Miss Sumaiya Abwat

Profession: Social worker

Registration Number: SW00307

Hearing Type: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 09:00 05/09/2018 End: 16:00 07/09/2018

Location: Health and Care Professions Council, 405 Kennington Road, London, SE11 4PT

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Struck off

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Allegation

(As amended)

Whilst registered as a Social Worker and employed by  Warwickshire Council:
1. Between about 8 to 12 January 2016, you:
a. Plagiarised Colleague A's Post Qualification assignment;
b. Submitted your Post Qualification assignment which was plagiarised.

2. On or around 11 March 2016 and / or 22 March 2016 you informed your employer that you had passed your Post Qualification assignment, which was not the case.

3. Your actions at paragraph 1 and / or 2 were dishonest.

4. The matters set out in paragraphs 1-3 constitute misconduct.

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

 

 

Finding

Preliminary matters
Service
1. The Panel heard that notice, in respect of this hearing, was sent by first class post and email to the Registrant’s registered address on 31 May 2018 in accordance with Rules 3 and 6 of the Conduct and Competence Procedure Rules 2003.

2. The Panel heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and determined that the notice had been served in accordance with the Rules.

Proceeding in the absence of the Registrant
3. Mr Foxsmith, on behalf of the HCPC, invited the Panel to proceed in the absence of the Registrant. He referred the Panel to the guidance contained in the HCPTS Practice Note on ‘Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant’ and submitted that no response had been received from the Registrant to the Notice of Hearing. Further, he submitted that it was appropriate for the Panel to exercise its discretion to proceed on the basis that the Registrant had chosen not to engage with the process and had waived the right to appear. He pointed out that there had been no request from the Registrant for an adjournment and submitted that the public interest in expeditious disposal of the allegation outweighed any disadvantage to the Registrant in proceeding in her absence.

4. The Panel heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor who reminded it of the guidance provided in the cases of R v Jones [2002] UKHL5, Adeogba v the General Medical Council [2016] EWCA Civ 162 and Davies v HCPC [2016] EWHC 1593 (Admin).

5. The Panel recognised that the discretion to proceed in the absence of a Registrant is one which must be exercised with the utmost care and caution and that its decision should be guided by the overarching objective to protect the public. It noted that it would run counter to that objective if a practitioner could effectively frustrate the process by deliberately failing to engage.

6. In reaching its decision, the Panel had regard to the nature and circumstances of the Registrant’s behaviour in absenting herself; in particular, whether the behaviour was voluntary and so plainly waived the right to be present. The Panel balanced the public interest in the timely disposal of the Allegation with the disadvantage to the Registrant should the hearing proceed in her absence. It also noted the inconvenience to the two witnesses scheduled to give oral evidence if the hearing were not to proceed today.

7. The Panel had no reason to believe that, if it were to adjourn the hearing, the Registrant would attend on the next occasion.

8. On the basis of the information before it, the Panel concluded that she had deliberately absented herself and waived the right to be present. It determined that it would be fair and in the interests of justice to proceed in the absence of the Registrant.

Application to amend Particular 1
9. At the outset of the hearing, Mr Foxsmith applied to amend Particular 1 by changing the words “On or around 8 January and / or 12 January” to “Between about 8-12 January”.  Mr Foxsmith told the Panel that the Registrant had been sent a letter dated 18 December 2017  informing her of the intention to amend the Particular, albeit that the letter had indicated that there would be an application to remove the words “and / or 12 January 2016”. Mr Foxsmith informed the Panel that the Registrant had made no objection to the amendment. He submitted that the proposed amendment would more accurately reflect the case against the Registrant, would cause no substantial change to the overall strength of the Allegation and would not prejudice the Registrant.

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

11. The Panel was satisfied that the proposed amendment to Particular 1 would more accurately reflect the case against the Registrant, would cause no substantial change to the overall strength of the Allegation and would not prejudice the Registrant. The Panel allowed the application.

