Mr Andrew Michael Boyle

Profession: Social worker

Registration Number: SW26342

Hearing Type: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 12/08/2019 End: 17:00 13/08/2019

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

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Suspended

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Allegation

Whilst registered as a Social Worker between approximately September 5 2016 and September 21 2016, you:

  1. Provided false information in your application form for employment with respect to the reason for leaving your position as Residential Service Manager in 2005.
  2. Your actions described in particular 1 were dishonest.
  3. Your actions described in particulars 1 – 2 constitute misconduct.
  4. By reason of your misconduct your fitness to practice is impaired.

Finding

Preliminary Matters


Notice of Hearing


1. The Panel had evidence that Notice of today’s hearing had been sent in the correct form, by the appropriate postal means, to the address shown for the Registrant on the HCPC’s register. In addition, the Notice letter had been sent in sufficient time in advance of the hearing as required.  The Panel had evidence before it of posting by way of a certificate of postage. The Notice letter had also been sent by email to the Registrant at the email address notified by the Registrant to the HCPC. 


2. The Panel, having accepted legal advice, came to the conclusion that Notice had been served within the Rules and that the HCPC had used all reasonable means to make the Registrant aware of this hearing.


Proceeding in the Registrant’s absence


3. The HCPC made an application for this matter to proceed in the Registrant’s absence.  The HCPC stated that it had given Notice in the correct form containing accurate information relating to hearing venue, date and time. The HCPC stated that it had a witness who was in attendance and ready and willing to give evidence. Given that these events took place in 2016, there was public interest in this matter proceeding without delay. In addition, the HCPC drew the Panel’s attention to the Response Proforma: Notice of Allegation Form returned by the Registrant dated 7 December 2018 (December 2018 form), and the Response Pro-forma and Pre-hearing Information Form completed by the Registrant and received by the HCPC on the 3 June 2019 (June 2019 form). In both documents the Registrant indicated that he would not be attending the hearing.


4. In the light of this information the HCPC argued that the Registrant had made an informed decision to voluntarily absent himself. Further, the fact that the Registrant had submitted representations to be placed before the Panel supported this view that he had made a firm decision not to attend the hearing. In addition, the Registrant had not sought an adjournment, and there was no information as to whether he would be willing and able to attend should this matter be adjourned.


5. The Panel noted that, in the Registrant’s representations received by the HCPC on the 28 June 2019, the Registrant had stated:
‘Due to …. [reference to a health issue] and due to the meeting taking place in London I am unable to attend.’


6. The Panel was concerned that the letter of Notice and other documentation before the Panel did not identify options which the Registrant had available to him to participate in this hearing, such as by telephone or video conferencing. The Registrant had also not been made aware of the possibility, if he so requested, of having the hearing relocated closer to him. The Panel was therefore not convinced that the Registrant had made a fully informed decision not to attend but had accepted the position that it may be too difficult for him to attend.


7. The Panel requested that the Registrant be contacted and told of the options available to him. The Hearings Officer sent an email, timed at 11.02, to the Registrant, as it was initially thought that this was the only means the HCPC had of contacting the Registrant. However, after further investigation, a telephone number was found. The Registrant was successfully contacted by telephone by the HCPC Presenting Officer. This conversation was in the presence of the Hearings Officer and the Legal Assessor. In that conversation the Registrant confirmed that he had not been advised previously of alternative ways to participate in the hearing but, on reflection, was content for his representations to stand in his stead. He was asked to confirm this decision by email. The Registrant’s email timed at 11.57 stated:
‘Thank you for the email today offering me other ways in which I can attend the hearing. I am very disappointed that I have only been offered alternative arrangements today. However, after some thought I have decided to ask you to continue with the arrangements which have previously been drawn up.’


8. In view of this further information the Panel considered that the Registrant had made an informed decision to absent himself from the hearing. The Panel was conscious that there was a public interest in this matter proceeding and there was a witness waiting to attend. That being the case, the Panel accepted that nothing further would be gained by adjourning today and so approved the application to proceed in the absence of the Registrant.


Amendment to the Allegation


9. The HCPC made an application to amend the Allegation. The proposed changes were:


• Deletion from particular 1 of the words ‘Provided false information in your application form for employment with respect to the reason for’

• The addition of the words ‘and/or misleading information’ between the words ‘false’ and ‘as’ within particular 1.


