Mr Kevin Peel

Profession: Paramedic

Registration Number: PA34481

Interim Order: Imposed on 01 Nov 2016

Hearing Type: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 09:00 03/09/2018 End: 16:00 05/09/2018

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

 

Whilst registered as a Paramedic, you:

 

1. Between 3 September 2016 and 6 September 2016 sent messages to Person A, who identified themselves as being 14 years of age, in which you:

 

a) offered to engage in sexual activity with Person A;

 

b) offered to meet Person A;

 

c) invited Person A to your home.

 

2. On or around 6 September 2016, you attended a location with the intention of meeting with

 

Person A.

 

3. Your actions in 1a, 1b, 1c and/or 2 were sexually motivated.

 

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


1. HCPC was represented by Ms Clare Hastie of Kingsley Napley Solicitors. The Registrant was present and was represented by Mr Barry Smith Counsel, instructed by Thompson’s solicitors. The Panel had a bundle of HCPC case papers numbered pages 1 – 90. The Panel also had a witness statement from the Registrant consisting of 24 paragraphs, a Registrant’s bundle numbered pages 1 – 66 and a reflective piece which consisted of 8 paragraphs.

Application to amend the Allegation

2. Ms Hastie applied to amend the Particulars of Allegations 1 and 2, so as to clarify the nature of the HCPC in respect of the Registrant’s alleged conduct. Mr Smith did not object to the proposed amendment. After taking advice from the Legal Assessor, the Panel allowed the amendments to be made.

Background

3. The Registrant is registered with the HCPC as a Paramedic and was employed in that capacity by North East Ambulance Service (NEAS). The Registrant is also registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).


4. On 6 September 2016 the Registrant was arrested in regard to an alleged offence under the Sexual Offences Act 2003, namely attempting to groom a boy under sixteen years of age. This involved the Registrant allegedly engaging in conversations of a sexual nature, using a gay dating app called “Grindr”, with a person whom the Registrant understood was a 14 year old boy. It is also alleged that the Registrant attempted to meet the 14 year old. When the Registrant attended the meeting, he was confronted by a vigilante group known as “The Guardians of the North”.


5. Having been arrested, the Registrant was released on unconditional bail and the matter was referred to the Crown Prosecution Service [CPS]. The Registrant informed NEAS on 7 September 2016, at which time he was suspended from his duties. Both NEAS and the police referred the matter to the HCPC, followed by the Registrant’s self-referral. Subsequently the CPS decided that no further action should be taken in the Criminal Courts.


Decision on Facts


6. At the outset of the hearing, the Registrant admitted the facts of Particulars 1 and 2 in their entirety. The Registrant also admitted Particular 3 in relation to Particulars 1a, 1b and 1c but not in relation to Particular 2.


7. In respect of the factual allegations which were admitted, the Panel took into account that none of the HCPC evidence was challenged. As well as admitting those Particulars at the hearing, the Registrant also frankly admitted them in his written witness statement and reflective piece. Accordingly, the Panel found the admitted Particulars to be proved.


8. The only outstanding factual matter which was not admitted by the Registrant concerned his motivation in attempting to meet the person he thought was a 14 year old boy [Ryan], on 6 September 2016. The issue which the Panel had to determine was whether this was sexually motivated.


9. The Panel had regard to the circumstances surrounding how the planned meeting had been arranged and the Registrant’s actions and knowledge prior to him actually going to meet Ryan.


10. The Registrant’s conversations with Ryan began three days prior to the meeting taking place. During the first conversation on 3 September 2016, the Registrant was told by “Ryan” that he was 14 years old. Ryan indicated that he was new to all this and had never done anything like it before. On 4 September 2016 the Registrant was also told that Ryan was 14 years old, notwithstanding which, he engaged in sexually explicit conversation with Ryan. The Registrant sent Ryan a picture of himself in which he was on the bed in just his boxer shorts. The Registrant also asked Ryan whether he would like to meet up and suggested that Ryan could come to his own house.


11. In the early hours of the morning of the actual meeting, the Registrant engaged in further sexually explicit conversation with Ryan. Later during that morning, the Registrant agreed to meet Ryan.


12. The Panel took into account that the Registrant had admitted offering to engage in sexual activity with Ryan, offering to meet Ryan and inviting Ryan to his home. The Registrant also attended the location where he was to meet Ryan.