Background                          
12. The Registrant was employed as a Social Worker in the Adult Safeguarding Team with Warwickshire County Council (WCC). The Registrant commenced employment with WCC in the Children’s Social Care Team on 7 January 2013 as a Level 2 Social Worker.

13. The Registrant was required to complete post qualification study at Coventry University as part of her employment with WCC. It is alleged that the Registrant plagiarised a colleague’s post qualification assignment and submitted this plagiarised assignment as her own work. In addition, the Registrant is alleged to have informed the employer that she passed her post qualification assignment when this was not true. It is alleged that the Registrant’s actions described above were dishonest.

Decision on facts
14. The Registrant has made no admissions to the matters alleged.

15. In considering Particulars 1 and 2, the Panel applied the principles that the burden of proving the facts is on the HCPC, that a Registrant is not required to prove anything and that a fact alleged is only to be found proved if the Panel is satisfied on the balance of probabilities that it is correct.

16. In reaching its decisions, the Panel had careful regard to all the evidence put before it and to the submissions of Mr Foxsmith on behalf of the HCPC.

17. The documentary evidence before the Panel included:
• Written statements produced for these proceedings by AF and MS;
• Investigation Report dated 17 March 2017;
• Coventry University Harvard Reference Style Guide;
• Coventry University’s Academic Misconduct Procedures Frequently Asked Questions for Students;
• Coventry University CUOnline Moodle Help for Turnitin;
• Essential Information for all taught postgraduate students;
• Coventry University College Procedures and Information Guide for Plagiarism and Malpractice Responsibilities of Students;
• WCC Learning Agreement dated 13 July 2015;
• Coventry University Application Form Professional Development in Social Part 2 (M22 SHC);
• WCC Disciplinary Procedure;
• WCC Employer and Employee Responsibilities;
• Job Description for Social Care Professional Level 3;
• Turnitin report showing match from past student paper;
• Professional Development in Social Work Part 2 (January 2016) Module M22SCH;
• Notes of investigation interviews with the Registrant dated 9 November 2016 and 7 December 2016;
• 30 March 2016 email from FM to EW;
• 5 October 2016 emails between FM and MS attaching a letter;
• 20 September 2016 letter from MS to FM asking her to provide a written statement;
• 5 October 2016 response from FM;
• 11 April 2016 emails between MS and AF;
• 26 September 2016 letter from MS to AF asking her to provide a written statement;
• AF’s witness statement dated 16 October 2016;
• 16 November 2016 letter from MS to AF requesting further clarification;
• 5 December 2016 emails requested from AF;
• The Registrant’s email to Coventry University dated 14 March 2017;
• Disciplinary Investigation Terms of Reference;
• 12 September 2016 letter from EW to the Registrant regarding the plagiarism concern;
• 1 February 2016 emails between the Registrant and AF regarding her Turnitin report;
• 4 March 2016 letter from SW to the Registrant outlining the alleged misconduct;
• 17 March 2016 letter from SW to the Registrant acknowledging her acceptance of the academic penalty;
• 10 August 2016 letter from MS to the Registrant enclosing HCPC documents;
• 17 October 2016 letter from MS to the Registrant inviting her to attend an investigatory interview;
• 23 November 2-16 letter from MS enclosing a copy of the interview statement;
• 28 November 2016 letter from MS to the Registrant inviting her to a second investigation interview;
• Registrant’s Supervision Notes;
• Assignment Submission Log;
• Advanced Professional Practice in Social Work Course Handbook dated September 2014;
• Colour Copy of Registrant’s Turnitin Report;
• An email dated 5 July 2017 from the Registrant to the HCPC.

18. The Panel heard oral evidence from MS, a registered Social Worker who was WCC’s Investigating Officer in this matter and AF, a registered Social Worker and Senior Lecturer in Social Work at Coventry University. The Panel found both witnesses to be clear, credible and reliable.

19. The Registrant did not provide documentary or oral evidence. The Panel recognised that this made the allegations against her neither more nor less likely to be correct.

