Mrs Myriam Ghislaine Bamkin

Profession: Social worker

Registration Number: SW40412

Hearing Type: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 01/08/2019 End: 17:00 01/08/2019

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

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Struck off

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Allegation

On 29th May 2018 at Nottingham Crown Court, whilst registered as a Social Worker, you were convicted of:

1) Indecent assault on male

2) By reason of your conviction, as set out at particular 1, your fitness to practise is impaired.

Finding

Preliminary Matters

1. The Registrant, Mrs Myriam Bamkin, has neither attended this hearing nor been represented.

Service

2. The Panel is satisfied that a letter dated 13 May 2019, addressed to the Registrant at the address provided by her for HCPC Register purposes, satisfied the service requirement.

Proceeding in absence

3. After the Panel stated that it was satisfied that there was good service of a Notice of Hearing, Ms Hollos, on behalf of the HCPC, applied for a direction that the case should proceed in the absence of the Registrant. Ms Hollos informed the Panel that an earlier hearing of the allegation on 5 April 2019 had been adjourned as it was believed that the Registrant wished to attend the hearing, but that her ability to do so was inhibited by the fact that she was serving a prison sentence. Subsequent to this adjournment, the Registrant was sent a ‘Response Pro-Forma and Pre Hearing Information Form’ with the request that she should complete and return it. The Registrant did in fact complete this document and return it, together with a handwritten statement dated 1 May 2019. In her statement, she stated, “I will not be attending a hearing as I have nothing to add.”

4. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and had regard to the factors identified in the relevant HCPTS Practice Note. The Panel acknowledged that the Registrant would be very likely to be still detained in prison. Having carefully considered the matter, the Panel concluded that the hearing should proceed in the absence of the Registrant. The reasons for this decision were as follows:

• The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant knew that the present hearing was scheduled to take place. In addition to the notice of hearing letter dated 13 May 2019 sent to the Registrant’s HCPC Register address, on the same day a letter was also sent to the Registrant at HMP New Hall, where she was detained. Notification of the hearing was sent at the same time to her known email address.

• As already stated, on 1 May 2019 the Registrant wrote that she did not intend to attend a hearing of the HCPC’s allegation. There was no suggestion that the Registrant had sought to attend the hearing under escort, by videolink, or telephone;

• The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant had voluntarily decided not to participate in the hearing to any greater extent than she had done by sending her letter dated 1 May 2019;

• There were no grounds on which the Panel could conclude that the Registrant would be likely to attend a hearing on a future occasion in the event of the hearing again being adjourned;

• The Registrant had had the opportunity to advance her case in writing, and had taken advantage of that opportunity;

• In all these circumstances, the public interest in the hearing continuing outweighed any disadvantage arising from the Registrant’s absence.

Background

5. The Registrant is a Social Worker. From 2001 she was employed by Nottinghamshire County Council as a team manager in the Fostering Team at Ashfield. In May 2016, the County Council referred concerns to the HCPC arising out of an ongoing police investigation. It took some time for the criminal proceedings that followed to reach a conclusion.

6. It is the HCPC’s case that on 29 May 2018, she appeared at the Crown Court at Nottingham and pleaded guilty to one count of indecent assault on a male. The offence occurred in or around 1984-1985. At that time the Registrant was working as a residential Social Worker at a secure unit at Amberdale Observation and Assessment Unit (the secure unit). The offence related to a single incident when the Registrant had sexual intercourse with a 15-year-old resident at the secure unit. The incident took place in the gym shortly before the service user’s 16th birthday. It was contended that for some months before the act of intercourse, the Registrant had indulged in grooming behaviour. In his sentencing remarks the judge referred to the Registrant’s behaviour as “grooming” and stated that, “on any view you seduced him.”

7. On 1 June 2018, the Registrant was sentenced to 30 months’ imprisonment and her name was placed on the Sex Offenders Register for life.

Decision on Facts and Ground

8. As the HCPC’s allegation is one that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired by the conviction, the factual issue the HCPC is required to prove is also the statutory ground.

9. The Panel is satisfied that the fact of the conviction has been proved by the HCPC. In addition to the Certificate of Conviction dated 13 June 2018, the Panel has been provided with a transcript of the sentencing remarks. Furthermore, although she questions the factual basis underpinning the conviction, in her statement dated 1 May 2019, the Registrant has not questioned the fact of the conviction.

Decision on Impairment

10. The Panel heeded the advice of the Legal Assessor and the guidance in the relevant HCPTS Practice Note, and considered the issue of current impairment of fitness to practise from the point of view of both the personal and public components.

11. In relation to the personal component, the Panel accepted that, after the incident reflected in the conviction, the Registrant had had an unblemished career and had been a valued Social Worker. The Panel also paid close attention to the Registrant’s statement dated 1 May 2019. Ordinarily a guilty plea to a criminal allegation will demonstrate acceptance of wrongdoing. However, the consequence of the Registrant’s statement is that it has not been possible for her guilty plea to result in such a finding by the Panel. Not only does the Registrant contest the facts underpinning the conviction, but more tellingly, in her statement she does not acknowledge that what happened even on her own version of events was grossly wrong and likely to result in considerable harm to an extremely vulnerable service user. The fact that many years have passed since the event occurred, the unblemished career since it occurred, and the deterrent effect imposed by the Crown Court of the sentence imposed on the Registrant, will all have the consequence of reducing the risk of repetition. However, the Panel has concluded that the personal component of impaired fitness to practise is demonstrated by the absence of any acceptance of wrongdoing or of insight into the impact on the young service user.

12. So far as the public component is concerned, the Panel has come to the clear view that fair-minded and fully informed members of the public would view with dismay the prospect of a Social Worker who has been convicted of so serious an offence, and who is registered on the Sex Offenders Register being permitted to practise without restriction. A finding of current impairment of fitness to practise is required to reflect this fact and also to declare and uphold proper standards of behaviour and maintain public confidence in the profession.

13. The consequence of these findings is that Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired. The Panel must therefore proceed to consider the issue of sanction.

Decision on Sanction

14. After the Panel announced its decision that the allegation is well founded, Ms Hollos, on behalf of the HCPC, made submissions on sanction. She identified that, although the Registrant might be released from prison on licence at an earlier date, her sentence will not be completed until 1 December 2020, and that she will be registered on the Sex Offenders Register indefinitely. Ms Hollos also made submissions as to the proper approach to the imposition of a sanction and identified relevant sections of the HCPC’s Sanctions Policy. She did not, however, make a positive submission on behalf of the HCPC that the Panel should impose a particular sanction.

15. The Panel had regard to the HCPC’s Sanctions Policy. It approached its decision by accepting that a sanction is not to be imposed with the intention of punishing a registrant against whom findings have been made. Rather, a sanction is only to be imposed to the extent that it is required to protect the public, to maintain a proper degree of confidence in the registered profession, and to declare and uphold proper professional standards. To ensure that these principles are applied, it is initially necessary for a panel to decide whether any sanction is required. If a sanction is required, then the available sanctions are to be considered in an ascending order of seriousness until one that sufficiently addresses the appropriate level of sanction is reached. In this particular case, the entire sanction range up to and including striking off is available. The Panel has adopted this approach in making its decision.

16. The Panel first identified mitigating and aggravating factors.

17. In the Registrant’s favour, the Panel accepted that she had not repeated the behaviour reflected by the conviction and that she had been a valued Social Worker who had an otherwise unblemished career over many years.

18. However, in the judgement of the Panel, the positive features just identified were dwarfed by the very grave aggravating factors. The service user she abused was young and came from a difficult background. He was resident in a secure unit where the Registrant had control over privileges he might be permitted to enjoy. Accordingly, the Registrant committed a very serious breach of trust involving a vulnerable service user. She has demonstrated a lack of insight and has failed to express remorse or acknowledge wrongdoing. There is also an absence of recognition of the long-term impact her behaviour would be very likely to have on the boy concerned.

19. The Panel concluded that this was a case far too serious to result in no sanction being imposed. Furthermore, a Caution Order would not be sufficient to reflect the seriousness of the matter, nor would a Conditions of Practice Order be appropriate given the very serious nature of the conviction giving rise to these proceedings.

20. The Panel next considered whether a Suspension Order would be a sufficient sanction. The conclusion of the Panel is that it would not.  The nature of the Registrant’s conduct was so serious as to be fundamentally incompatible with continued registration as a Social Worker.

21. The Panel has concluded that the proportionate and necessary sanction is a Striking Off order. In the judgement of the Panel no lesser sanction would properly reflect the very grave nature of the offence and, accordingly, would not sufficiently maintain public confidence and uphold proper professional standards.

Order

The Registrar is directed to strike the name of Mrs Myriam Ghislaine Bamkin from the Register on the date this order comes into effect.

Notes

The Panel makes an Interim Suspension Order under Article 31(2) of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001, the same being necessary to protect members of the public and being otherwise in the public interest.

This order will expire: (if no appeal is made against the Panel’s decision and Order) upon the expiry of the period during which such an appeal could be made; (if an appeal is made against the Panel’s decision and Order) the final determination of that appeal, subject to a maximum period of 18 months.

Reasons for making the Interim Order

1. The Panel was satisfied that by the Notice of Hearing letters dated 13 May 2019, the Registrant was put on notice that in the event of a Striking Off Order being made, the making of an Interim Suspension Order was a matter that might be considered. Accordingly, the Registrant was given an opportunity to make representations on the issue of the Interim Order application.

2. The Panel has approached the issue on the basis that it accepts that the default position established by the legislation is that when a substantive sanction is imposed, there is no restriction on a registrant’s ability to practise until their appeal rights have expired.

3. However, the Panel is satisfied that in the present case an Interim Order is necessary to protect the public and is otherwise in the public interest. So serious is the matter that the public would be dismayed by the prospect of the Registrant being permitted to practise as a Social Worker while she can consider whether to appeal, and pending the final resolution of any appeal she might make.

4. There are no Conditions of Practise that can be imposed on an interim basis that would allay the public concerns just expressed. Accordingly, the Panel is satisfied that an Interim Suspension Order is required. The appropriate length of that Interim Order is 18 months, given the length of time any appeal made by the Registrant might take to be finally concluded.

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Mrs Myriam Ghislaine Bamkin

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
01/08/2019 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Struck off