Whilst it was accepted by the HCPC that these amendments might be considered to widen the scope of the Allegation, it was argued that this did not cause any injustice to the Registrant. It was stated by the HCPC that these amendments more properly reflected the mischief which it was intended to be captured by the Allegation. It was argued that the amendments were fair in that:


• The Registrant had been on notice of the amendments since the 21 May 2019;

• The Registrant had been given the opportunity to challenge the proposed amendments;

• The Registrant had raised no objection; and

• The Registrant had acknowledged the proposed amendments in his representations in that he had accepted that what he had written had been ‘misleading’ when he stated in the Application Form that he had left his position with the Council in 2005 for a ‘new post’.

10. The Panel sought legal advice on these proposed amendments. In that advice the Legal Assessor referred to the case of HCPC -v- Ireland and Ma [2015] where it was acknowledged that a Panel of the Conduct and Competence Committee of the HCPC (now HCPTS) had no statutory power to amend the Allegation and that a panel should, where there was a substantial alteration or widening of the Allegation, refer the matter back to a Panel of the Investigating Committee. That advice went on to highlight that there remained a common law principle on which the Panel could rely. This principle allowed slight amendments which better described or further aided clarification of what was alleged. However these amendments should not cause any prejudice to the Registrant.

11. The Panel considered this matter carefully and came to the conclusion that the proposed amendments did better reflect the matters which had been identified and had formed the basis of the referral to the HCPC.

12. The Panel noted that the Registrant has had the opportunity to consider this matter following notification of the intention to amend. The Panel considered that the proposed amendment did not cause the Registrant any prejudice as it arose out of the same matters and the same actions which had previously been identified as the core of the Allegation and therefore were not new.

13. The Panel therefore decided that it would approve the application and make the amendments.

Background

14. The Registrant was employed by Stoke-on-Trent City Council (the Council) from July 1995 until March 2005 as a Residential Services Manager until he was dismissed for gross misconduct. He obtained employment at the Council again in September 2016 as a Level 9 Learning Pathways Coordinator within the Education Department. This role did not require his registration as a Social Worker. However, as a Registered Social Worker, he remained subject to the terms of the HCPTS’s standards of conduct, performance and ethics.

15. On his Application Form for the role of Learning Pathways Coordinator in 2016 the Registrant stated his reason for leaving his previous role at the Council as a Residential Services Manager in 2005 was for a ‘new post’. However, according to the Council’s records, the Registrant had been suspended on 11 June 2004 and dismissed for gross misconduct on 2 March 2005.

16. Once employed in his new role as a Learning Pathways Coordinator, the Registrant was recognised by a colleague who had worked with him prior to the Registrant’s dismissal in 2005. The colleague contacted the Human Resources Department and reported his concern that the Registrant had gained employment with the Council again in 2016. Those concerns were investigated by Mr Dylan Harrison in his role as the Council’s Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO).

17. Following a meeting with the Human Resources Department on 12 September 2016, the Registrant was suspended from duty on 13 September 2016. The Registrant tendered his resignation on 21 September 2016.

18. Mr Dylan Harrison, on behalf of the Council, advised the HCPC of the findings of his investigation which forms the basis of the Allegation faced by the Registrant at this hearing.

Evidence


19. The Panel had before it a bundle of documents prepared and relied upon by the HCPC. Within that bundle the Panel had (amongst other things) copies of:

a) Letter of 10 December 2004 from the Council to the Registrant in which:

• It was noted that the Registrant had chosen not to attend a disciplinary investigation meeting.

• That the Registrant had resigned and that his 3 months’ notice period would come to an end on 3 March 2005.

• That the disciplinary process would continue, and a hearing had been arranged for 6 January 2005.


b) Letter of 18 January 2005 from the Council to Unison in which it is recorded that, notwithstanding representations from Unison, the decision had been made to continue with the disciplinary process. In that letter it is recorded that:


• Unison were of the view that the Registrant and another employee had found themselves in a position of being ‘forced to resign from their jobs’.


• The Registrant had not attended the investigation meetings arranged by an external consultant brought into investigate.


• That the disciplinary hearing would take place on 24 January 2005.


c) Letter dated 4 March 2005 from the Council to the Registrant which recorded:


• That the disciplinary hearing had taken place over a 2-day period of 24 January 2005 and 1 March 2005.