Particular 1 – Proved
Between about 8 - 12 January 2016, you:   
a. Plagiarised Colleague A’s Post Qualification Assignment;          
b. Submitted your Post Qualifications assignment which was plagiarised.

20. AF told the Panel that WCC had paid the Registrant’s fees in respect of her participation in ‘Professional Development in Social Work Part 2’ at Coventry University. She informed the Panel that as part of the module, students are required to submit a 4000 word case study based on a piece of casework from within their own caseload. This is subject to checking by ‘Turnitin’, a plagiarism detection service which checks for similarity between any source that has previously been uploaded onto the worldwide web and any work that has been submitted through ‘Turnitin’. She said that when a student submits work through ‘Turnitin’ they are required to tick a box which asks the student to confirm that what they are submitting is their own work.

21. The Panel had careful regard to the relevant IT submission log which confirmed that the Registrant had ticked the confirmation box when submitting her work through ‘Turnitin’ on 11 January 2016. AF told the Panel how students were made aware of the University’s policies and requirements in relation to plagiarism through the postgraduate student handbook, the module guide, the University website and in assessment tutorial.

22. AF referred the Panel to the ‘Turnitin’ assessment of the Registrant’s submission. This showed the Registrant’s plagiarism score was 31%. AF told the Panel that in her opinion any score over 25% may be of concern. She said that on this occasion the 31% came from the same source, namely an assignment submitted by another student, Colleague A, in 2014. In addition, AF said that her own comparison of the two pieces of work showed that there had been word changes from the original assignment such as changing ‘concise’ to ‘succinct’ which would not have been picked up by ‘Turnitin’. She said, if these were taken account of, the plagiarism score would have been higher. AF also told the Panel that in comparing the two pieces of work, “the same subheadings, paragraph starts and quotes were used throughout the assignment. The reference lists were also identical.”

23. AF told the Panel that the Registrant was invited to attend a meeting with the University’s Academic Conduct Officer on 16 March 2016. She said the Registrant was informed that she could accept an academic conduct penalty of 0 marks for the submitted piece and not attend the meeting if she so wished. AF referred the Panel to an email dated 14 March 2016 from the Registrant to the University which stated “I would prefer not to attend the meeting and accept the academic and disciplinary penalties as stated in the Coventry University Scale of Penalties.”

24. AF stated that Coventry University notified WCC by email  dated 17 March 2016 of the suspected plagiarism and named Colleague A as the past student of the paper which the Registrant’s own assignment had matched.                     

25. MS told the Panel that she had been the Registrant’s line manager at the WCC and had been the investigating officer in relation to the allegation of plagiarism. She said that Colleague A had been employed by the Council as a Social Worker and had worked in the same office but not the same team as the Registrant.

26. MS referred the Panel to the notes of interview with the Registrant  made as part of the Council investigation on 9 November  2016 and 12 December 2016. The Panel had careful regard to these.

27. The Panel noted that during the course of her 9 November 2016 interview the Registrant confirmed that Colleague A had given her an electronic copy of her assignment. The Registrant stated that she was unable to remember when she had asked Colleague A for a copy of her work. The Registrant said that she had attended all the University module days and the assignment tutorial but could not remember if guidance had been given about plagiarism at the tutorial. When asked if she had done any research on Moodle about plagiarism, the Registrant stated “I had a slight look but to be fair, I didn’t worry at that time.” She denied having read the information given to her by the University to understand what plagiarism is, and denied having read the University’s academic code of conduct around plagiarism. When asked whether she had read the HCPC codes of practice given to her in August 2016, the Registrant replied “I’ve had a brief look.“ In relation to the allegation that she had plagiarised the work of Colleague A, the Registrant said: “I know I didn’t copy.” When asked what information she used from Colleague A’s assignment in her own, the Registrant replied: “I used some of her references. I used some of her textbooks, they led to references.” When asked: “Would you say they were hers or your ideas?” the Registrant replied: “I would say they were her ideas.”

