Miss Martina Sarah Parr

Profession: Social worker

Registration Number: SW18333

Hearing Type: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 11/02/2019 End: 17:00 13/02/2019

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

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Caution

Please note that the decision can take up to 5 working days to be uploaded onto the HCPTS website. Please contact one of our Hearings Team Managers via tsteam@hcpts-uk.org or +44 (0)808 164 3084 if you require any further information.

 

Allegation

Whilst registered as a Social Worker with the Health and Care Professions Council:

1.On 17 May 2015 at East Lancashire Magistrates’ Court you were convicted of driving a motor vehicle after consuming so much alcohol that the proportion of it in your breath exceeded the prescribed limit, contrary to section 5(1)(a) of the Road Traffic Act 1988 and Schedule 2 to the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988;

2.By reason of your conviction your fitness to practice is impaired.


3.Between 17 May 2015 and 17 March 2017, you did not advise the HCPC of your conviction as set out in paragraph 1.

4.On or around 4 November 2016, you allowed your HCPC online renewal form to be completed by another individual.


5.You did not check that the information provided around your character was true and accurate before it was submitted.


6.You allowed the online renewal form to be submitted without the change in your good character resulting from your conviction being declared.


7.Your actions set out in paragraphs 3, 5 and 6 were dishonest.


8.The matters set out in paragraphs 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 constitute misconduct.


9.By reason of your misconduct in paragraphs 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 your fitness to practise is impaired.

Finding

Preliminary Matters

Amendment of the allegation

1.Mr Dite applied to amend the dates referred to in paragraphs 1 and 3 of the allegation from 17 May 2015, which was in fact the date of the incident leading to the conviction, to 04 June 2015, the date of the conviction by the Court.  Mr Dite submitted the amendments were typographical in nature and that no prejudice would be caused to the Registrant by the amendments. 

2.The Registrant accepted that the amendments should be made.

3.The Panel took advice from the Legal Assessor and accepted that the changes were minor and typographical errors, and there was no objection from the Registrant.    It was satisfied that it was fair and in the interests of justice for the amendments to the dates to be made.
  
Documentation

4.The Panel received the HCPC hearing bundle, numbered pages 1-76, a small bundle of correspondence concerning service and written submissions on behalf of the HCPC.

5.The Panel received documents from the Registrant, namely, an email to the HCPC dated 14 June 2017, a letter from her dated 16 January 2018 and a letter from her father Mr Michael Parr dated 18 July 2018. 

 


Background

6.The Registrant has been a registered Social worker since 1 August 2012.  On 04 June 2015, the Registrant was convicted at East Lancashire Magistrate’s Court of, on 17 May 2015, driving a motor vehicle after consuming excess alcohol.  She was disqualified from driving for a period of 22 months, fined £370.00, ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £37.00 and ordered to pay costs of £85.00 to the CPS. 

7.HCPC registrants are required by the HCPC’s Standards of Conduct Performance and Ethics to inform the HCPC straightaway if they are convicted of a criminal offence. The Registrant did not inform the HCPC of her conviction of 04 June 2015 until 17 March 2017.

8.When the Registrant was required to renew her HCPC registration in November 2016, her renewal application was submitted through the HCPC’s online system.  On the renewal application, the Declaration was completed without declaring the Registrant’s criminal conviction of 04 June 2015.  The form was also ticked “Yes” in response to the requirement to confirm that there had been no change to her good character or health that may affect her ability to practice safely and effectively.  The on-line form explained that this “includes any conviction or caution, if any, that you are required to disclose”.

9.On 17 March 2017, the Registrant contacted the HCPC by email and provided details about her conviction and the background circumstances.  She stated that she had been informed at the time of her conviction that the Court would inform the HCPC about the conviction directly. She also stated that she had not practised social work for a period and had returned to Austria due to the illness of a family member.  She stated that her driving licence had now been returned to her and she intended to return to social work.  She stated that she had contacted the HCPC to confirm if they had been notified of her conviction as she did not wish there to be any objections to her return to social work. During the HCPC’s investigation process, the Registrant’s father submitted a letter to the HCPC confirming that it was he who had completed her application for renewal of her registration whilst the Registrant was abroad in Austria and she did not check the application due to intermittent contact and it being last minute. 

Response of the Registrant to the allegation

10.The Registrant accepted the factual matters set out in paragraphs 1,3,4,5 and 6 of the allegation. The Panel treated the allegation of dishonesty in paragraph 7 as denied.
The HCPC’s case

11.Mr Dite on behalf of the HCPC relied upon the documentary evidence in the hearing bundle, in particular the witness statement of Sammuel Yemane and exhibited documents, and the Memorandum from the Register at East Lancashire Magistrate’s Court confirming details of the Registrant’s conviction of 04 June 2015. 

12.It was the HCPC’s case that the allegations were proved by the documentary evidence and (other than the dishonesty allegation) by the admissions of the Registrant.  It was the HCPC’s case that the Registrant was dishonest in not declaring her conviction to the HCPC for nearly two years and not referring to it in the application for renewal in November 2016.  She accepted in evidence she had been informed by the police and the Court at the time of her conviction that she should inform the HCPC of her conviction but she did not do so.

13.Mr Dite referred the Panel to the test in the case of Ivey (see below) and submitted that ordinary decent people would consider that the Registrant’s conduct was dishonest. 

The Registrant’s case

14. The Registrant gave evidence on oath.  She stated that at the time of her conviction she had been told by the police and the Court that the HCPC would be informed of the conviction, but that they did advise her that she should do so herself and she failed to do so.  She explained her feelings of humiliation and how difficult she had found the criminal proceedings.  Subsequently, personal circumstance had intervened: she had not worked in social work and had undertaken the care of an elderly relative to whom she was very close, in Austria. Not being in the UK, not being employed in social work and having financial difficulties, her father had taken on responsibility for her affairs, including dealing with her application for renewal of her HCPC registration in November 2016. 

15.The Registrant accepted she had been neglectful of her professional responsibilities.  She described herself as distracted at this time.  She did not have ready access to the internet to deal with her on-line renewal whilst in Austria, but accepted it would have been possible.  She explained that due to her financial difficulties her father was to pay her fee and this was influential in her leaving the application to him.

Panel decision on Facts (particulars 1, 3,4,5,6 and 7).

16.The Panel considered the submissions by Mr Dite and the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel considered whether the facts were proved according to the civil standard of proof that is the balance of probabilities, and proceeded on the basis that the burden of proving the facts rests upon the HCPC throughout. 

17.The Legal Assessor referred the Panel to the test for dishonesty as laid down by the Supreme Court in the case of Ivey v Genting Casinos (UK) Ltd. t/a Crockfords (Respondent) [2017] UKSC 67, in which it was stated that:

 “When dishonesty is in question the fact-finding tribunal must first ascertain (subjectively) the actual state of the individual’s knowledge or belief as to the facts.  The reasonableness or otherwise of the belief is a matter of evidence (often in practice determinative) going to whether he held the belief, but it is not an additional requirement that his belief must be reasonable; the question is whether it is genuinely held.  When once his actual state of mind as to facts is established, the question of whether his conduct was honest or dishonest is to be determined by the fact-finder by applying the (objective) standards of ordinary decent people.  There is no requirement that the defendant must appreciate that what he has done is, by those standards, dishonest.”

Particular 1

18.The Panel had sight of a copy of the Memorandum of Conviction for 04 June 2016, signed by an Officer of the Court. The Panel accepted this as proof of the conviction and of the findings of fact upon it was based, as provided for by Rule 10(1)(d) of the Rules. The Registrant accepted the conviction. The Panel was satisfied that the facts of particular 1 were proved.

Particular 3

19.The Panel considered the witness statement of Sammuel Yemane, Registration Manager within the Registration Department of the HCPC.  The Registrant accepted that she had not herself informed the HCPC of her criminal conviction at the time or at any time subsequently until her email to the HCPC of 17 March 2017.  The Panel found particular 3 proved. 

Particular 4

20.The Registrant accepted that the Registrant allowed her on-line registration renewal to be completed by her father, Michael Parr, on her behalf.  The Panel had sight of Mr Parr’s letter to the HCPC dated 18 July 2018, in which he confirmed that he had submitted the on-line form on the Registrant’s behalf and with her consent.
 
21.The Panel was satisfied that particular 4 was proved. 

Particular 5

22.Again, the Registrant had frankly accepted that she left the submission of her on-line renewal application to her father who at the time was managing her affairs.  She accepted she did not personally check the information given on the on-line form before it was submitted. 

Particular 6

23.It is a matter of record that the Registrant’s conviction was not disclosed in the on-line application for renewal of registration. The declaration of good character was made without reference to the change in the Registrant’s character, as explained in the witness statement of Mr Yemane.  The Panel accepted that the form had been completed by the Registrant’s father and that the Registrant accepted she had allowed this to be submitted on her behalf. 

Particular 7

24.The Panel next considered whether the Registrant’s actions in particulars 3, 5 and 6 were dishonest. In considering this issue, the Panel applied the test set out in the case of Ivey v Genting Casinos Ltd.

25.The Panel considered the Registrant’s state of knowledge and belief as to the facts.  The Panel found the Registrant to be a credible witness.  It considered that in giving her evidence on oath, the Registrant had been open and honest.  In doing so, she had frankly accepted that she had neglected her obligations to the HCPC in terms of informing them of the conviction and in allowing the renewal application to be submitted without checking the accuracy of the content herself. In her evidence, the Registrant had informed the Panel that she had been told by the police and the Court at the time of her conviction that she should inform the HCPC.  However, the Panel accepted her account that she also believed that the HCPC would be directly informed of the conviction by the Court.  The Panel accepted the Registrant’s account of her circumstances at the time: that she was distracted by other matters in her personal life that she was abroad in Austria caring for a sick elderly relative to whom she was very close and she left her business and financial matters in the hands of her father.  She was also unsure in this period that she would return to live in the UK or would return to social work.

26.Whilst accepting with hindsight that this was neglectful of her professional obligations, the Registrant said she had not intended deliberately to conceal her conviction.  The Panel accepted that she genuinely believed the HCPC would have been informed anyway.  The Panel noted that the Registrant was open about her conviction at the time of her employment interview when she was looking to return to social work in early 2017, and this ultimately led her to refer herself to the HCPC in March 2017.

27.The Panel therefore accepted the Registrant’s account.  It did not find that she knew or believed that she was acting dishonestly at the time of her conviction, or in the period from then until her email of 17 March 2017. It accepted that her evidence about her state of mind was genuine.  The Panel therefore did not find that ordinary decent people would find that the Registrant‘s conduct was dishonest.

28.The Panel accordingly found particular 7 not proved.
 
Grounds and impairment of fitness to practise

Evidence of the Registrant

29.The Registrant gave further evidence on oath.  She explained the circumstances leading to her conviction in June 2015. On Saturday 16 May 2015 she had gone to Clitheroe for a social occasion with friends.  She left her car parked in Clitheroe as she was planning to spend the night at her friend’s house and travel home later on the Sunday.  The group went for a meal and the Registrant drank red wine. Plans changed and, in the end, they stayed at her friend’s partner’s house.  The Registrant had to sleep on a sofa and in a room with other people.  She felt uncomfortable and on waking early on Sunday 17 May, decided that, rather than staying for lunch, she wanted to go straight home.  She therefore walked into Clitheroe, got into her car and started to drive home. She was involved in a collision with a barrier at a roundabout.  The Registrant said this occurred because she was driving too fast and forgot there was a roundabout ahead.  The police attended and the Registrant was found to be over the permitted alcohol limit: she had 75 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath, which was approximately twice the permitted amount.    

30.The Registrant explained that she had undertaken the course under the Drink Drive Rehabilitation Scheme as directed by the Court following the criminal case.  She had learned a great deal about driving and the effects of alcohol from the course. She was thankful that nothing worse had happened as a result of the collision.  She had found the whole experience of the criminal proceedings humiliating.  She said she would never want to find herself in a similar position again. It had also been embarrassing because in the past she had expressed strong disapproval to friends about the dangers of drink/driving and in her professional role she had supported people in court in similar circumstances. She felt her own criminal case impacted upon her credibility in her professional role.  As a social worker who worked with young people, she was a role model. 

31.In relation to the failure to disclose her conviction, the Registrant had told the Panel earlier that she now understood that she had neglected her responsibility to inform the HCPC of her conviction.  Although she denied (and the Panel did not find proved) that she did so dishonestly, she accepted that she had been “negligent” in not ensuring that she informed the HCPC and in not ensuring that the character declaration in her on-line renewal information was accurate.  The Registrant said she now recognised the repercussions which resulted and would not want to be in that situation again. She told the Panel that she understood that her obligations as an HCPC registrant applied to both her personal and professional conduct.  She now recognised that her actions would impact on not only on herself, but her colleagues and the reputation of the social work profession.

32.When asked about her professional background, the Registrant told the Panel that she had qualified as a Social Worker in 2010.  She had worked in children’s social care and at the time of her conviction, she was working in adult social care. During the period after her conviction, she had not been employed as a social worker.  Whilst in Austria, she had worked as a cleaner and when back in the UK she had undertaken temporary bar and shop work.  When she applied for the role with Bradford City Council in 2017, they had offered to hold a role open for her for six months, pending the resolution of the HCPC proceedings. However, HCPC investigation had taken longer than that and the role could no longer be kept open for her.

33.The Registrant explained that she wished to return to practice as a Social Worker and hoped to apply again for a position with Bradford City Council.

Submissions

34. Mr Dite said the HCPC’s case was that the criminal conviction was itself a ground of impairment under the provisions of the Health and Social Care Professions Order 2001 (“the Order”). He submitted that the facts found proved in Particulars 3 to 6 represented a serious falling short of the standards expected and amounted to misconduct.  The HCPC’s position was that the Registrant’s fitness to practise was impaired, in relation to both the personal and public components of current impairment. The Registrant relied upon her earlier submissions.
Conviction and Misconduct Grounds

35.The Panel considered the evidence and submissions and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.  The Panel was referred to the HCPTS Practice Notes, Finding that Fitness to Practise is Impaired and Convictions and Cautions.

36.In respect of particular 1, the Panel was advised that a conviction is a statutory ground of impairment under Article 22(1) (a) (iii) of the Order and, by virtue of the proof of the conviction, this ground was made out.  
 
37.The Panel next considered whether the Registrant’s actions in particulars 3, 4, 5 and 6 amounted to misconduct. The Panel was advised that this is a matter for its own judgement, rather than the application of the legal standard of proof, and that a finding of misconduct required the Panel to be satisfied that there had been a serious falling short of required standards. 

38.In relation to Particular 4, the Panel did not consider that for a registrant allowing another individual to complete their renewal form in and of itself amount to misconduct.  The issue is that a registrant must take personal responsibility for ensuring the information in the application is complete and accurate.  This aspect is addressed in particulars 5 and 6.
 
39.The Panel found that particulars 3, 5 and 6 were serious omissions on the part of the Registrant, as she herself now accepted.  Although the Panel accepted that she believed that the Court or Police would inform the HCPC of her conviction, she had also admitted that she had been informed by them that it was better for her to inform the HCPC herself. However, she said that she chose not to do so at the time because of her embarrassment and because she had found the criminal proceedings so distressing.  The Panel was mindful that as a registered Social Worker, the Registrant is an autonomous professional and must take personal responsibility for complying with her regulatory obligations.  The HCPC’s guidance was very clear concerning the obligation upon registrants to inform the HCPC promptly about any conviction and also that a conviction must be disclosed on an application for registration or renewal of registration. It is clear that in submitting the personal declaration on the form, the Registrant was confirming that there was no change to her good character and that this included any conviction or caution. The Registrant had a duty to ensure that if an application for renewal was submitted by another person on her behalf, the information given in it was complete and accurate.

40.The Registrant’s failings frustrate the HCPC’s ability to regulate the profession and undermine public confidence and trust in it. The Panel was of the view that the Registrant’s conduct in particulars 3,5, and 6 fell far short of what would be proper in the circumstances.  The allegation related to a period from June 2015 to March 2017 and so both the January 2012 and January 2016 versions of the HCPC’s Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics were relevant. The Panel considered the Registrant’s actions were in breach of the following paragraphs:
January 2012:

 “9.1 You must make sure 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”
January 2016:
“3. You must keep high standards of personal conduct”
“4. You must provide (to us and any other relevant regulators) any important information about your conduct and competence”
“13. You must………..make sure that your behaviour does not damage the public’s confidence in you or your profession”

41. Taking all of these matters into account, the Panel is satisfied that the Registrant’s conduct in particulars 3, 5, and 6 is serious and amounts to misconduct.

Decision on Impairment

42.The Panel next considered whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired by her conviction and by her misconduct in respect of particulars 3, 5 and 6. It received and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.
 
43.The Panel was aware that the question of impairment is a matter for its own professional judgement.  In reaching its decision, the Panel had regard to the conduct of the Registrant, the nature, circumstances and gravity of the offences and the critically important public policy issues, in particular the need to maintain public confidence in the profession as well as declaring and upholding proper standards of conduct and behaviour which the public expect.

44.In respect of the criminal conviction in particular 1, in considering the personal component of current impairment, the Panel acknowledged that the Registrant had shown remorse and insight into her conduct in driving after consuming excess alcohol. She completed the drink drive awareness course as directed by the Court and demonstrated in her evidence to the Panel that she had learned lessons from it.  The Panel accepted that the conviction had had a serious impact upon the Registrant.  This was an isolated offence and there had been no repetition. The Panel was satisfied that the risk of the Registrant repeating her behaviour in future was low.

45.However, in considering the public component, the Panel was mindful that, although there were particular circumstances in play on the dates in question, the dangers of driving on the morning following significant alcohol consumption are commonly known.  The Registrant was found to have around twice the permitted amount of alcohol still in her system the next morning.  She did have a collision whilst driving that morning, albeit that fortunately no third parties were involved or hurt. The sentence of the Court was disqualification from driving for almost two years.   The Registrant accepted the risks inherent in her past conduct and now understood that the obligations upon an HCPC Registrant extend to both their professional and personal conduct.

46.Driving with excess alcohol is unacceptable.  Given the particular circumstances of the offence, the Panel concluded that public trust and confidence in the Social Work profession would be undermined if a finding of current impairment in relation to the public component of current impairment were not made in this case.
 
47.The Panel next considered whether the misconduct found proved in respect of particulars 3, 5 and 6 amounted to current impairment of fitness to practise. 

48.In relation to the personal component of the Registrant’s conduct, the Registrant had accepted her failings and expressed remorse.  Although she told the Panel about her difficult personal circumstances at the time, she had demonstrated to the Panel in her evidence that she now understood that it was her personal responsibility to inform the HCPC of her conviction and to ensure that it was disclosed in the character declaration on her renewal application.    She spoke of the impact of the HCPC proceedings upon her and assured the Panel that she would not place herself in such a position again. The Panel accepted that the Registrant had shown understanding and insight into the impact of her past actions and the Panel was satisfied that the Registrant now understood the responsibilities placed upon her as a registered social work professional and the risk of future repetition of this conduct was low. 

49.However, in relation to the public component of current impairment, the Panel considered that the Registrant’s actions undermined the HCPC’s ability to fulfil its regulatory function. The result of the Registrant’s actions, or inaction, was that the HCPC was not made aware of the fact that the Registrant had been convicted for almost two years.  It was deprived of its ability to assess whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise was in question.   This in itself could undermine public confidence in Social Workers and in the HCPC as the profession’s regulator.  The Panel was satisfied that wider public confidence would be undermined in this case if a finding of current impairment were not made.

50.The Panel therefore concluded that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired by both her criminal conviction in particular 1 and the misconduct findings in respect of particulars 3, 5 and 6. 

Decision on Sanction

51.The Panel heard submissions from Mr Dite and the Registrant on the issue of sanction. It accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

52.Mr Dite referred the Panel to the HCPC’s Indicative Sanctions Policy. He reminded the Panel of the appropriate approach when considering the issue of sanction as outlined therein. 

53.The Registrant, Miss Parr, told the Panel in mitigation that the conviction case and the HCPC proceedings had been “humbling” and an important learning process for her.  She had found the process also to be a developmental experience, both professionally and personally which she believed she would bring to her practice as social worker if she were able, as she wished, to return to practice. 

54.In considering sanction, the Panel was mindful that a sanction is not intended to be punitive, although it may have that effect.  The Panel must consider the risk the Registrant may pose in the future and determine what degree of public protection is required. The Panel must also give appropriate weight to the wider public interest which includes the deterrent effect on other registrants, the reputation of the profession and public confidence in the regulatory process.

55.The Panel took account of the mitigating evidence given by the Registrant throughout the hearing and considered the following were mitigating factors in this case:

a.The Registrant has no previous fitness to practise history with the HCPC;
b.There has been no repetition of similar conduct since these events and the conviction matter took place almost 4 years ago;
c.The Registrant has completed her criminal sentence and has undertaken the Drink Drive Rehabilitation course;
d.The Registrant has expressed remorse for her past actions, has shown that she has gained insight and has not sought to diminish her culpability;
e.She has engaged fully with the HCPC process;
f.At the time of the submission of her on-line renewal application in November 2016, the Registrant was affected by difficult personal circumstances caring for her elderly relative to whom she was very close.  She was living abroad for some of the time and not working as a social worker and had financial difficulties;
g.The Registrant ultimately referred herself to the HCPC;  


56.The Panel has considered the following aggravating factors:

a.In relation to the drink driving conviction, the Registrant drove with twice the permitted amount of alcohol in her blood;
b.The HCPC was not made aware of the conviction for a period of almost two years.

57.The Panel concluded from the Registrant’s evidence that she has learned a salutary lesson from the criminal case and the HCPC process. She described herself as “humbled” by events, but also said she believed it had been self-developmental for her.  The Panel has said earlier in its decision that it is satisfied that the risk of repetition is low.  Its finding of current impairment was made on the grounds of the wider public interest.  The Panel therefore considered with care whether it was necessary to impose a sanction.  It had been referred to paragraph 8 of the Indicative Sanctions Policy.  Considering this section, the Panel had in mind that the allegations proved were serious matters and that its decision must uphold public trust and confidence in the profession. A sanction also has an important role as a deterrent to other registrants.  The Panel did not consider, having regard to paragraph 8, that this case was so exceptional that no sanction was required.  The Panel concluded that a sanction was necessary in the public interest.

58.The Panel considered the sanctions available to it in ascending order of severity. The Panel considered the factors in the Indicative Sanctions Policy in relation to a Caution Order.  This was an isolated set of events and there has been no repetition; the matters were not minor in nature, but there is a low risk of future repetition and the Registrant has shown good insight and remediated her conduct as far as possible. 

59.The Panel also considered that a Conditions of Practice Order would not be appropriate, given the nature of the findings, and would be disproportionately punitive. The Panel considered this was also the position in respect of the higher sanction options of suspension or striking off. 

60.The Panel concluded that a Caution Order for a period of one year would appropriately mark the Panel’s findings and would adequately address the wider public interest considerations, in terms of maintaining public confidence in the profession and declaring and upholding proper standards of conduct in the social work profession.

61.The Panel therefore imposes a Caution Order on the Registrant for a period of one year. 

Order

The Registrar is directed to impose a Caution Order for a period of one year

Notes

No notes available

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Miss Martina Sarah Parr

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
11/02/2019 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Caution