• That the Registrant had been dismissed from his post for gross misconduct with immediate effect from 2 March 2005 which was 1 day before the expiry of his notice period.


• Application form submitted by the Registrant dated 13 July 2016 on which:


• Within Section A of this form, the Registrant declared that ‘all the information I have provided is true, and I have not canvassed a member/employee of the Council, directly or indirectly, in connection with this application and further to that will not do so.’


• Within Section B relating to ‘Previous employment’ the following details, set out here in chronological order:


i. July 1995 to March 2005 employed by the Council. Reason for leaving ‘New Post’.


ii. March 2005 to December 2009 employed by a community school. Reason for leaving ‘New Job’.


iii. December 2009 to June 2013 employed by a Charitable Trust. Reason for leaving ‘New Job’.


iv. June 2013 to June 2014 stated as being ‘self-employed’. Reason for leaving ‘New Post’.


• In relation to the section entitled ‘Present/Last Employment’ the Registrant listed his employment from June 2014 to the date of application to be within an educational Academy. His response to the question ‘Reason for leaving/wanting to leave’ was ‘Current employment’.


20. The Panel also received at the Hearing copies of the response Pro Formas previously referred to as the December 2018 form and the June 2019 form.


21. The HCPC relied upon the statement and live evidence of Mr Dylan Harrison who, as stated above, was the Council’s LADO at the material time. Mr Harrison had been given a focused role which in his statement was described as ‘…to gather information to understand how the Registrant had been able to continue working with vulnerable children and adults so that we could prevent him from doing so’.


22. Mr Harrison’s investigation had been undertaken on the paperwork available to him. This included him reviewing the Registrant’s Personnel files which he recalled were 2 large volumes. He told the Panel that his investigation had established that the Council had no procedure at that time for recording historic disciplinary outcomes.


23. The Panel found Mr Harrison to be a credible witness who sought to be helpful, albeit his evidence was limited by the fact that he had not interviewed the Registrant as part of his investigation. In his statement and his live evidence he acknowledged that he had not subsequently had access to those files on which he had based his findings and so he was relying on his memory. He did however demonstrate a clear recollection of most events, including the fact that he had checked the accuracy of all the details supplied by the Registrant in his 2016 Application Form. Further, he recalled clearly his discussion with the managing director of the Charitable Trust that the Registrant had worked for from December 2009 to June 2013 and that he had been told the Registrant had ‘been asked to leave’ whereas the Registrant had given the reason for leaving on the application as ‘new job’.


24. The Registrant had submitted written representations. In support of his contention within those representations that he believed his departure from the Council in 2016 had been on amicable terms, he supplied a copy of a letter from the Council’s Human Resources Department dated 18 October 2016, in which his resignation of the 21 September 2016 was acknowledged; the Registrant’s contribution in his role within the Learning Pathways Team noted; and administrative matters relating to his departure set out. The Registrant stated that he considered that this was the end of the matter and had been surprised by the subsequent referral to the HCPC. He also stated that he would have allowed his registration to lapse if he had been permitted to do so.


The Registrant’s position on the Allegation


25. It was noted at this stage that the Registrant in his Pro Forma responses admitted the Allegation.


26. In the December 2018 form, he wrote ‘Yes’ next to the question ‘Do you admit the facts alleged against you, as set out in the Notice of Allegation’. This admission was to the Allegation as then drafted; that is, that his statement ‘new post’ had been false.


27. In relation to the June 2019 form, the Registrant in response to the question ‘Do you admit the facts alleged against you, as set out in the Notice of Allegation sent on 21 May 2019 in its entirety?’ he stated ‘Yes – I admit to not being open about the dismissal from the Council’.


28. In this regard the Panel noted that the Registrant may not have appreciated that the particular relating to dishonesty was a finding of fact. The Panel therefore considered his response could not be relied upon to mean that he also admitted to particular 2 in relation to dishonesty.


Panel Findings on Fact


29. Before the Panel sets out its finding on fact it confirms that it has had regard to the fact that the burden of proof is on the HCPC to prove the Allegation to the requisite standard, namely the civil standard of balance of probabilities. There is no burden on the Registrant to disprove anything although, as stated above, the Panel noted his position. The Panel has taken account of the Legal Assessor’s advice in undertaking its task.