28. The Panel noted that during the course of her 12 December 2016 interview the Registrant was asked: “We understand the reason you failed is because the work you submitted was not your own. Is this accurate?” She replied: “That’s alleged.”

29. MS told the Panel that she had not interviewed Colleague A as part of her investigation because by that time Colleague A had left the employment of the Council.

30. For the reasons set out above, the Panel was satisfied that the Registrant had been made aware of her responsibilities in relation to the submission of her own work, had plagiarised the work of Colleague A for her Post Qualification assignment, and had submitted a plagiarised Post Qualifications assignment. Accordingly, the Panel was satisfied that Particulars 1(a) and 1(b) had been made out.

Particular 2 - Proved
On or around 11 March 2016 and / or 22 March 2016 you informed your employer that you had passed your Post Qualification, which was not the case.

31. MS told the Panel that in the course of a supervision meeting on either 11 March 2016 or 22 March 2016 she asked the Registrant about her post-qualification study and the Registrant replied that everything was fine and she had passed.

32. MS referred the Panel to a letter dated 17 March 2016 from Coventry University to the Registrant informing her that “The  Academic Conduct Officer has determined that the confirmed academic penalty is 0% for the assessment…This letter also constitutes a Faculty warning.”

33. The Panel noted that in her disciplinary interview on 7 November 2016 it was put to the Registrant that MS “was surprised to find out that [the Registrant] had not passed the module as during a case management discussion in March 2016 [the Registrant] stated to her that she had passed.” The Panel further noted that the Registrant did not deny that she had said this to MS, though she did say “I thought I’d passed.”

34. The Panel accepted the evidence of MS. While it received no evidence as to the date when the Registrant had first read the 4 March 2016 letter inviting her to meet with the University’s Academic Conduct Officer, it noted that the Registrant’s response indicating that she would not be attending the meeting but was prepared to accept the academic penalty was dated 14 March 2016. In all the circumstances, the Panel concluded  that the Registrant had informed her employer that she had passed her Post Qualification when she knew this was not the case, and that she had done so on or around 11 March 2016 and / or 22 March 2016.

Particular 3 - Proved
Your actions at paragraph 1 and / or 2 were dishonest.

35. In considering the allegation of dishonesty, the Panel had careful regard to the guidance provided by Lord Hughes in the Supreme Court case of Ivey v Genting Casinos.

36. Having found that the Registrant had acted as alleged in Particulars 1(a), 1(b) and 2, the Panel went on to consider her state of mind in relation to her actions. The Panel did not have the advantage of evidence from the Registrant. However, it had careful regard to the answers provided by the Registrant during the course of her investigation interviews with MS on 9 November 2016 and 7 December 2016 and to her email to the HCPC dated 5 July 2017.

37. The Panel noted that during the course of her interview on 9 November 2016 the Registrant said that she had received a copy of Colleague A’s assignment prior to completing her own. The Panel also noted the Registrant’s assertions in her email to the HCPC dated 5 July 2017 that due to poor health she made a highly regrettable and poorly judged decision for which she was deeply regretful and remorseful.

38. In the Panel’s view, the Registrant was well aware of the importance of submitting her own work for assessment and the unacceptability of passing off the work of another as her own. Further, as a registered Social Worker she would have been aware of the requirement to behave with honesty and integrity and make sure that her behaviour did not damage the public’s confidence in her or her profession.

39. In the Panel’s view, the Registrant had submitted a plagiarised Assignment in order to secure a pass in the module that she had not earned and lied to her employer about the outcome of the assessment. The Panel asked itself whether ordinary decent people aware of the Panel’s findings of fact and of the Registrant’s knowledge as to the facts, as found by the Panel, would think she had acted dishonestly. For all the reasons set out above, the Panel had no doubt that they would. As a consequence, the Panel found Particular 3 proved.

Decision on grounds
40. The Panel had careful regard to the submissions of Mr Foxsmith. It accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

41. Mr Foxsmith referred the Panel to the Privy Council case of Roylance v GMC (No2) [2000] 1 AC 311 in which Lord Clyde stated:
“misconduct is a word of general effect, involving some act or omission which falls short of what would be proper in the circumstances. The standard of propriety may often be found by reference to the rules and standards ordinarily required to be followed by a …practitioner in the particular circumstances.”

