Mr Leonard Matongo

Profession: Social worker

Registration Number: SW109586

Hearing Type: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 18/02/2019 End: 17:00 19/02/2019

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

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Caution

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Allegation

As part of your application for employment as a Social Worker with

Northamptonshire County Council, you:

  1. In a declaration form dated 10 January 2017, did not declare your conviction for driving whilst disqualified.
  2. Your actions at 1 were dishonest.
  3. The matters set out in paragraphs 1 - 2 constitute misconduct.
  4. By reason of your misconduct your fitness to practise is impaired.

The reasons for the Committee’s decision are set out in the enclosed document.

Finding

Background:

1. The Registrant qualified as a Social Worker in about 2015. On the 17 November 2015, the Registrant applied to the HCPC for registration. As part of his application he was required to complete a declaration in regard to whether he had been convicted of a criminal offence. He declared a conviction on 30 January 2015 for driving with excess alcohol and further convictions on 8 April 2015 for driving with excess alcohol and driving whilst disqualified. The convictions on 8 April 2015 resulted in a 12 week prison sentence suspended for two years and a disqualification from driving for three years.

2. In January 2017, he applied to Northamptonshire County Council (the Council) for employment as a Social Worker. The application process required him to declare any convictions. The details he gave were “08.04.15 drink driving (2)”.

3. Subsequently as part of the application process he was required to produce a DBS check. This revealed the two drink driving convictions and also that for driving while disqualified.

4. At the outset of the hearing, an admission was made to Particular 1 of the Allegation but particulars 2, 3 and 4 were denied.

5. There was before the Panel a bundle of documents prepared by the HCPC containing witness statements and exhibits. There was also a statement from the Registrant together with some character references.

6. One witness was called on behalf of the HCPC. She was a qualified social worker and Team Manager for the Council. Her evidence related to the application process for newly qualified social workers and to her investigation of the matters which gave rise to the allegations. She referred to the requirements for applicants which included the need for declarations in regard to criminal convictions. She produced notes of a meeting with the Registrant on 15 March 2017 in regard to his application and the omission of any reference to the conviction for driving while disqualified. She said, and the meeting notes recorded that the Registrant agreed that he had not been truthful, apologised and showed remorse. Her evidence was not challenged.

7. The Registrant gave evidence. He admitted the facts set out in paragraph 1. However, he denied that his failure to make a full disclosure about his convictions was in order to obtain employment. His evidence was that he regarded the convictions on 8 April 2015, taken together, as one conviction. He said that on reflection, he realised that he should have made a full declaration and that his failure to do so could be considered dishonest. However, he maintained that at the time, he was confused and did not realise this. He said that he had no intention of deceiving the Council.

8. The Registrant described himself, by upbringing and lifestyle, as an honest man who behaved with integrity in all he did. He expressed remorse for his actions, realising that perceived dishonesty by a social worker could, in the eyes of the public, affect the reputation of colleagues and the profession.

Decision on Facts:

9. In reaching its decision, the Panel considered all the evidence before it both oral and documentary together with the submissions made by Ms Parry on behalf of the HCPC and by Mr Anderson on behalf of the Registrant. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

10. The Panel was aware that although the Registrant has admitted Particular 1 of the Allegation, the burden of proof rests upon the HCPC to prove that he acted dishonestly. Further that the facts must be proved on the balance of probabilities.

11. Particular 1 is proved on the basis of the Registrant’s admissions and the evidence of the HCPC witness together with documents in the exhibit’s bundle including the Certificate of Conviction.

12. Particular 2 is found proved. In his HCPC registration application dated 17 November 2015, the Registrant declared the convictions for drink driving and also for driving whilst disqualified. The Panel was satisfied from that declaration that he clearly understood that he had been convicted on his own admission on two occasions of a total of three offences. Furthermore, a letter dated 16 April 2015 from solicitors who had represented the Registrant in court at the time of the convictions on 8 April 2015, referred to both drink driving and to driving while disqualified.