30. Particular 1 - Found proven as being false and misleading.


The evidence before the Panel was supported by the statement and live evidence of Mr Dylan Harrison.  Mr Harrison confirmed that the Council had failed to identify the fact that the Registrant had previously been dismissed for gross misconduct when he submitted his Application Form. In his opinion, the Registrant should have been open and honest about the reason why he had left the Council in 2005. Mr Harrison was also of the view that, had such a disclosure been made, the Registrant would not have been successful in his application to join the Learning Pathways Team.


31. The Panel accepted the Registrant’s admissions made in his responses on the December 2018 and the June 2019 forms.  The Panel also noted the admission made in his written representations that he had consciously written ‘New Post’, through ‘sensitivity and embarrassment of the previous history’ and that he acknowledged that this was ‘misleading’. 


32. The Panel considered that it was possible that the Registrant had sought further employment in early 2005 having first, tendered his resignation and, secondly, anticipated the outcome of any disciplinary hearing.  In the Panel’s view it was possible for the Registrant to have successfully secured a new post before the end of his notice period. It was therefore possible for his description of leaving for a ‘New Post’ to be considered accurate in this context. The HCPC did not provide any evidence on this point.


33. However, in the Panel’s view, what was written on the Application Form was false in that it omitted pertinent information concerning the reason for his leaving the post. 


34. The Panel accepts that describing the reason for leaving as ‘New Post’ was misleading in that it gave an impression which was at variance with the true situation, which was that the Registrant had been the subject of a disciplinary process and was summarily dismissed, albeit only one day before his resignation took effect.


The Panel finds this particular made out on the evidence before it.


35.  Allegation 2 - Dishonesty found proven


The Panel noted and accepted the Legal Assessor’s advice on the correct application and interpretation of the decision in Ivey -v- Genting Casinos [2017].


36. The Panel noted the Registrant’s statement that, whilst he appreciated that the information supplied in the Application Form was misleading, he had anticipated that this issue would be explored by the Human Resources Department at interview. This assumption by the Registrant had the effect of placing the burden upon the Council to raise the issue at interview. In the Panel’s view it was not a reasonable expectation that it was the Council’s responsibility to raise this matter at interview instead of the Registrant being open and honest in his application or at interview. The Panel was of the view that the Registrant’s expectation in this regard revealed his understanding that the information regarding his dismissal was relevant to the Council’s consideration as to his suitability for employment.


37. The Registrant states that he was ‘sensitive and embarrassed of the previous history’ to disclose his dismissal. However, that does not remove the need for openness, honesty and candour. The Registrant admits that he knew he should have disclosed this information. The fact that the Registrant then allowed the deception to continue was clearly for his benefit.
38. In the Panel’s view the Registrant knew that what he was doing was dishonest at the time he did it. However, even if at the time of filling in the Application Form the Registrant had not believed his actions to be dishonest, in the Panel’s view his actions would, objectively, still be considered as dishonest by ordinary members of the public. The Panel therefore finds the allegation of dishonesty proven.


Ground - misconduct.


39. The Panel appreciates that at this stage in the proceedings there is no burden on the HCPC. It is a matter for the judgment of the Panel as to whether the matters found proven, together or individually, constitute misconduct. In reaching its decision the Panel has taken into account the guidance issued by the HCPTS in its Practice Note entitled ‘Finding fitness to practise is impaired’ and the terms of the HCPTS Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics current at the time of these events.


40. The Panel noted the HCPC’s submissions that these matters were serious and showed a lack of integrity, openness and honesty. It was argued that the Registrant’s actions were in breach of the following Standard:


Standard 9: Be honesty and trustworthy.


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


9.2 You must be honest about your experience, qualifications and skills.


41.   It was submitted that the Registrant’s actions had fallen well below that expected of a registered Social Worker and his lack of honesty had brought him and his profession into disrepute.


42.   The Panel noted the Registrant’s explanation that his dismissal in 2005 was related to his acting ‘in effect as a whistle-blower’. This was given by the Registrant as part of his reason for his unwillingness to disclose the reasons for his dismissal. The Panel explored this explanation of the previous history of events with Mr Harrison. Mr Harrison stated that as part of his on-paper investigation he had reviewed the Registrant’s personnel file. He recalled it was two large volumes of papers. He stated that he had not found any reference in these files to the Registrant’s instigation or involvement in whistleblowing activities. The Panel has therefore, taken the matter as far as it could, and in the absence of direct testimony from the Registrant, is unable to place much weight upon this contextual explanation for his actions.