42. Mr Foxsmith submitted that, by reason of the matters found proved, the Registrant had fallen well below the standards expected of a registered Social Worker and had breached the HCPC’s ‘Standards of conduct, performance and ethics’.

43. The Panel bore in mind that not every breach of the Standards and not every falling short of what would be proper in the circumstances will constitute misconduct; the breach must be serious, or as Elias LJ put it in R (on the Application of Remedy UK Ltd) v GMC [2010] EWHC 1245 (Admin) “sufficiently serious.... that it can properly be described as misconduct going to fitness to practise.”

44. The Panel found that, by reason of the facts found proved, the Registrant was in clear breach of the HCPC ‘Standards of conduct, performance and ethics’ as follows:                                    
2012 edition, in respect of Particular 1 and Particular 3:
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;

2016 edition:, in respect of Particular 2 and Particular 3:
Standard 9.1 You must make sure that your conduct justifies the public’s trust and confidence in you and your profession
Standard 9.2 You must be honest about your…qualifications…

45. In the Panel’s view, the Registrant’s conduct fell well short of what would have been proper in the circumstances. Her actions breached the HCPC Standards set out above and involved dishonesty in her dealings with her university and with her employer. The public rightly expects that registered Social Workers will conduct themselves with honesty and integrity. The Registrant’s actions undermined public confidence in the WCC and in the Social Work profession, and were so serious as to call into question her fitness to practise as a registered Social Worker.

46. For the reasons set out above, the Panel had no doubt that the matters found proved constitute misconduct going to fitness to practise.

Decision on impairment
47. The Panel then went on to consider whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired by reason of her misconduct. It had careful regard to all the evidence before it and to the submissions of Mr Foxsmith and the Registrant’s email to the HCPC dated 5 July 2017.

48. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and had careful regard to the HCPTS Practice Note on ‘Finding that Fitness to Practise is Impaired’.

49. The Panel considered that the Registrant’s misconduct had breached a fundamental tenet of the profession, brought the profession into disrepute and involved dishonesty. In the circumstances, the Panel considered that at the times in question the Registrant’s fitness had been impaired by reason of her misconduct.

50. In addressing the personal component of current impairment, the Panel asked itself whether the Registrant is liable, now and in the future, to repeat misconduct of the kind found proved. In reaching its decision, the Panel had particular regard to the issues of insight and remediation.

51. The Panel noted that in the case of CHRE v NMC & Grant [2011] EWHC 927 (Admin) Mrs Justice Cox stated:
“When considering whether or not fitness to practise is currently impaired, the level of insight shown by the practitioner is central to a proper determination of that issue.” 

52. The Registrant has made no formal admissions and has not attended to give evidence before the Panel. However, the Panel has had the benefit of the Registrant’s email to the HCPC dated 5 July 2017 in which she stated: “…due to me poor health I feel they I made a highly regrettable and poorly judged decision for which I am deeply regretful and remorseful particularly as I worked so hard for my social work degree. I feel the situation is shameful having let my employer, hcpc, my family, my son and ultimately myself down, due to this poorly judged decision. I have now submitted my resignation to wcc this was an extremely difficult decision to make but i recognised that i am currently Not well enough to go practice as a social worker and would not wish to let service users down.”

53. In the Panel’s view the Registrant has demonstrated some insight into the seriousness of her misconduct and its impact on WCC, her family and her regulator but has shown no insight into the impact of her actions on service users or the wider public perception of the Social Worker Profession.

54. The Panel had careful regard to Silber J’s guidance in Cohen v GMC [2008] EWHC 581 (Admin) that Panels should take account of:
• Whether the conduct which led to the charge is easily remediable;
• Whether it has been remedied; and
• Whether it is highly unlikely to be repeated.