13. In these circumstances the Panel was satisfied that at the time of his application to the Council in January 2017, the Registrant was well aware that there were in total three convictions including that of driving while disqualified. The Panel has therefore concluded that the Registrant failed to make a full disclosure in order to gain employment and that in doing so he acted dishonestly.

Decision on Statutory Ground

14. In reaching its decision, the Panel considered all the evidence and information before it, together with the submissions by Ms Parry and by Mr Anderson. It had in mind the relevant HCPTS Practice Notes. It accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

15. This was a serious act of dishonesty occurring as it did when the Registrant was applying for employment as a Social Worker. The Panel has found that this was an attempt to deceive the Registrant’s potential employer by concealing a criminal conviction.

16. By his actions, the Registrant was in breach of the HCPC’s Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics:

Standard 9 – be honest and trustworthy

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

17. This dishonest act fell seriously short of the standards expected of a Social Worker and the Panel has concluded that it amounts to misconduct.

Decision on Impairment

18. The Registrant has made some admissions in regard to his actions and has accepted, albeit with hindsight, that what he did would be regarded as dishonest. He has indicated that he recognises the effect that such dishonesty could have upon the reputation of the profession.

19. As a consequence, it appears to the Panel that there is little likelihood of repetition. The Panel has therefore concluded that in regard to the personal component alone, the Registrant’s fitness to practise is not currently impaired.

20. However, the Panel has concluded that in regard to the public element, fitness to practise is currently impaired. The dishonesty found proved was serious indeed. Right thinking members of the public would be concerned if a finding of impairment were not made in circumstances where a social worker has behaved in this manner.

21. A finding of impairment is therefore necessary in the public interest in order to declare and to uphold proper standards of conduct and of behaviour and to maintain confidence in the profession and in the regulatory process.

Decision on Sanction

22. In reaching its decision on sanction, the Panel considered all the evidence and information before it, together with the submissions made by Ms Parry and those made by Mr Anderson. It had in mind the HCPC’s Indicative Sanction Policy. It accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. It exercised the principle of proportionality at all times.

23. The Panel found there to be an aggravating factor in that the Registrant’s dishonest action occurred in the course of his employment application.

24. The Panel found there to be mitigating factors:

• there were no public safety concerns;

• this was a public interest concern alone;

• this was a single incident of dishonesty;

• the dishonesty was not at the extreme end of the dishonesty scale;

• the Registrant has not been subject to any previous HCPC regulatory proceedings;

• the Registrant has demonstrated remorse and a degree of insight;

• there is a low risk of repetition;

• the Registrant was regarded as having promising potential as a Social Worker

25. The Panel first considered whether to take no action, but the nature of the dishonesty was such that this would be inappropriate. Misconduct of this nature requires a sanction.

26. The Panel then considered mediation but this too would be inappropriate for the same reasons.

27. The Panel next considered making a Caution Order. The impairment found is consequent on a single isolated event and there have been no other findings against the Registrant by this or any other HCPC Committee. A Caution Order would put the Registrant on notice that any further incident of misconduct would probably lead to a higher sanction. Moreover, a Caution Order would be sufficient to address public interest concerns and to indicate to the profession the Panel’s disproval of dishonesty of this nature. The imposition of a Caution Order for a period of three years is a sufficient and proportionate response to the Registrant’s dishonest misconduct.

28. The Panel did consider a Conditions of Practice Order, but conditions appropriate to address the public interest concerns could not be formulated.

29. The Panel therefore considered a Suspension Order but concluded that in all the circusmtances this would be disproportionate.

Order

ORDER: That the Registrar is directed to annotate the register entry of Leonard Matongo with a caution which is to remain on the register for a period of three years from the date this order comes into effect.

Notes

No notes available

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Mr Leonard Matongo

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
18/02/2019 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Caution
08/10/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Adjourned