Mr Jaleel Akhtar

Profession: Paramedic

Registration Number: PA35795

Hearing Type: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 02/04/2019 End: 17:00 02/04/2019

Location: Novotel Glasgow Centre, 181 Pitt Street, Glasgow, G2 4DT

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Struck off

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Allegation

Whilst registered as a Paramedic on 17 July 2018, you were convicted of:

1. Assault, under Section 1 of the Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm (Scotland) Act 2016.

2. Behaving in a threatening way or abusive manner which was likely to cause a reasonable person to suffer fear or alarm, contrary to Section 38(1) of Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2016.

3. By reason of your Conviction as set out at paragraphs 1 and 2, your fitness to practise as a Paramedic is impaired.

Finding

Background

1. The Registrant is registered with the HCPC as a Paramedic. At the time of the matters which are the subject of these proceedings, he was employed by the Scottish Ambulance Service (“the Service”) as a Paramedic. His employment commenced on 6 November 2017.

2. The Registrant was charged with offences of assault and behaving in a threatening way or abusive manner which was likely to cause a reasonable person to suffer fear or alarm, relating to two separate dates in July and September 2017, to which he pleaded not guilty. He was convicted of both offences following a trial on 19 June 2018. At a sentencing hearing on 17 July 2018, the Court imposed a Community Payback Order with 12 months’ Supervision attached and a Non-Harassment Order for a period of 2 years.

3. The Registrant notified the HCPC of his conviction by an email dated 21 June 2018. He was placed by the Service on non-operational duties as an alternative to suspension on 21 August 2018 and was absent due to sickness from 21 August 2018, returning to work on 7 October 2018.

Decision on Facts and Grounds

4. The Panel listened carefully to the evidence provided by the Registrant under Affirmation, and were grateful to him for answering their questions openly and directly. It found that he was clear and consistent in his evidence. The Panel also heard submissions from the Presenting Officer, who was also able to ask the Registrant questions. The Panel received advice from the Legal Assessor, which it applied, and had regard to the bundle of documents provided to it and the HCPTS Practice Notes to which it had been referred, particularly those entitled “Unrepresented Registrants” and “Conviction and Caution Allegations”.

5. The Panel noted that it was obliged to approach the consideration of an allegation sequentially, determining firstly whether the facts set out in the allegation are proved, then whether those facts amount to the statutory ground set out in the allegation and if so, whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired.

6. In determining whether an allegation is “well founded” or “proved”, the Panel was required to decide firstly whether the HCPC, which has the burden of persuasion in relation to the facts alleged, has discharged that burden. It was satisfied that the extract of conviction provided to it by the HCPC, together with the Registrant’s confirmation that he had been convicted of two offences, was sufficient to establish both particulars as proved on the balance of probability.

7. Having found the facts proved, the Panel then considered whether the same, taken individually or collectively, amounted to a statutory ground, as set out within the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001 (‘the Order’) at article 22(1), noting this was entirely a matter for it to determine. The Presenting Officer restricted her submissions to the Panel to the ground of criminal conviction, set out at Article 22(1)(iii) of the Order, stating that the Practice Note issued by the HCPTS in respect of convictions confirmed that an extract of conviction was sufficient evidence of a conviction.

8. The Panel recognised that it was required to provide a decision in sufficient detail for readers to understand why the facts do or do not amount to the ground alleged. It was aware that it could not ‘go behind’ the conviction, though it noted the Registrant’s belief that he had not committed the offences he had been convicted of. He did, however, accept that he had argued with his estranged wife on the dates alleged.

9. The Panel was satisfied that the facts proved in relation to the Registrant (i.e. the conviction) had been proved and did amount to a statutory ground under the Order, namely a conviction or caution. It then moved on to consider whether the Registrant’s fitness to practice is impaired.

Decision on Impairment

10. Evidence had been provided by the Registrant under Affirmation, confirming that he had sought to maintain his competence to practice since his dismissal by the Service through reading journals. He had considered applying for further education with the University of Stirling, but concluded that there was little point until the outcome of these regulatory proceedings was known. The Registrant asserted that it would be easy for him to express remorse for his actions; however, he was certain that he had not done what was alleged, and therefore he maintained his innocence. He referred to the positive report of his skills in his clinical assessment process which had occurred during his application for appointment. He believed that the way he behaved in his personal life was separate to how he behaved in his professional life, though he accepted that issues in a person’s private life could have an impact on their work. He urged the Panel to visit any ambulance station he had been posted to and speak to his colleagues to find out what sort of person he was. He expressed to the Panel that asking his colleagues for testimonials “was not a just process” and, furthermore, he did not want to put colleagues in a difficult position by asking them for testimonials for the purpose of these proceedings.