55. The Panel recognised that remediation of misconduct which involves dishonesty may not be easy. It received no evidence to suggest that the Registrant has yet taken any steps to remediate her misconduct.

56. The Panel had careful regard to the Registrant’s history. It noted that she is a registered Social Worker of some experience, that there has been no suggestion that she has previously been referred to her regulator and that there has been no evidence that she lacked competence as a Social Worker.

57. The Panel had careful regard to its conclusions in relation to the Registrant’s insight, remediation, and history. In the absence of significant current insight and remediation the Panel was unable to conclude that the Registrant is not liable to repeat misconduct of this kind. For this reason, the Panel concluded that her fitness to practise is impaired on the grounds of public protection.

58. The Panel then went on to consider whether a finding of impairment is necessary on public interest grounds. In addressing this component of impairment, the Panel had careful regard to the critically important public issues identified by Silber J in the case of Cohen when he said:
“Any approach to the issue of whether .... fitness to practise should be regarded as ‘impaired’ must take account of ‘the need to protect the individual patient, and the collective need to maintain confidence in the profession as well as declaring and upholding proper standards of conduct and behaviour.”

59. The Panel asked itself whether the need to uphold proper professional standards and public confidence in the profession would be undermined if a finding of impairment of fitness to practise was not made in the circumstances of this case. The Panel had no doubt that it would. Honesty is a fundamental requirement of the profession of Social Work. Informed members of the public would be shocked to learn that the Registrant had submitted a plagiarised assignment as part of her ‘Professional Development in Social Work Part 2’ module at Coventry University and had lied to her employer about her performance. For these reasons, a finding of impairment on public interest grounds is required.

60. For all the reasons set out above, the Panel concluded that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired by reason of her misconduct and therefore the Allegation is well founded.

Decision on Sanction
61. The Panel next considered what, if any, sanction to impose on the Registrant’s registration.
62. The Panel had careful regard to all the evidence put before it, and also to the submissions of Mr Foxsmith.

63. Mr Foxsmith drew the Panel’s attention to the HCPC’s Indicative Sanctions Policy and submitted that the question of sanction is a matter for the Panel’s own independent judgment.

64. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor who referred it to the cases of Parkinson v NMC [2010] and Atkinson v General Medical Council [2009].

65. In reaching its decision, the Panel had at the forefront of its thinking the principle of proportionality and the need to balance the interests of the Registrant with the protection of the public and the wider public interest, in maintaining confidence in the profession and the HCPC, and in declaring and upholding proper standards of conduct and performance.

66. The Panel had in mind that the purpose of sanctions is not to be punitive, though they may have a punitive effect. The Panel considered all the options open to it, starting with the least restrictive and working up the scale of restrictiveness.

67. In reaching its decision on sanction, the Panel had regard to all the circumstances, including the following mitigating and aggravating features of the case:

Mitigating
• The misconduct occurred at a time when the Registrant was facing difficult family and health circumstances which may have impacted on her judgment;
• The Registrant has expressed some remorse for her misconduct.
Aggravating
• The Registrant has demonstrated no insight into the impact of her actions on service users and on the wider public perception of the Social Work profession and no remediation.

68. The Panel first considered whether it would be appropriate to impose no sanction in this case. It gave careful consideration to Paragraph 8 of the Indicative Sanctions Policy. The Panel recognised that taking no action after a finding of impairment is likely to be an exceptional outcome, but may be appropriate in cases where impairment has been found on public interest grounds alone and where the Registrant has demonstrated insight and remediation. In this case the Panel found impairment of fitness to practise on public protection and public interest grounds, and concluded that the Registrant had demonstrated limited insight and no remediation. Taking no action would neither protect against the risk of repetition nor serve the public interest in maintaining confidence in the profession and the regulatory process and declaring and upholding proper standards.

69. The Panel then considered whether it would be appropriate to refer the matter for mediation. It had careful regard to Paragraphs 26 and 27 of the Indicative Sanctions Policy. It noted that mediation may only be used if the Panel is satisfied that the only other appropriate course would be to take no further action. This is not such a case.