43.  The Panel considered that the Registrant’s actions, as identified in particular 1, were in breach of the provisions of Standard 9. The Panel appreciated that a breach of the standards did not automatically equate with a finding of misconduct. However it considered that the Registrant’s actions had been for his benefit in securing a position that he may not have otherwise been considered eligible for. His continued deception had ensured that he retained that benefit. The Panel noted that the Registrant had asserted that his action in not disclosing the true reasons for his previous departure from the Council arose from his sensitivity and embarrassment. In the Panel’s view this was not the main reason for his deception. His actions were essentially intended for personal gain.


44.    In relation to the finding of dishonesty in particular 2, the Panel considers that the public would rightly be concerned by the Registrant’s actions. The public is entitled to rely upon the honesty and integrity of regulated professionals. The Panel considers that the Registrant’s actions were unworthy of a registered Social Worker.


45.   The Panel has therefore concluded that the matters found proven amount to misconduct.


Impairment


46.    In undertaking its task of determining whether there is current impairment, the Panel is considering the information before it to assess whether, as of today, the Registrant is fit to practise without some form of restriction upon his registration. In this regard the Panel is considering two aspects. The personal and the public components.


47.    In relation to the personal component the Panel is assessing whether the Registrant’s actions are capable of remedy, have been remedied, and whether there is a likelihood of a repetition of that misconduct. In relation to the latter the Panel has taken into account the Registrant’s view of the events which gave rise to the finding of misconduct.


48.    In his representations the Registrant accepts that what he did was wrong and expresses remorse and an apology when he states:


‘I would like to apologise for the time wasted with the Local Authority and the HCPC and express my deepest regrets. I have learned much from this experience going forward.’


49. The Registrant, however, also gives reasons and explanations for his conduct which distance him from total responsibility and culpability. Thus, he seeks to justify his failure to observe the duty of candour in suggesting that he expected the issue of his previous dismissal to be raised by the Human Resources department if it was of concern.


50. The HCPC submitted that the absence of any evidence of remediation from the Registrant must raise concerns about the possibility of future repetition. In this regard it was stated that dishonesty is arguably difficult to remedy and to evidence such remediation. The fact that there appeared to be more than one inaccuracy within the Application form was of concern, as was the fact that Mr Harrison was unable to refer the Panel to any evidence of whistleblowing activities associated with the Registrant. The HCPC thus contended that the Panel should consider the matters asserted within the Registrant’s representations with some degree of caution. 


51. The Registrant has stated that, due to a variety of factors, he has not undertaken any work since these events in 2016 which required his registration as a Social Worker. There is no evidence that he has learnt from this situation, nor has he provided any evidence of reflection relating to his dishonesty nor any testimonials.  In the absence of such evidence the Panel has concluded that there is a risk of repetition and that on the personal element of its decision there is current impairment.


52. In relation to the public component the Panel accepts that any finding which involves dishonesty will naturally be a matter of public concern and will undermine the public confidence in the profession. It also impacts on public protection in that the public must be able to rely on the honesty of registered social workers in the context of enabling safe recruitment by employers. Further, honesty is a fundamental tenet of social work practice and a finding of dishonesty undermines the reliance that the public can place on the integrity and reliability of that professional. This being the case the Panel makes a finding of impairment in the public interest.


Sanction


53. At this stage in the proceedings the Panel was at liberty to consider all information before it. The Panel appreciated that its primary duty was one of public protection. In achieving this the Panel was balancing the interests of the Registrant with those of service users and the wider public interest.


54.  The Panel appreciated that sanctions are not intended to be a punishment for a registrant’s past misconduct. However, a sanction may result in having a punitive impact on the registrant. Sanctions may also act as a deterrent to other registrants.


55. The Panel should apply the least restrictive sanction that would provide the appropriate and proportionate level of public protection. In undertaking this task the Panel took into account the terms of the current Sanctions Policy. It also accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.