13. Taking all of the circumstances into account, the Panel was satisfied that the Registrant’s actions in attending the location to meet Ryan were sexually motivated. The Panel regarded the Registrant’s assertion that he attended the location with the intention of providing guidance and counselling to Ryan as being not credible and totally inconsistent with his previous actions of engaging in sexually explicit conversations with Ryan whom he had been told twice was a 14 year old boy.


14. For these reasons, the Panel found Particulars 1, 2 and 3 proved in their entirety.


Decision on Statutory Ground


15. The Registrant admitted that the facts amounted to misconduct. The Panel noted this admission and exercised its own judgement as to whether misconduct had been established.


16. The Panel was in no doubt that the Registrant’s conduct would be regarded as deplorable. The Panel considered that the Registrant had breached the HCPC Standards of conduct, performance and ethics particularly:


2.7 “you must use all forms of communications appropriately and responsibly, including social media and networking websites”


9.1 “you must make sure that your conduct justifies the public’s trust and confidence in you and your profession”


 The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant’s conduct fell seriously below the required standards expected of a registered paramedic and amounted to misconduct.


Decision on Impairment


17. The Registrant admitted that his fitness to practise is impaired on public interest grounds. The Panel exercised its own judgement and considered whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired as a result of his misconduct.

18. The Panel considered both the personal and public interest elements of impairment as set out in the HCPC practice note on “Finding that Fitness to Practise is Impaired”.


19. Whilst the matters concerned occurred outside of the Registrant’s practice as a Paramedic and did not involve causing any harm to patients or dishonesty, the Panel was satisfied that the Registrant had breached fundamental tenets of his profession and had brought his profession into disrepute.


20. The Panel considered that the Registrant’s insight and remorse was limited. The Panel acknowledged that the Registrant was embarrassed and sorry that he had walked into a trap set by a vigilante group. However, the Panel considered that the Registrant’s embarrassment and remorse was focussed on the effects on him, his family and the loss of his job, rather than a meaningful understanding as to the seriousness of his actions in enticing what he thought was a 14 year old boy into sexual activity.


21. The Registrant’s lack of insight was amply demonstrated by his willingness to meet a 14 year old boy and invite that boy to his home after engaging in sexually explicit conversations with that boy. He embarked on this course of conduct notwithstanding that he is dual qualified as both a nurse and a paramedic and had completed degree modules in critical thinking and decision making, mentorship and enhanced skills training.


22. The Panel had regard to the training which the Registrant has undertaken which consists of online courses including professional relationships with children and teaching children about internet safety. However, the Panel considered that the Registrant’s recent training involved basic matters about which the Registrant ought to have been fully aware as a Paramedic/Nurse and was not evidence of remediation of his misconduct.


23. The Panel also had regard to the testimonial evidence and the historical certificates from St John’s Ambulance. This evidence was of very limited value, given that the Allegations do not concern the Registrant’s clinical practice.


24. Taking all matters into consideration, the Panel was not satisfied that the Registrant’s misconduct was unlikely to be repeated and  concluded that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired on the personal component of impairment.


25. The Panel also considered that the Public would be appalled by the Registrant’s actions. The Panel had regard of the need to uphold the reputation of the Paramedic Profession in particular, the overriding Statutory Objective set out in the Children’s Act to have regard to the best interests of a child as a primary objective.


26. In all the circumstances, the Panel was satisfied that public confidence in the profession and in the HCPC as Regulator would be undermined were a finding of impairment not made on public interest grounds.

Decision on Sanction


27. The Panel was mindful that the purpose of any sanction was not to punish the Registrant but to protect the public and maintain public confidence in the profession and the HCPC as its regulator, by the maintenance of proper standards of conduct and behaviour.

28. The Panel had regard to the Indicative Sanctions Policy. The Panel applied the principle of proportionality by weighing the Registrant’s interests with the public interest and by considering each available sanction in ascending order of seriousness.

29. In deciding whether to impose any sanction, the Panel had regard to paragraph 13 of the Indicative Sanctions Policy which states,


 "The degree of insight displayed by a registrant is central to a proper determination of whether fitness to practise is impaired and, if so, what sanction (if any) is required. The issues which the Panel need to consider include whether the registrant: 


• has admitted or recognised any wrongdoing;
• has genuinely recognised his or her failings;
• has taken or is taking any appropriate remedial action;
• is likely to repeat or compound that wrongdoing.”

