Ms Nadira Jabin Mughal

Profession: Social worker

Registration Number: SW77578

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 Council, 405 Kennington Road, London, SE11 4PT

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Caution

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Allegation

Allegation as amended:

Whilst working as a Social Worker, you:
 
1. On or around 20 September 2013, used and / or allowed your daughter, Person A, to use your identity details to submit a homeless application form to which you were not entitled.
 
2. On or around 29 December 2005 and or 20 July 2006, wrote reference(s) purporting to be from Opticare in support of your daughter, Person A’s employment application to Birmingham City Council.
 
3. On or around 14 June 2004, wrote a reference purporting to be from Raqia Dar in support of your daughter, Person B employment application to Birmingham City Council.

4. Between 30 May 2009 and 01 January 2013, claimed Single Person's Discount for Council Tax when you were not entitled to do so.
 
5. The matters set out in paragraphs 1 - 4 are dishonest.
 
6. The matters set out in paragraphs 1 - 5 constitute misconduct.
 
7. By reason of your misconduct, your fitness to practise is impaired.

Finding

Preliminary matters

Application to participate by telephone

1. On the application of the Registrant and having received the advice of the Legal Assessor, the Panel determined to allow the Registrant to participate by telephone. The Registrant had told the Panel that due to unforeseen circumstances she would be obliged at points to look after her 7 month year old grandson and to take her son to work. She said that she wanted to get the case resolved as soon as possible and in these circumstances she hoped that the Panel would allow her to participate by telephone. Mr Dite did not oppose the application. In allowing the application the Panel indicated that any logistical problems would be addressed if and as they arose. The Panel also directed that the details of the unforeseen circumstances as related by the Registrant would be treated as having been received in private.

Application to amend the Allegation

2. Mr Dite applied to amend the Allegation in the terms that were set out in a letter sent to the Registrant and dated 24 January 2018.  He submitted that the amendments to the Allegation better reflected the evidence that was to be called. The Registrant did not oppose the application. Having received the advice of the Legal Assessor, the Panel concluded that the amendments could be made without injustice to the Registrant and determined that the Allegation should be amended in the terms sought by Mr Dite. Mr Dite subsequently applied to delete the reference in the stem of the Allegation to registration with the HCPC.  He said that this part of the stem was inaccurate in substance and should not have been included. The Registrant did not oppose this application. Having received the advice of the Legal Assessor, the Panel determined that this application could be made without injustice to the Registrant and determined that the Allegation should be amended in that respect as well.
The Registrant’s position as regards the particulars in the amended Allegation.

3. The amended Allegation was put to the Registrant who denied each of the particulars contained within it.
Procedure

4. The Panel decided to consider the facts, misconduct and impairment as a single stage and then, if appropriate, to consider sanction separately.

Background

5. The Registrant was employed as a Social Worker with Birmingham City Council [the Council] from 2 February 2009 until 8 June 2015.

6. The Registrant went by the name Nadira Mughal at work but her legal name had been Farha Khan since 1999 when she had completed a statutory declaration that stated she had been born Nadira Jabin Bashir but had assumed the name Nadira Jabin Mughal when she was married. Misconduct is not alleged in relation to the Registrant’s use of the name Nadira Mughal at work despite having the legal name Farha Khan. It would appear that this was known by those she worked for example it was made clear on a Disclosure of Identity form submitted by the Registrant prior to working at the Council and her team manager DH provided a signed character reference. That reference makes clear that DH was aware of the two names used by the Registrant. It also refers to the fact that the Registrant was highly regarded in her job.

7. The Registrant had two daughters, Person A and Person B, who also worked for the Council.

8. An investigation was conducted into Person A by the Birmingham Audit Application Fraud Team. Person A had submitted various false homeless applications for which she was subsequently prosecuted and convicted. One of the six homeless applications submitted by Person A used the details of the Registrant and also was accompanied by a copy of the Registrant’s birth certificate. It is alleged that the Registrant allowed her daughter [Person A] to use her [the Registrant’s] identity details and that is the basis of Particular 1.

9. The investigation into Person A also examined her job applications to work at the Council. Person A was subsequently convicted for providing false references. One reference dated 29 December 2005 was signed off in the name of Farha Khan. Another, signed off on 20 July 2006 was in the name of Farah Khan.  A handwriting expert, namely Ms Marsh, has confirmed that the references were written by the same person who wrote the notification of bank details for payment and the verification of identity forms which had been provided to the Council by the Registrant herself and were in her handwriting. Both documents are in the bundle of papers which the Panel has read. Those references purport to be in relation to Person A’s employment at a company called Opticare  and make no reference to the fact that Farha Khan is the mother of Person A – the writing of those references give rise to Particular 2.