11. The Presenting Officer submitted that the Registrant was impaired on both the public and private components, and that he demonstrated little, if any, insight into his behaviour, which could be material to the Panel’s consideration as to whether the Registrant’s behaviour was capable of remediation or had been remediated.

12. The Panel reminded itself that the test of impairment is expressed in the present tense in relation to the need to protect the public against the acts and omissions of those who are not fit to practise, but this cannot be achieved without taking account of the way a person has acted or failed to act in the past. Panels may also take account of character evidence.

13. The Panel found both particulars proved and to have amounted to the statutory ground of conviction. It was mindful that a finding of impairment does not automatically follow a finding on that ground. The Panel could properly conclude the offences were isolated incidents and that the chance of repetition in the future is remote. They also noted the guidance in the case of Cohen v GMC that it must be highly relevant when determining impairment that the conduct leading to the allegation is easily remediable, has been remedied, and is highly unlikely to be repeated.

14. The Panel considered the Registrant’s current fitness to practise firstly from the personal perspective and then from the wider public perspective. It was concerned that the Registrant did not appear to understand the gravity of the finding it had made in relation to his conduct. The Panel saw no evidence from the Registrant that he understood that actions within his personal life have consequences in respect to his professional activities and the public’s perception of the profession. The Registrant had not provided any testimonials from colleagues to attest to his clinical practice and character. In addition, whilst he had maintained his knowledge since his dismissal by reading articles, he had not listed these for the Panel or undertaken any reflective work on them.

15. In the Panel’s view, the Registrant demonstrated limited insight into his conduct and did not appear to accept that he had undertaken any behaviour which required remediation.

16. The Panel was satisfied that there was a real risk of the behaviour being repeated, notwithstanding the fact that the relationship had ended, and therefore it found the Registrant to be impaired on the personal aspect of the test for impairment.

17. In considering the public component of impairment, the Panel had regard to the important public policy issues, which include public protection and the need to maintain confidence in the profession and declare and uphold proper standards of conduct and behaviour. It considered that members of the public and members of the profession would be concerned to learn that a Paramedic had been convicted of two offences approximately six weeks apart. Further, in the Panel’s view, the Registrant had not complied with the HCPC Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics, namely:

9.1  You must make sure that your conduct justifies the public’s trust and confidence in you and your profession.
 
9.5  You must tell us as soon as possible if:

– you accept a caution from the police or you have been charged with, or found guilty of, a criminal offence…

The Registrant had not reported that he had been charged with offences at the earliest opportunity, but rather had waited until he had been convicted. It found that the Registrant demonstrated extremely limited awareness of the requirements of the Standards, and also of the Standards of Proficiency for Paramedics, which requires that a registered Paramedic maintain their fitness to practice (Standard 3).

18. The Panel determined that public and professional trust and confidence in the profession, professional standards, and the Regulator would be undermined if a finding of impairment were not made in these circumstances. The Panel concluded that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired on the basis of both the personal and public component for the reasons set out above.

Decision on Sanction

20.  The Registrant was provided with a copy of the Panel’s decision in relation to impairment and afforded time to reflect upon the same. The Panel proceeded to hear from both the Registrant and the Presenting Officer in respect of sanction.

21.  The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel was mindful that the purpose of any sanction is not to punish the Registrant, but to protect the public and the wider public interest. The public interest includes maintaining public confidence in the profession and the HCPC as its regulator by upholding proper standards of conduct and behaviour. 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 severity.

22.  The Panel had regard to the Indicative Sanctions Policy adopted by HCPC and took into account the submissions made by both parties. It identified the following aggravating factors in relation to the Registrant’s conduct:

• the offences related to dates in July 2017 and September 2017;

• there is an absence of insight;

• there is an ongoing risk of repetition;

 And the following mitigating factors:

• he has engaged with the HCPC proceedings;

• no other adverse findings have been recorded against him;

23.  The Panel first considered taking no action. The Panel concluded that in view of the nature of the convictions for a violent offence and the repeated nature of the conduct, and the absence of any insight into the same, to take no action on the Registrant’s registration would be inappropriate. Furthermore, it would be insufficient to protect the public, maintain public confidence, and uphold the reputation of the profession.