30. Having carefully considered the above paragraphs of the Indicative Sanctions Policy, the Panel concluded that given the seriousness of the misconduct and that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired, a sanction was required to protect the public and was in the public interest, to mark the seriousness of the matter.

31. The Panel considered as aggravating features the fact that the Registrant persisted in his contact with a person whom he was told was a 14 year old boy. This contact included sending a highly inappropriate photograph of himself and engaging in explicit conversations of a sexual nature. He also told Ryan that he was a Paramedic. The Registrant also persisted in denying that his going to meet the 14 year old boy was sexually motivated when it obviously was.  The Panel also considered that the lack of any meaningful insight into his misconduct is also an aggravating feature.

32. The Panel however, accepted as mitigating factors, the fact that the Registrant has engaged with this process and has made substantial factual admissions.  The Registrant has no previous HCPC disciplinary record and is otherwise a well-regarded and competent Paramedic, as stated in the testimonial statements provided on his behalf.

33. The Panel considered the available sanctions in ascending order of seriousness and concluded that taking no action or imposing a Caution Order would be not be appropriate to mark the seriousness of the matters for which the Registrant’s fitness to practise is found to be impaired. The nature of the misconduct was not of a limited or minor nature.

34. The Panel next considered conditions of practice. Paragraph 33 of the Indicative Sanctions Policy makes it clear that conditions of practice will rarely be effective unless the Registrant is genuinely committed to resolving the issues they seek to redress and can be trusted to make a determined effort to do so. The Panel considered that no working or practicable conditions could be formulated, given the nature of the misconduct in this case which does not involve any clinical deficiencies. The Panel also considered that conditions of practice would not be sufficient to uphold the reputation of the profession or to achieve remediation.

35. In considering whether a Suspension Order would be appropriate and proportionate, the Panel had regard to Paragraph 39 of the Indicative Sanctions Policy, which indicates that suspension should be considered where the Panel considers that a caution or conditions of practice would provide insufficient public protection or where the allegation is of a serious nature but unlikely to be repeated and, thus, striking off is not merited.

36. The Panel considered the guidance in relation to both a Suspension Order and a Striking Off order in deciding whether a Suspension Order would be sufficient and proportionate. The Panel has already found that there is a risk of repetition and it was not presented with any evidence of any meaningful insight or remorse.

37. Whilst the Registrant has completed several online courses, he has not, over the period of the last two years embarked on any therapy or counselling nor has he provided any reports which may have reassured the Panel that his conduct was not likely to be repeated. Indeed, in relation to the online courses undertaken by the Registrant, the Panel noted the contents of his reflective account dated 22 August 2018, in which he has stated at paragraph 7, “As the incident was not something which took place in my work environment I am unsure that these will provide any reassurance that the events will not be repeated”. Accordingly, the Panel considered that a Suspension Order would not have any practical effect and would not achieve remediation which is necessary to protect the public and the reputation of the profession.

38. The Panel had regard to the guidance that a striking off order is a sanction of last resort and should only be imposed where the misconduct makes it fundamentally incompatible to remain on the Register. Paragraph 40 of the ISG sets out that Striking off may also be appropriate where the nature and gravity of the allegation are such that any lesser sanction would lack deterrent effect or undermine confidence in the profession concerned or the regulatory process.

39. The Allegations found proved establish that the Registrant whilst a registered Paramedic, chose to undertake a course of conduct in which he persisted in seeking to engage a person who, as far as he knew, was a 14 year old boy in sexual activity. His conduct went far beyond mere banter or simple contact. It involved explicit sexual conversations, an inappropriate photograph, inviting the boy to his house, arranging a meeting and actually attending that arranged meeting.

40. The Panel considered that reasonable members of the public would be appalled if the Registrant was allowed to remain on the Register. The Panel concluded that the only appropriate and proportionate sanction in the circumstances is a striking off order. In the Panel’s view, any other sanction would undermine confidence in the profession and the regulatory process.

Order

Order:
The Registrar is directed to strike the name of Kevin Peel from the Register from the operative date.

Notes

 

Final Hearing of the Conduct and Competence Committee took place at 405 Kennington Rd, London from Monday 3rd September 2018 to Wednesday 5th September 2018.

 

 

 

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Mr Kevin Peel

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
03/09/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Struck off