Mr Simon J Cartland

Profession: Social worker

Registration Number: SW23221

Interim Order: Imposed on 26 Apr 2018

Hearing Type: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 21/02/2019 End: 17:00 21/02/2019

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

Whilst registered as a Social Worker on 17 April 2018, at Guildford Magistrates' Court, you were convicted of:

1. Making two indecent photographs of a child specifically category A movies, contrary to sections 1 (1) (a) and 6 of the Protection of Children Act 1978.

2. Making two indecent photographs of a child specifically category C images,
contrary to sections 1 (1) (a) and 6 of the Protection of Children Act 1978.

3. By reason of your conviction as set out at paragraphs 1 and 2 your fitness to practise as a Social Worker is impaired.

Finding

Preliminary matters
Proof of Service
1. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel had sight of a letter dated 3 December 2018, sent to the Registrant at his registered address, giving notice of today’s hearing, and determined that service had been complied with in accordance with the Health and Care Professions Council (Conduct and Competence Panel) (Procedure) Rules 2003.
Proceeding in absence

2. The Registrant did not attend the hearing and Mr Foxsmith made an application to proceed in his absence.

3. The Panel heard and accepted the legal advice from the Legal Assessor, who referred it to the case of the GMC v Adeogba [2016] EWCA Civ 162, and the principles to be considered when deciding whether or not to proceed in the absence of the Registrant. The Panel had in mind the need to exercise its discretion to proceed with the utmost care and caution, particularly because the Registrant was not represented.

4. The Panel noted that the Registrant had not formally responded to the notice of today’s hearing but was satisfied that he was aware the hearing was due to go ahead today and that, in the event that he did not attend, the hearing could go ahead in his absence. In a letter dated 17 October 2018, from the Registrant to the HCPC, he stated, “From the onset of my self-referral, I have been clear that my behaviour has only one course of action for HCPC to exercise, which is to strike me off the Register.” He goes on to say that he would not be attending the Final Hearing. The Panel also had sight of a telephone attendance note, dated 15 February 2019, in which the Registrant confirmed he would not be attending and that he was content for the hearing to proceed in his absence.

5. In light of that correspondence, the Panel decided that the Registrant had voluntarily waived his right to be present and his right to be represented at this hearing. The Panel noted that the Registrant faced serious allegations and there was a clear public interest in the matter being dealt with expeditiously. The Panel considered an adjournment would serve no useful purpose, because it seemed most unlikely that the Registrant would attend on another occasion, given his repeated stated expectation that he would be “struck off the Register”. Furthermore, the Panel noted he had not requested an adjournment. The Panel concluded that it was in the interests of justice that the matter should proceed notwithstanding the absence of the Registrant. The Panel would draw no adverse inference from the Registrant’s non-attendance.

Application to amend

6. Following the decision to proceed in the absence of the Registrant, Mr Foxsmith made an application to amend the Allegation since the date recorded was the one on which the Registrant was sentenced rather than when he entered his guilty plea, which would be the date of the conviction. This, Mr Foxsmith said, was a matter of record and the change did not in any way prejudice the Registrant, who had been informed of this application in advance of the hearing and had not opposed it. Mr Foxsmith also applied to amend Particular 3 which stated convictions (plural) to conviction (singular) since, although there were two offences there was only one conviction. Although the Registrant had not been informed of this in advance, Mr Foxsmith submitted there was no prejudice since it was simply a typographical error.

7. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and decided to allow the amendments. There was clearly simply an error in the date and from the Memorandum of Conviction it could be seen how the error arose. The Registrant entered his guilty pleas on 17 April 2018, but was not sentenced until 8 May 2018. The use of convictions plural was clearly wrong, since there was only one conviction, albeit it for two offences. This was no more than a typographical error. The Panel was satisfied that it was fair to allow the amendments and that they would not in any way prejudice the Registrant or cause any injustice.

Background
8. The Registrant is, and was at all material times, registered as a Social Worker with the HCPC.

9. The Registrant was employed as Head of Learning Disabilities, Hampshire Adults’ Health and Care, by Hampshire County Council (the Council).

10. On 2 April 2018, the HCPC received a self-referral from the Registrant. He notified the HCPC that, on 23 March 2018, he had been charged with two criminal offences relating to the downloading and viewing of indecent images of children. The Registrant said that he had received a summons to appear before Guildford Magistrates’ Court on 17 April 2018. He confirmed in his letter that he would be pleading guilty to these charges. He attached a letter dated 28 March 2018 that he submitted to his employer. In that letter he stated:
“I am ashamed to report to you that I accept both of charges against me, as I was solely responsible for downloading and viewing all four images.
The realisation and horror of the absolute hurt, anger and deep pain that I have caused my husband, family and friends and no doubt work colleagues, in addition to those service users I have served in Hampshire, is and will be immeasurable and understandably will always remain.
Furthermore I fully accept that my behaviour has perpetrated the on going harm and abuse of children and though I am engulfed in feelings of utter remorse and shame, I am committed to face the consequences of my actions and will reflect and learn from them until the day I die.
Similarly I acknowledge that my behaviour and actions constitutes a complete breach of trust, values and professional responsibilities, including that of a Social Worker and as a senior leader and employee of Hampshire Adults’ Health and Care and is equally an absolute breach of standards of the Health and Care Professions Council and rightly struck off the HCPC register.(sic)”

11. On 17 April 2017, the Registrant entered guilty pleas to both charges and, on 8 May 2018, was sentenced to a Community Order with a Rehabilitation Activity Requirement and an Unpaid Work Requirement (80 hours) for a period of 12 months. He was also made subject to a Sexual Harm Prevention Order for a period of five years and required to register with the police in accordance with the Sexual Offences Act 2003 for a period of five years.

12. In an email sent to the HCPC, the Registrant added:
“My behaviour in downloading and viewing the four indecent images, not only is a complete breach of HCPC professional standards, but is a shameful failure of the values and principles regarding human rights and anti-discrimination practice that were central to my practice, leadership and personal life.
I fully accept that there is only one right outcome to your investigation, for me to be struck off. As for the future, I will forever be honest about the harm that I’ve caused, in addition will be candid and open regarding the deep remorse of my behaviour regarding this offence.”

13. In a letter dated 17 October 2018, the Registrant repeated his feelings of “utter shame” and his expectation that he would be struck off the Register as a result of his behaviour.

Decision on Facts
14. In reaching its decisions on the facts the Panel took into account the Memorandum of Conviction which, the Legal Assessor advised, is conclusive proof of the conviction. The Registrant had also admitted the facts in correspondence with the HCPC. Accordingly, the Panel found the facts as set out in Particulars 1 and 2 proved.

Decision on Statutory Ground
15. The Panel next considered the statutory ground. Because this is a conviction case, and the Panel had been provided with the Memorandum of Conviction, the Panel found the statutory ground to be made out.

Decision on Impairment
16. Having found the statutory ground of conviction to be well founded, the Panel went on to consider whether the Registrant’s current fitness to practise was impaired as a result of that conviction. In doing so it took into account the submissions made by Mr Foxsmith, the evidence provided by the Registrant and all the documents provided. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

17. The Panel had been advised by the Legal Assessor that an important factor when considering current impairment is whether the conduct which led to the allegation is remediable, that it has been remedied and that it is highly unlikely to be repeated. Although the Registrant had shown some insight by his admissions, a recognition of the harm caused by viewing such images and expressions of remorse for having done so, the Panel could not be satisfied that his conduct was highly unlikely to be repeated. The Registrant had not attended nor had he provided any evidence of remediation or an understanding of what had motivated him to view such harmful images and how he might prevent such behaviour being repeated. The Panel therefore concluded that the Registrant’s fitness to practise as a Social Worker was at the time, and remained, impaired on public protection grounds, not least because practising as a Social Worker could bring him into contact with young children, but also because of the impact on service users of learning that a Social Worker had behaved in this way.

18. The Panel went on to consider whether this was the type of case that required a finding of impairment on public interest grounds in order to maintain public confidence in the profession and the Regulator, and to uphold professional standards. The Panel was satisfied that a fully informed member of the public, who was aware of all the background to this case, would have their confidence in the profession and the Regulator undermined if a finding of impairment were not made. The Panel considered that a member of the public would be very concerned if the Regulator took no action in a case where a Social Worker had been convicted of serious offences relating to the downloading and viewing of indecent images of children. As the Registrant quite rightly acknowledged, such action perpetuates the ongoing harm and abuse of children since the creation of such images involving children arises from the desire of individuals to view them. There was clearly a need to send out the message to the profession that this sort of behaviour is wholly unacceptable and not to be tolerated.

19. The Panel therefore determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired on public protection and public interest grounds and that the allegation of impairment is well founded.

Sanction
20. In reaching its decision on sanction, the Panel took into account the submissions made by Mr Foxsmith, together with all the written evidence and all matters of personal mitigation. The Panel also referred to the guidance issued by the HCPC in its Indicative Sanctions Policy (“ISP”). The Panel had in mind that the purpose of sanctions was not to punish the Registrant, but to protect the public, maintain public confidence in the profession and maintain proper standards of conduct and performance. The Panel was also cognisant of the need to ensure that any sanction is proportionate. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

21. The Panel considered the aggravating factors in this case to be: a gross breach of trust; behaviour that actively undermined the profession and caused harm to the profession, service users and the Registrant’s employer. He held a senior role with the Council and would be expected to set an example.

22. The Panel considered the following mitigating factors: no previous disciplinary matters; co-operating with police, employer and Regulator; some, albeit not fully developed, insight; remorse; a realistic acknowledgement that his position is no longer compatible with being a Social Worker.

23. In light of the serious nature of the conviction, the Panel did not consider this was an appropriate case to take no further action.

24. The Panel next considered whether a Caution Order would adequately reflect the seriousness of the conviction. The Panel’s role as indicated by the ISP was not to punish the Registrant twice for the same offence, but to protect the public and maintain high standards among registrants and public confidence in the profession. The Panel did not consider that such an order would adequately mark the seriousness of the behaviour or protect the public.

25. This was not a case where a Conditions of Practice Order would be appropriate because of the nature of the Registrant’s conduct. The Panel did not consider it possible to devise practical or verifiable conditions which would be sufficient to protect the public. Furthermore, the Panel considered conditions of practice would not adequately reflect the seriousness of the offending behaviour.

26. The Panel next considered whether to make a Suspension Order. The ISP states that, “Suspension should be considered where the allegation is of a serious nature but unlikely to be repeated and, thus, striking off is not merited.”  The Panel reminded itself of the nature of the conviction, namely the downloading and viewing of images of children engaging in indecent sexual acts. This also amounted to a gross breach of trust for a Social Worker, particularly one in a senior role, to behave in this harmful way and the Panel was concerned about the real risk of repetition. Although a Suspension Order would provide protection to the public for its duration, having identified a risk of repetition of this behaviour and in the absence of any information from the Registrant about remediation, the Panel decided that suspension was not appropriate. In addition, the Panel was not satisfied that it would be sufficient to maintain public confidence in the profession or the regulatory process, or to send a clear message to the profession at large that such behaviour would not be tolerated. The Panel determined that a Suspension Order would not be a sufficient sanction in the circumstances of this case.

27. The Panel therefore looked at the guidance in the ISP on making a Striking Off Order in order to decide whether such an order would be appropriate. The guidance states that, “Striking off is a sanction of last resort for serious, deliberate or reckless acts involving abuse of trust such as, sexual abuse, dishonesty or persistent failure.”  The guidance also states that, “The HCPC considers that any offence relating to child [sexual abuse imagery] involves some degree of exploitation or abuse of a child and, therefore, that conviction for such an offence is a serious matter which undermines the public’s trust in registrants and public confidence in the profession concerned.”  It goes on to observe that “Striking off should be used where there is no other way to protect the public.” The Panel finds that this case is characterised by a gross abuse of trust, and sexually motivated acts, involving the exploitation of children.

28. The ISP goes on to suggest that a Striking Off Order may be appropriate where the nature and gravity of the allegation are such that any lesser sanction would lack deterrent effect or undermine confidence in the profession. The Panel’s earlier finding in relation to the consideration of a Suspension Order identified that a lesser sanction would indeed be insufficient to represent these wider public interest issues in the specific circumstances of this case.

29. The Panel concluded that, in light of the seriousness of the behaviour and the limited insight and remediation there is a real risk that the behaviour would be repeated. Therefore the only appropriate sanction in this case was to make a Striking Off Order. The Panel considered that downloading and viewing any images of child sexual abuse was fundamentally incompatible with being a registered Social Worker. The Panel took into account the impact this might have upon the Registrant, but concluded that the need to protect the public outweighed his interests and that no other sanction would adequately protect the public. The Panel noted that the Registrant had already anticipated that he would be struck off the Register.

30. Accordingly, the Panel makes a Striking Off Order and directs the Registrar to erase the Registrant’s name from the Register.

Order

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

Notes

No notes available

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Mr Simon J Cartland

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
21/02/2019 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Struck off