70. The Panel next considered the imposition of a Caution Order. It had careful regard to the factors set out in Paragraphs 28 and 29 of the Indicative Sanctions Policy but was unable to conclude that the circumstances of this case met the criteria for such an order. A Caution Order would not protect the public. Further, the seriousness of the misconduct demands that it be marked by an appropriate sanction in order to send a clear message to Social Workers and the public that such conduct is unacceptable and must not be repeated.

71. The Panel next considered the imposition of a Conditions of Practice Order. It had regard to Paragraphs 30 - 38 of the Indicative Sanctions Policy. The Panel gave careful consideration as to whether this may be a case where conditions could be formulated which would protect the public and the public interest while providing the framework necessary to enable the Registrant to take steps in a structured setting to develop her insight into her failings and to remediate those failings. In the absence of any evidence of engagement with the HCPC since September 2017 and in light of the dishonesty involved, the Panel was unable to formulate realistic and workable conditions which would adequately protect the public. It considered that even if this had been possible, the seriousness of the Registrant’s misconduct was such that a Conditions of Practice Order would be insufficient properly to mark its unacceptability and would not maintain confidence in the profession or the regulatory process.

72. The Panel next considered whether a Suspension Order might be an appropriate and sufficient response to its findings in this case. It had careful regard to Paragraphs 39-45 of the Indicative Sanctions Policy. The Panel noted that the misconduct is of a serious nature which breached the fundamental requirement of Social Workers that they behave with honesty and integrity and which would undermine public confidence in the profession. The Panel had regard to the fact that the Registrant had not engaged with the HCPC since September 2017 and also to its finding that the Registrant is liable to repeat misconduct of the kind found proved. It concluded that a Suspension Order would protect the public only for the limited time it was in force and would not adequately reflect the seriousness and unacceptability of the Registrant’s misconduct.

73. In considering whether a Striking Off Order might be appropriate, the Panel had careful regard to Paragraphs 46-50 of the Indicative Sanctions Policy. It also considered the guidance provided in the cases of Parkinson v NMC and Atkinson v GMC [2009]. It had particular regard to the guidance provided by Mitting J in Parkinson that “a [Registrant] found to have acted dishonestly is always going to be at severe risk of having his or her name erased from the register. A [Registrant] who has acted dishonestly, who does not appear before the Panel either personally or by solicitors or counsel to demonstrate remorse, a realisation that the conduct criticised was dishonest, and an undertaking that there will be no repetition, effectively forfeits the small chance of persuading the Panel to adopt a lenient or merciful outcome and to suspend for a period rather than direct erasure.”

74. The Panel recognised that erasure is not necessarily inevitable and necessary in every case where dishonest conduct has been substantiated. However, the Panel did not receive compelling evidence of insight or other evidence that would enable it to conclude that the risk of repetition is low. Further, in the absence of any engagement from the Registrant since September 2017, the Panel was unable to conclude that the Registrant would be willing or able to seek to satisfy a reviewing Panel that she could be permitted to return to her practice in the future without the reputation of the profession being disproportionately damaged.

75. For the reasons set out above the Panel concluded that the nature and gravity of the Registrant’s misconduct and the circumstances of this case were such that any lesser sanction than striking off would undermine public confidence in the profession and in the regulatory process. The Registrant’s misconduct struck at the heart of the requirement that all Social Workers act with honesty and integrity. In the Panel’s view, the Registrant’s action in submitting a plagiarised assignment as part of her ‘Professional Development in Social Work Part 2’ module, and in lying to her employer about her performance in that module, was incompatible with her continuing on the Register. In those circumstances, the Panel concluded that a Striking Off Order was the only appropriate and proportionate sanction available to it.

 

Order

That the Registrar is directed to strike the name of Miss Sumaiya Abwat from the Register on the date this order comes into effect.

Notes

 The order imposed today will apply from 4 October 2018. 

 


 

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Miss Sumaiya Abwat

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
05/09/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Struck off