56. The Panel noted the HCPC’s representations, which suggested that having found that there had been serious dishonesty the Panel may wish to consider a sanction at the upper end of the range available to it. In support, the HCPC directed the Panel to the following sections of the Sanctions Policy.


o Paragraph 57 which states:


Dishonesty, both in and outside the workplace, can have a significant impact on the trust placed in those who have been dishonest and potentially on public safety. It is likely to lead to more serious sanctions.


o Paragraph 58 which states that


Given the seriousness of the dishonesty, cases are likely to result in more serious sanctions. However, panels should bear in mind that there are different forms and different degrees of dishonesty that need to be considered in an appropriately nuanced way. Factors that panels should take into account in this regard include:


• Whether the relevant behaviour took the form of a single act, or occurred on multiple occasions;


• the duration of any dishonesty;


• whether the registrant took a passive or active role in it;


• any early admission of dishonesty on the registrant’s behalf; and


• any other relevant mitigating factors.


o Paragraph 121 which states:
That a suspension order is likely to be appropriate where there are serious concerns which cannot be reasonably addressed by a conditions of practice order, but which do not require the registrant to be struck off the register. These types of cases will typically exhibit the following factors:


• The concerns represent a serious breach of the Standards of conduct performance and ethics;


• the registrant has insight;


• the issues are unlikely to be repeated; and


• there is evidence to suggest the registrant is likely to be able to resolve or remedy their failings.


o Paragraph 131 which states:


A striking off order is likely to be appropriate where the nature and gravity of the concerns are such that any lesser sanction would be insufficient to protect the public, public confidence in the profession, and public confidence in the regulatory process. In particular where the registrant:


• Lacks insight;


• continues to repeat the misconduct or


• is unwilling to resolve matters.


58. The Panel, as advised, identified the following mitigating and aggravating factors in reaching its decision.


Mitigating factors


• The Registrant has apologised.


• The Registrant made an early admission of his actions and immediately resigned from his role as Learning Pathways Coordinator.


• The Registrant made an early admission and accepted the HCPC Allegation.


• There is no record of any previous Fitness to Practise investigations.


• The Registrant has engaged with the HCPC process.


• There is no evidence of any actual service user harm or detrimental impact to service users.


   Aggravating factors


• The dishonesty was serious and was committed for personal gain.


• It was a premeditated act of dishonesty.


• The dishonesty was persistent in that the Registrant maintained the deception throughout the application process and during his employment.


• There was a lack of meaningful remediation.


• There was limited evidence of insight.


59. The Panel started its deliberations by considering whether this was a case in which it was appropriate for the Panel to take no further action, or to apply mediation. Given the seriousness of the Registrant’s breach of the Standard relating to being honest and trustworthy, the Panel concluded that this level of sanction was neither appropriate nor proportionate.


60. The Panel considered whether a Caution Order would provide an appropriate level of public and service user protection.  In this regard the Panel took note of the policy which stated such a measure is appropriate in cases where:


• The issue is isolated, limited or relatively minor in nature;


• There is a low risk of repetition;


• The registrant has shown good insight; and


• The registrant has undertaken appropriate remediation.


61.    The Panel considered that whilst the Registrant had evidenced some insight into his actions there was no evidence that he was taking steps to further develop that insight. The Panel has concluded that there remained a risk of repetition as there is no evidence of remediation. This being the case, the Panel decided that this level of sanction was not proportionate nor appropriate.


62.     In relation to the imposition of a conditions of practice order the Panel took into account the statement made by the Registrant that, if he had been allowed, he would have permitted his registration to lapse. He has provided the Panel with no information as to whether he has been working recently as a social worker or whether he has maintained his skills and knowledge. Neither is there any indication that he would be able or willing to comply with any conditions of practice if it were possible to formulate any that are appropriate. Moreover, a finding of dishonesty does not normally support the imposition of conditions of practice, which should focus on addressing the misconduct identified. The Panel therefore concluded that a conditions of practice order was neither appropriate nor reflective of the seriousness of the misconduct.


63.     In deciding whether to impose a suspension order the Panel considered whether the Registrant’s actions were fundamentally incompatible with the Registrant remaining on the register. In her advice the Legal Assessor identified the case of Parkinson -v- NMC [2010] in which it was stated that a Registrant found guilty of serious dishonesty was at risk of forfeiting the opportunity to remain on the register by failing to engage in the regulatory process. The Panel was able in this instance to distinguish that case from this matter, as there was evidence of active engagement by the Registrant in the HCPC process, albeit he has chosen to absent himself from this hearing.


64.   In reaching its decision that a suspension order is, in this case, the appropriate and proportionate measure, the reasons which supported the Panel’s decision are that:


• the Registrant has engaged with the HCPC process;


• it is a single episode of dishonesty;


• there is evidence of insight, albeit limited;


• there was an early admission and acceptance of wrongdoing on the part of the Registrant;


• there was no evidence of any harm or detriment caused to service users.