10. Due to the concerns raised in relation to Person A, the investigators at the Council extended their inquiries to cover Person B, another daughter of the Registrant working at the Council. Person B’s job application form was accompanied by a reference purportedly from someone called “Raqia Dar” again in relation to employment at Opticare. Again, the handwriting expert, Ms Marsh, has confirmed that this was written by the same person who wrote the two references for Person A and the forms submitted by the Registrant and which were in her [the Registrant’s] handwriting – this gives rise to Particular 3.

11. Particular 4 relates to the Registrant having claimed Single Persons Discount for Council Tax purposes, whilst the records obtained by the Council investigation show that the address was being used as an address by other members of her family.

12. The investigation into Person A was concluded in 2014 and an investigation was then conducted into the Registrant. That was concluded in 2015. The matter was then referred to the HCPC.

A summary of the evidence and other material before the Panel

13. The witnesses relied on by the HCPC were:

a. Fiona Marsh, the Handwriting Expert;

b. GS, a Team Manager at Birmingham City Council who conducted the investigation in relation to the Registrant;

c. MS, a Senior Investigations Officer at Birmingham City Council who conducted the investigation in relation to Person A;

All the above witnesses made written statements which the Panel has read.

14. In addition, there was also a statement from CH, Principal Auditor at Birmingham City Council. That statement is dated 27 April 2017. CH was not called to give live evidence but the Panel has read his statement.

15. In addition to the written statements identified above, the HCPC has produced and relies upon a substantial bundle of documents including documents which purport to evidence the particulars which are set out in the amended Allegation.

16. Ms Marsh, the handwriting expert, gave evidence and responded to questions. Her evidence, both oral and written, was that she had compared the handwriting that appeared in the Particulars 2 and 3 of the amended Allegation with the handwriting that appears on documents that the HCPC have produced and which are acknowledged  to be in the writing of the Registrant [reference writing] . In summary she said that the documents that are referred to in Particulars 2 and 3 of the amended Allegation were “definitely written by the same person who wrote at least some of the documents submitted as reference writing” of the Registrant. She illustrated this by stating that her level of confidence was greater than 99%. She acknowledged that some of the other documents that she had seen were not written by the Registrant.

17. The Panel found Ms Marsh to be a highly credible witness whose evidence the Panel found to be very persuasive. In the opinion of the Panel, Ms Marsh was an experienced and honest witness whose opinions were backed by detailed explanations. The oral evidence that she gave was wholly consistent with her written statement. In short, the Panel found Ms Marsh to be an excellent witness whose evidence the Panel accepted.

18. GS gave oral evidence. Her oral evidence reflected but did not greatly add to the contents of her written statement which detailed her investigation into the allegations against the Registrant and her very limited engagement with the Registrant. GS was also responsible for the production of many of the documents which are comprised within the bundle of documents produced by the HCPC. The Panel would like to record that, in its opinion, GS gave very balanced evidence, was credible in herself and in the conduct of her investigation and had made every effort to accommodate the needs of the Registrant and secure her participation in the process.

19. MS also gave oral evidence in accordance with the terms of his written statements and responded to questions. He confirmed that in June 2016, Person A had, on her plea of guilty, been convicted of the offences that are referred to in Particular 1. He identified the documents that are relevant to Particulars 2 and 3. In respect of Particular 4, he identified the credit check records that he had relied upon and explained the significance that he attached to those records. As with the previous witnesses, the Panel regarded MS to be credible and reliable, ready too, to acknowledge when he was unaware of or had failed to note relevant matters.

Decision on No Case to Answer

20. At the conclusion of the case as presented by the HCPC, the Panel, at the invitation of the Legal Assessor, considered whether the Registrant had a case to answer in respect of the matters that are set out in Particulars 1 and 4 of the amended Allegation.

21. In inviting the Panel to consider whether the Registrant had a case to answer in respect of Particulars 1 and 4, the Legal Assessor drew the Panel’s attention to the Practice Note entitled ‘Half-Time’ Submissions published by the HCPTS and dated 22 March 2017. He advised that the Panel should approach this question in accordance with the principles that are there set out. He identified the evidence that had been produced in support of these Particulars and said that the Panel should consider the sufficiency of that evidence in the context of the principles set out in the Practice Note. The Panel has done so.