24.  The Panel then considered a Caution Order. The Panel noted paragraph 28 of the Indicative Sanctions Policy, which states:

“A caution order is an appropriate sanction for cases, where the lapse is isolated, limited or relatively minor in nature, there is a low risk of recurrence, the registrant has shown insight and taken appropriate remedial action. A caution order should also be considered in cases where the nature of the allegation means that meaningful practice restrictions cannot be imposed but where the registrant has shown insight, the conduct concerned is out of character, the risk of repetition is low and thus suspension from practice would be disproportionate. A caution order is unlikely to be appropriate in cases where the registrant lacks insight.”

25.  The Panel concluded that the Registrant’s actions could not be described as minor in nature or isolated. The Panel noted that, although a Caution Order would be a matter of record, it would not place any restriction on the Registrant’s registration. In view of the Panel’s findings that the Registrant has demonstrated no insight into his conviction, and the risk of repetition, a Caution Order would be inappropriate and insufficient to meet the public interest.

26.  The Panel went on to consider a Conditions of Practice Order. The Panel noted that the Indicative Sanctions Policy states at paragraph 33:

“Conditions will rarely be effective unless the registrant is genuinely committed to resolving the issues they seek to address and can be trusted to make a determined effort to do so. Therefore, conditions of practice are unlikely to be suitable in cases:

• where the registrant… lacks insight or denies any wrongdoing;
• where there are serious or persistent overall failings; or
• which involve dishonesty [or] breach of trust…”

27.  The Panel concluded that, in the circumstances of this case, given the repeated nature of the Registrant’s conduct and the absence of meaningful insight, a Conditions of Practice Order would not adequately address the serious nature of the Registrant’s offending and so would undermine public confidence in the profession and undermine the need to uphold proper standards of conduct and behaviour.

28.  The Panel next considered a Suspension Order. A Suspension Order would send a signal to the Registrant, the profession and the public reaffirming the standards expected of a registered Paramedic and therefore, to that extent, would provide a degree of public protection. However, the Panel noted paragraph 41 of the Indicative Sanction Policy, which states:

“If the evidence suggests that the registrant will be unable to resolve or remedy his or her failings then striking off may be the more appropriate option. However, where there are no psychological or other difficulties preventing the registrant from understanding and seeking to remedy the failings then suspension may be appropriate.”

29.  The Registrant has not demonstrated any insight into his behaviour and its impact and has not taken any remedial action, to the extent that there remains an ongoing risk of repetition. He also appeared to not comprehend the practical aspects of the regulatory procedure, and that he was expected to demonstrate to the Panel that he was not impaired, which was also of concern to the Panel. Despite this being explained to him together with the value of independent information to assist the Panel, the Registrant wished to progress the matter without any adjournment. He had not made any attempts to secure testimonials or maintain his competence via voluntary work or online learning. He had not provided information from his Court-appointed social worker as to his progress or learning with the Community Payback Order, nor had he provided any information in relation to his health insofar as it is relevant either to his behaviour at the time of the offences or in relation to his current fitness to practise.

30.  Therefore, the Panel concluded that whilst it may be possible for the Registrant to demonstrate that he was willing and able to satisfactorily resolve or remediate the behaviour which led to his convictions, the Registrant has not assured the Panel that there was any likelihood that he would move from his stated position of denial. It was therefore not satisfied that a Suspension Order was appropriate in the circumstances and, in any event, it was concerned that such an Order would not satisfy the obligation of the Regulator to promote and protect public safety.

31.  Having determined that a Suspension Order does not meet the wider public interest, the Panel determined that the Registrant’s name should be removed from the Register. A Striking Off Order is a sanction of last resort and should be reserved for cases where there is no other means of protecting the public or the wider public interest. The Panel decided that the Registrant’s case falls into this category. The Registrant’s conduct amounted to a breach of trust and he has failed to take the opportunity to demonstrate the degree of insight necessary to justify a lesser sanction. The Panel does not consider that there is any way to protect the public other than through a Striking Off Order. Any sanction short of a Striking Off Order would fail to declare and uphold proper standards and would fail to maintain public confidence in the profession and the HCPC as its Regulator. The Panel had regard to the consequential impact a Striking Off Order would have on the Registrant, but concluded that his interests were significantly outweighed by the Panel’s duty to give priority to the significant public interest concerns raised by this case.

32.  The Panel decided that the appropriate and proportionate order is a Striking Off Order.

Order

That the Registrar is directed to strike the name of Mr Jaleel Akhtar from the Register on the date this order comes into effect.

Notes

No notes available

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Mr Jaleel Akhtar

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
02/04/2019 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Struck off