65.      By applying a suspension order rather than a striking off order, the Panel has provided the Registrant with the opportunity to demonstrate remediation of his misconduct which this Panel considers is not impossible in this case.


66.     In confirming its decision, the Panel gave consideration as to whether the matter was so serious as to require the imposition of a striking off order. In all the circumstances of this case the Panel determined that such an order would be disproportionate at this time and that a suspension order of 12 months would provide adequate protection for the public, reflect the seriousness of the case, and would also be in the wider public interest.


67.  The Panel considered that a suspension order of any period less than 12 months would not provide the Registrant with sufficient time to demonstrate remediation and full insight.  However, if the Registrant were to seek an early review of the Suspension Order the Panel, in accordance with Article 29(7)(b) of the Health & Social Work Professions Order 2001 (as amended), this Panel directs that such review cannot take place less than six months from the date the Suspension Order becomes operative.


68.    In imposing this level of sanction, the Panel turned its consideration as to what information a future reviewing panel might find of assistance at a review. Without seeking to bind a future panel this Panel considers that the following information from the Registrant may be of help:


• A full reflective statement that demonstrates insight into his dishonesty, the impact that dishonest conduct by a social worker may have on service users, employers and the profession, and the paramount importance of honesty and integrity in all aspects of a social worker’s conduct.


• The Registrant may also wish to submit testimonials to a future review panel that attest to his good character, honesty and integrity.

 

Order

Order:


The Registrar is directed to suspend the registration of Mr Andrew Boyle for a period of 12 months from the date this order comes into effect. 

Notes

A hearing was held in London on 12-13 August 2019 at which a Suspension order was imposed.

Interim Order:


The Panel received an application to consider the imposition of an interim order to cover the appeal period. In making this application the HCPC highlighted the fact that the Registrant had been put on notice that this was an issue that may be considered and that the Panel had already directed its mind to the issue of proceeding in the Registrant’s absence at the start of this hearing.


69. The HCPC made the application on the basis that the Panel has made a finding of serious dishonesty and found it necessary to impose a substantive suspension order. Further in imposing that substantive order the Panel has made a finding that there is the possibility of a repetition of that dishonest behaviour. The application was for an interim suspension order for the maximum period of 18 months.


70. Before considering the application, the Panel directed its mind to the issue of fairness in considering this matter in the Registrant’s absence and without him therefore having an opportunity to make further representations. In this regard the Panel noted that in the Notice of hearing letter dated 7 June 2019 the Registrant had been put on notice that this Panel may be required to consider the issue of an interim application.


71. The Panel being satisfied that the Registrant was on notice went on to consider afresh whether it would proceed in the Registrant’s absence. In reaching its initial decision to proceed the Panel had gone to some length to ensure that the Registrant’s absence was a fully informed decision. That decision not to attend persisted and there was no evidence that the Registrant had reconsidered or would reconsider that decision. The Panel therefore decided that it would proceed with consideration of the application in the Registrant’s absence.


72. The Panel in considering this application for an interim order took into a account the Legal Assessor’s advice, the guidance issued by the HCPTS and the HCPC’s representations as outlined above.


73. The Panel noted from the HCPC presentation that there was no interim order currently in place. The Panel therefore considered carefully what changed circumstances there are that would necessitate the imposition of such an order now. The Panel in its consideration of whether an order was necessary for public protection or required in the wider public interest took account of the fact that the Allegation has now been tested and there has been a finding of dishonesty and the potential for repetition. In the absence of evidence of remediation the likelihood of that repetition remained a concern. This being the case, the Panel considered that the position now necessitated and required some form of order for public protection and public interest. If such an order were not imposed the Registrant would be at liberty to return to practice during the time required to complete the appeal.


74. Having come to the conclusion that an order was necessary for public protection and the wider public, the Panel considered whether it could draft conditions of practice that would provide the requisite level of public protection during the appeal period. Given the lack of any information to support the efficacy or appropriateness of such an order the Panel came to the decision that it was unable to draft any conditions that would be practicable, workable and enforceable.


75. The Panel has therefore concluded that it is appropriate and proportionate to impose an interim suspension order for the maximum period of 18 months.

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Mr Andrew Michael Boyle

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
12/08/2019 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended