant on 20 July 2016 to discuss these concerns. The Registrant stated she was ‘just friends’ with Person A. When confronted with the correspondence she became upset, apologized for her behaviour and stated matters had ‘snowballed’. Their friendship had ‘turned into something else’, and ‘she didn’t think it through’.

9. The Registrant was suspended from work and FC conducted an investigation into the Registrant’s conduct. During the course of the investigation, the Registrant also provided information in relation to transferring money for Person A, giving him a pen, and allowing him to ‘peck her’ on the cheek during prison visits. On 1 August 2016 the Registrant submitted her resignation to FC, which was subsequently accepted. On 15 August 2016 the matter was referred to the HCPC. 

10. The Registrant did not submit any response to the HCPC allegation. She did not attend the final hearing, which took place on 2-3 November 2017. The final hearing Panel found that the Registrant’s fitness to practise was impaired on the grounds of misconduct and imposed a sanction of 12 months’ Suspension Order. The final hearing Panel considered that the 12 month period would allow the Registrant to provide written evidence of reflection on the final hearing Panel’s findings and the wider impact of the Registrant’s misconduct upon the reputation of the profession. The final hearing Panel also imposed an Interim Suspension Order for 18 months.

11. This is the first review of that Order.

Decision

12. The Panel has taken into account the submission of the HCPC. It has accepted the Legal Assessor’s advice and it has exercised the principle of proportionality. The Panel has paid respect to the previous Panel’s findings, but also, as a Review Panel, it has fully reviewed the case, without undermining any of the original findings, which this Panel has accepted.

13. In reaching its decision on impairment, the Panel has also paid regard to the HCPC’s Practice Notes on Fitness to Practise.

14. A substantive review is a two-stage process. The first task of the Panel is to decide whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired and, if so, to then consider what, if any, sanction should be imposed upon her registration. In reaching its decision, the Panel has considered all the relevant material and had regard to the HCPC Indicative Sanctions Policy. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

15. The Panel is mindful that the purpose of this hearing is to conduct a thorough appraisal of the Registrant’s current fitness to practise, including an assessment of future risk, and that this was not a rehearing of the original case.

16. The Panel noted the contents of the Registrant’s email, where she stated:- ‘During this year of suspension and the 2 years of this FTP process I have reflected deeply on my misconduct, I still feel so ashamed of my actions the impact on my life has had a detrimental effect on me and I do not feel I can recover from this awful mistake. I am still so sorry for my lack of judgement for all those people I have let down and for bringing the profession of social work into disrepute. I am still not working as I have long term family responsibilities, the situation is not going to change for the foreseeable future, even if this was not my current situation I would not want to work and practice as a social worker ever again. I have not undertaken any training in relation to professional boundaries or Continuing Professional Development. After having so long to reflect on my actions I know now how I should have dealt with the situation, hindsight is a great thing. I appreciate having been given this year to further reflect on possibly resuming my practice but I do not feel able to do so. When making your decision at the Review I would ask you to take into consideration that I would like my name to be removed from the social work register. Thank you for your help and assistance in this matter’.

17. In the Panel’s judgement this was a serious matter of an attitudinal nature that is remediable and that had not yet been fully remediated by the Registrant in 2016, and, today, still has not been fully remediated, despite the Registrant having been given the opportunity, for some 12 months, to do so by the final hearing Panel. That Panel referred to the fact that Person A was a vulnerable Service User, a prisoner, and recently bereaved, with mental health issues. He was also isolated, with limited support, and the Registrant acted inappropriately towards him in breach of trust placed in her as a social worker. She was also complicit in a potentially illicit prison activity in making a money transfer for Person A and failed in her duty to report the threats person A alleged had been made against him. The final hearing panel concluded ‘this behaviour is not conduct the public would expect of an HCPC-registered practitioner’. This Panel agreed with the conclusions of the final hearing Panel in relation to that, although it noted her immediate public apology and some efforts at expressing her remorse, and regret.

18. The previous panel had set out steps that the Registrant could take to remediate her identified shortcomings. These were;

a) Evidence of remediation in the form of training in relation to professional boundaries;

b) Evidence of strategies to prevent a recurrence of the misconduct; and

c) Evidence of Continuing Professional Development to maintain the Registrant’s skills.

19. However the Registrant has taken no steps to address this helpful guidance and therefore this Panel has concluded that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired. She was given clear direction by the previous Panel as to how she could remediate fully in its recommendation as to what a Review Panel might wish to see at a hearing such as this. Following the previous Panel’s finding of impairment, the onus is on the Registrant to demonstrate that she is no longer impaired. Unfortunately, the Registrant has failed to comply with the recommendations of the last Panel. The Panel has noted of course the Registrant’s desire not to continue with her work as social worker.

19. The Panel has also determined that if the Registrant were to be found unimpaired today, this would undermine public confidence in the profession and in the regulatory process. This is because, in the Panel’s judgement, the matters raised in this case, un-remediated, could still attract the disapproval of the public and the profession.

20. For these reasons, the Panel has determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired by reason of the misconduct found proved.

21. In reaching its decision on how to dispose of the case on this review, the Panel took into consideration the submission of Miss Wills and accepted the Legal Assessor’s advice. The Panel also exercised the principle of proportionality. In addition, the Panel has taken into consideration the HCPC’s Indicative Sanctions Policy and it had regard to Article 30(1) of the HCPC Order 2001, as amended, as to its powers. The Panel also took into account the general principle that a sanction should not be punitive. The Panel approached each of the options for sanction on review available in ascending order, but at the top end, it compared and contrasted each sanction with the next most serious one, without going to the more serious one first.

22. The Panel first considered taking no action and mediation and rejected these. The conduct was committed by the Registrant, a senior and experienced professional who should have known better. For those reasons, this Panel could not conceive that the public would not be offended if the Registrant were to be permitted to return to unrestricted practice at this time by reason of these outcomes.

23. The Panel next carefully considered imposing a Caution Order and rejected this. The Panel was of the view that the public would remain concerned that the Registrant was still not yet fully remediated and had yet to demonstrate full understanding of the impact on others of her conduct. This involved more effort on her part of demonstrating learning about the conduct and its effect on the public. Thus, public confidence in the profession and in the regulatory process would be undermined if a caution order were to be imposed.

24. The Panel next considered replacing the existing Suspension Order with a Conditions of Practice Order, but determined that, at this time, there were no workable and enforceable conditions to address the behavioural nature of the allegation found proved.

25. The Panel next considered extending the existing Suspension Order on its expiry. The Panel has taken into consideration the fact that the Registrant had made a public statement of apology, that she had a long and (prior to this matter) a blemish-free career and that this was an isolated event. However, the Panel noted the content of the Registrant’s email and decided that no practical or useful purpose would be served by a further extension of the Suspension Order and a further review at which the Registrant would not attend.

26. The Panel therefore considered the sanction of striking-off, in view of the original finding of misconduct, the absence of engagement and the Registrant’s clearly expressed wish to relinquish her registration. Whilst striking-off is regarded as a sanction of last resort, it may be necessary and proportionate where there has been a previous finding of serious misconduct and the Registrant has subsequently refused to engage with her regulator.  In the circumstances, the Panel concluded that the Registrant’s conduct and her stated wish not to practise as a social worker ever again, as expressed in her email, was incompatible with her continued registration.

Order

The Registrar is directed to strike the name of Ms Katherine Margaret Trivett from the register upon expiry of the current order.

Notes

No notes available

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Ms Katherine Margaret Trivett

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
29/10/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Struck off
02/11/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended