Mr Colin Henry Hill

Profession: Social worker

Registration Number: SW27373

Hearing Type: Review Hearing

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

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

During the course of your employment as a Social Worker at Birmingham City Council:

  1. On 2 February 2015, you used racist language towards Person A, in that you stated Person A was “a house ******”, or words to that effect.
  2. The matters set out in paragraph 1 constitute misconduct.
  3. By reason of your misconduct, your fitness to practise is impaired.

Finding

Preliminary Matters

Service and Proceeding in Absence

1. The case for the Health and Care Professions Council (“HCPC”) was presented by Ms Rebecca Senior. The Registrant was not present or represented. 

2. The Panel was satisfied that notice of today’s hearing had been properly served on the Registrant in terms of Rules 3 and 6 of the Conduct and Competence (Procedure) Rules 2003 (the Rules) and thereafter considered Ms Senior’s application to proceed in the Registrant’s absence. Ms Senior set out in some detail the chronology of communication and attempts at communication by the HCPC with the Registrant, including the use of the Registrant’s personal email address and a telephone number which he had provided and used.

3. The Panel was aware that its discretion to proceed in absence is one which should be exercised with the utmost care and caution. In reaching its decision, the Panel had regard to the HCPTS Practice Note on “Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant”. The Panel also took account of the fact that this is a mandatory review and this Order must be reviewed prior to its expiry on 9 February 2019.

4. The Registrant provided a written submission in December 2016 for the purposes of the Investigating Committee and he is therefore aware that he can, if wishes to do so, provide written submissions. He also communicated with the HCPC by telephone, post and email. The last communication from the Registrant was by post, received by the HCPC on 19 December 2016, being his written submission to the Investigating Committee. The Panel was aware that the Registrant did not attend the substantive hearing in January 2018 or the review hearing in June 2018, and there has been no engagement by the Registrant in response to HCPC communications sent in advance of this hearing. There has been no request for an adjournment, nor has he provided any written submission.

5. The Panel was of the view that the Registrant had voluntarily absented himself and would be unlikely to attend at a future date if the matter were adjourned. In these circumstances, the Panel agreed to proceed in his absence as it was satisfied that it is overwhelmingly in the public interest to do so.

Background

6. On 12 January 2018, a panel of the Conduct and Competence Committee found that the Registrant’s fitness to practice was impaired by reason of his misconduct. That finding arose out of the Registrant’s employment as a Youth Offending Case Manager at Birmingham City Council when, on 2 February 2015, the Registrant made a racist remark towards Person A, his line manager. On the same day, Person A sent an email to two service managers in which he set out the alleged remark and details of the incident.

7. At the hearing on 12 January 2018, the Panel imposed a 6-month Conditions of Practice Order. At the first review hearing on 28 June 2018, the Panel imposed a 6-month Suspension Order. This Panel is conducting a review of that Order in terms of Article 30(1) of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001.

Decision

8. The Panel heard from Ms Senior, who outlined the background to the case and the circumstances which led to the imposition of the original Conditions of Practice Order and subsequent Suspension Order. Ms Senior submitted that, in the absence of evidence of remediation, the Registrant’s fitness to practise remained impaired on both the personal and public components. Ms Senior submitted that the HCPC’s application was for a Striking Off Order, as the Registrant had been given two opportunities to provide evidence of remediation and had not engaged. Ms Senior submitted that if the Panel were not of a mind to make a Striking Off Order, the HCPC was of the view that an extension to the current Suspension would be appropriate.

9. The task of the Panel today is not to go behind the decision of the previous panels but to determine whether or not the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired and, if there is current impairment, what, if any, order should be made when the current order expires.

10. The Panel considered the submissions of Ms Senior and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The previous panel considered that there was no evidence of remediation and that the Registrant had not complied with condition 3 of the Order imposed at the substantive hearing on 12 January 2018, in that he had not submitted a reflective piece to the HCPC in advance of the review hearing. The reviewing panel imposed a 6-month Suspension Order to afford the Registrant a further opportunity to reflect fully upon his conduct. No further information has been received from the Registrant since the last review hearing.

11. In considering the issue of impairment, the Panel considered both the personal component of the Registrant’s conduct and the public component, i.e. the need to protect service users, declare and uphold proper standards of behaviour, and maintain public confidence in the profession. In the absence of evidence of remediation, the Panel concluded that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired. In the judgement of the Panel, where a Registrant has had an allegation of this nature (involving the entirely unacceptable use of racist language towards his line manager) found proved, public confidence in the profession would be adversely affected if a finding of impairment were not made where the Registrant has not provided evidence of remediation in respect of his misconduct. The Panel has concluded that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired on both the personal and the public component, and that an Order remains necessary.

12. The Panel next considered the sanctions available to it in ascending order of severity. The Panel was aware that the primary function of any sanction is to address public safety from the perspective of the risk the Registrant may pose to those using or needing his services 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.

13. The Panel considered that to take no further action or to impose a Caution would not be sufficient to address the lack of remediation.

14. The Panel next considered a Conditions of Practice Order. However, the Panel was of the view that a Conditions of Practice Order would not be an appropriate sanction given that the Registrant did not comply with the Conditions of Practice Order imposed at the substantive hearing and has not engaged with these proceedings.

15. The Panel next considered extending the current Suspension Order. While this Panel agreed that the Registrant’s conduct is capable of remediation, the Registrant would be required to engage with these proceedings in order to demonstrate remediation. The Panel heard from Ms Senior that the HCPC has attempted to contact the Registrant by letter, telephone and email in preparation for today’s hearing and no response has been received. He has a professional responsibility to engage with the Regulator and yet has not done so since December 2016. The determination of the reviewing panel in June 2018 and Ms Senior’s email, of 14 December 2018, put the Registrant on notice that a Striking Off Order was a possibility and would be applied for today by the HCPC. In these circumstances, the Panel concluded that the Registrant appears to be either unwilling or unable to remedy his misconduct.

16. The Panel is of the view that nothing would be gained by extending the current Suspension Order. The Panel therefore determined that, at this stage of the proceedings, a Striking Off Order is now the appropriate and proportionate sanction in the light of the Registrant’s continued inability or unwillingness to resolve matters. His non-engagement in effect closes the door on the Panel taking any lesser course. 

Order

The Registrar is directed to strike the name of Colin Henry Hill from the Register on expiry of the current Suspension Order, on 09 February 2019, in terms of Article 30(1)(b) of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001.

Notes

The order imposed today will apply from 09 February 2019.

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Mr Colin Henry Hill

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
08/01/2019 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Struck off
28/06/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Suspended
11/01/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Conditions of Practice