22. In reply and in summary, Mr Dite submitted as follows:

• As regards Particular 1: the HCPC relies on the fact that Person A used the Registrant’s birth certificate.  He submitted that the Panel could properly conclude that the Registrant had given Person A access to that document; that the Registrant was party to its use and thus to the fraud.

• As regards Particular 4: The HCPC relied on the Registrant’s application for Single Person’s Discount which was contained in the bundle submitted by the HCPC and also on the result of the credit checks which purported to show that at the relevant time a number of persons including Persons A and B resided at the Registrant’s address.

23. The Panel has determined that the Registrant does not have a case to answer in respect of the matters that are set out in Particulars 1 and 4 of the amended Allegation. Its reasons include the following;

• As regards Particular 1, the Panel could not identify any evidence produced by the HCPC which was capable of supporting the allegation that the Registrant was party to the fraud in respect of which Person A had been convicted on a plea of guilty. The fact that Person A had access to the Registrant’s birth certificate and used the particulars was not of itself probative of the Registrant’s participation in the fraud.

• As regards Particular 4, the evidence contained in the credit checks was ‘hearsay evidence on hearsay evidence’ and could not be the subject of any direct questioning by Panel members. In the opinion of the Panel, the evidence was so unsatisfactory in nature as to preclude the Panel from safely concluding that the Registrant had acted, as alleged in the Particular. The Panel noted that MS in his written evidence indicated that the credit checks suggested either that “at least four other individuals including Person A and B had resided at the address at any one time” or “it appeared that numerous individuals were using the address for correspondence including Person A and B”. The latter explanation does not necessarily import residence on the part of those individuals.

24. The Panel however concluded that the Registrant did have a case to answer in respect of the factual matters that are set out in particulars 2, 3 and 5 insofar as this related to Particular 3 of the amended Allegation.

The Registrant’s evidence as to particulars 2, 3 and 5 (insofar as it relates to Particulars 2 and 3 of the amended Allegation, and as to Misconduct and Impairment

25. The Panel has read the documents comprised within the bundle submitted by the Registrant. These included;

• Correspondence between the HCPC, the Registrant and her former solicitors.

• A signed statement by the Registrant dated 28 October 2016.

• The Registrant’s written response dated 18 July 2018 to the allegations made by the HCPC.

• Two character references attached to an email from the Registrant dated 20 June 2018.

•  A copy of the driving licence issued to the Registrant’s son and an entry in the register of Companies House, both of which purport to show that the Registrant’s son resides at an address different from the Registrant’s.

• A photograph of an individual in a car.

26. The Registrant also gave evidence and responded to questions. In summary, her written and oral evidence was as follows;

• She adopted the contents of her two written statements which are contained in the bundle of documents which she has produced and which are referred to above.

• She denied that she had written any part of the references which are the subject of Particulars 2 and 3.

• She denied that she had acted dishonestly as alleged in Particular 5.

• She asserted that Person A had written the references which are referred to in Particulars 2 and 3.

• She said that Person A could and frequently did mimic the style of her [the Registrant’s] handwriting.

• She acknowledged that the handwriting in the references that are the subject of Particulars 2 and 3 resembled her handwriting but had been written by Person A.

• She gave an account of her professional experiences and her hopes for the future.

• She described what she had done since leaving the employment of the Birmingham City Council. 

27. The Panel did not have the advantage of seeing the Registrant in person, her participation in the proceedings being entirely by telephone. The Panel recognises that the Registrant was under very considerable strain. At times she was very emotional. At various points she had charge of her infant grandson and was also concerned about the welfare of her son. The Panel has taken all of these factors into account when assessing her evidence. However, the Panel concluded that the Registrant was not a wholly reliable witness. She had not been entirely co-operative with the Council’s investigation. There were aspects of her evidence which were not consistent. There were some indications that her explanations were developing as the proceedings developed. An example of this was that neither of her previous written statements stated that Person A could and did mimic her writing or that the handwriting in the references that are the subject of Particulars 2 and 3 resembled her own writing and that was the result of deliberate mimicking by Person A. The Panel noted that the Registrant did not, at any point, put this proposition to Ms Marsh. The Panel was also surprised that when asked by a Panel Member whether she could have written the references which are the subject of Particulars 2 and 3,her response was “I can’t recall” rather than a total and vehement rejection of the possibility. In short, the Panel could not wholly rely on her evidence.

Submissions made as to the remaining facts [Particulars 2, 3 and 5 insofar as this relates to Particulars 2 and 3], misconduct and impairment.

28. The Panel heard the submissions of Mr Dite in respect of the remaining facts to be determined and as regards misconduct and impairment. In summary, he said as follows:

• As regards Particulars 2 and 3, the expert evidence is sufficient to establish that the Registrant wrote the references which are the subject of these Particulars.

• That if the Registrant wrote the references, her actions were clearly dishonest as she intended thereby to deceive. He noted that the Registrant herself accepted that had she written the references [which she denied having done] such action would have been dishonest.

• That if the Registrant had written the references and had acted dishonestly as alleged in the Particulars, such behaviour was sufficiently serious as to amount to “misconduct”.

• That if the Panel found Particulars 2, 3 and 5 proved, the Registrant’s fitness to practise was presently impaired. In support of this allegation he submitted that, given the apparent lack of insight, there was a risk of repetition and further that public confidence in the profession and in the HCPC as its regulator would be undermined if in all the circumstances of this case there was not to be a finding of present impairment.

29. The Panel considered the evidence and submissions as to facts, misconduct and impairment made by the Registrant in the course of her evidence and repeated in her representations to the Panel. In substance she denied having written the references referred to in Particulars 2 and 3. She asserted that all the references were written by Person A.  She said that Person A had copied the style and appearance of her [the Registrant’s] handwriting. She denied that she had acted dishonestly as alleged in Particular 5. She stressed the fact that she had practised for many years and was still practising as a social worker and except for the allegations which are the subject of these proceedings, her professional reputation was unblemished.

30. The Panel heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor as to facts, Misconduct and Impairment.

31. The Panel was aware that on matters of fact the burden of proof rests on the HCPC and that the standard of proof is the civil one, namely on the balance of probabilities.

Decision on facts

32. Having considered all the evidence that it has heard and read, together with all the submissions  and representations that have been made, the Panel found  Particulars 2, 3 and 5 [insofar as that allegation relates to Particulars 2 and 3] in the  amended Allegation proved.

33. With regard to the allegations in particulars 2 and 3 of the amended Allegation, the Panel accepted the evidence of Ms Marsh which in the opinion of the Panel was a sufficient basis for concluding that the Registrant had indeed written the references which are the subject of Particulars 2 and 3. The Panel did however note that the Registrant herself accepted that there was a high degree of resemblance between the writing in those documents with her own handwriting; though she asserted that this was due to deliberate mimicking by Person A. The Panel also kept in mind that when questioned as to whether she could have written those references, she replied, as noted above, “I can’t recall”.

34. With regard to the allegation of dishonesty as set out in Particular 5 of the amended Allegation [as it relates to Particulars 2 and 3] the Panel concluded that dishonesty was proved. In coming to this conclusion, the Panel noted that there was a clear intent to deceive and that the Registrant herself had acknowledged in her oral evidence to the Panel, that had she written the references [which she denied], such action would have been dishonest.

35. The Panel has come to the above conclusions notwithstanding the proven dishonesty of Person A, who had been convicted of dishonesty relating to Particular 1 and also in relation to the provision of false references. In the opinion of the Panel, the dishonesty of Person A, though a factor to be taken into account, did not preclude the conclusion, that the HCPC had proved that the Registrant had acted as alleged in Particulars 2 and 3 and was in respect of those matters dishonest as alleged in Particular 5.  

Decision on Misconduct and Impairment

36. The Panel next considered whether the matters found proved amount to Misconduct and if so whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is thereby impaired.
37. The Panel took into account the submissions on both points made by Mr Dite on behalf of the HCPC and the evidence and the representations of the Registrant.

38. The Panel heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor who in particular referred the Panel to the Practice Note issued by the Health and Care Professions Tribunals Service on 22 March 2017.

39. The Panel was aware that any finding as to Misconduct and Impairment were matters for the independent judgement of the Panel and that, in respect of both issues, there was no burden or standard of proof.

40. The Panel determined that having regard to the guidance given by the courts in the relevant authorities, the facts that have been found proved as regards particulars 2,3 and 5 are sufficiently serious as to amount to misconduct. Its reasons are as follows;

• The Registrant acted in a manner which she knew was dishonest and, in doing so, deceived the Council into believing that she had been a manager at Opticare entitled to provide a reference as to the employment history and suitability of Persons A and B. Further, Persons A and B were her daughters.

• In acting as she did, the Registrant could have caused the Council to offer employment to persons A and B when otherwise the Council might not have done so.

• The matters found proved were not isolated events, but were repeated over a number of months.

• Such conduct was a serious departure from the standard of behaviour to be expected of a qualified social worker.

41. Having determined that the Registrant’s conduct as found proved amounted to Misconduct, the Panel proceeded to consider whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is thereby impaired. The Panel is aware that what is to be assessed is the Registrant’s current fitness to practise.

42. In considering this issue the Panel considered and applied the principles stated by Mrs Justice Cox in the case of the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence v Nursing and Midwifery Council; Paula Grant [2011] EWHC 927 [Admin]. In particular the Panel considered whether there was a risk that the Registrant would in the future act in a way similar to that found proved. The Panel also considered whether public confidence in the profession, in the HCPC as its regulator and the need to maintain proper standards of conduct, would be prejudiced if a finding of current impairment was not made.

43. The Panel concluded that the Registrant’s current fitness to practise was impaired by reason of the facts that have been found proved. Whilst the Panel concluded that the risk of repetition was low- partly as a result of the deterrent effect of the conviction and sentencing of Person A, it could not be wholly excluded. In coming to this conclusion, the Panel was disturbed by the total lack of insight that the Registrant has shown as regards her misconduct.  Moreover the Panel concluded that public confidence in the profession, in the HCPC as its regulator and in the need to maintain proper standards within the profession, would be undermined if a finding of impairment was not made. In coming to this conclusion, the Panel had in mind the need for Social Workers to display at all times a very high standard of personal honesty and integrity.  This the Registrant had failed to do. Her behaviour is a very serious departure from those standards, a departure which moreover she has failed to acknowledge. The Panel has come to the conclusion that the need to maintain the public confidence as stated above, requires a finding of present impairment to the Registrant’s fitness to practise, notwithstanding the fact that the matters alleged occurred many years ago and there is no evidence of repetition in the intervening period. 

Decision on Sanction

44. Having concluded that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired, the Panel proceeded to consider what, if any, Order is both appropriate and proportionate to protect the public and to safeguard the public interest.

45. The Panel has considered all the submissions and evidence that it has heard and read. It has accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

46. The Panel took into account the principles of proportionality, balancing the interests of the Registrant with the public interest.

47. The Panel has had regard to the contents of the Indicative Sanctions Policy published by the HCPC on 22 March 2017. The Panel is aware that sanctions should be considered in ascending order of severity. The Panel is aware that the purpose of sanctions is not to be punitive but to protect members of the public and to safeguard the public interest. The latter objective includes maintaining standards within the profession, together with public confidence in the profession and in its regulatory processes.

48. The Panel has concluded that to take no action would be wrong. Such an outcome would be inappropriate having regard to the facts of the case. It would not serve to maintain public confidence in the profession or in the HCPC as its regulator.

49. The Panel has given very careful consideration to imposing a Caution Order. In its consideration, the Panel took full account of the guidance given in the Policy Document published by the HCPC. The Panel appreciated that to impose a Caution Order would, in the context of this case, be an unusual outcome. The Panel has well in mind that the Registrant’s conduct was serious. It was clearly pre-planned. It was repeated on at least three occasions. She was deliberately deceiving her employer and she has not acknowledged her fault. These are all very serious considerations. However, the Panel also took into account the many years that have elapsed since these events. There is no evidence of any misconduct in the intervening period and the Panel noted that, aside from these events, the Registrant had an unblemished career prior to 2004 and since 2006 has had an unblemished record. Moreover, the dishonesty was not committed in the course of the Registrant’s work as a Social Worker. Further, it was accepted by the HCPC that the Registrant had been held in high regard as a Social Worker. In all the circumstances the Panel has decided to take the unusual course of imposing a Caution Order. In order to mark the gravity of the Registrant’s misconduct, the Panel has determined on a Caution Order for the maximum period of 5 years. In the opinion of the Panel, this will provide sufficient protection to the public and will serve to sustain public confidence in the profession and in its Regulator. The Panel did not think that a Conditions of Practice Order would be appropriate and in the unusual circumstances of this case, it considered that a Suspension Order would be disproportionate.

Order

That the Registrar is directed to annotate the register entry of Ms Nadira Jabin Mughal with a caution which is to remain on the register for a period of five years from the date this order comes into effect.

Notes

 

 

 

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Ms Nadira Jabin Mughal

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