Mr Joseph R Taylor-Hannah

Profession: Social worker

Registration Number: SW95049

Interim Order: Imposed on 05 May 2017

Hearing Type: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 25/01/2019 End: 17:00 25/01/2019

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

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Suspended

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 employed and registered as a Social Worker, you:

  1. Were convicted, on 3 April 2018, at Mold Crown Court, of possession with intent to supply a controlled drug of Class C – Anabolic Steroids, contrary to section 4(1)(b) of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.
  2. By reason of your conviction, your fitness to practise as a Social Worker is impaired.

Finding

Background:


1. The Registrant is a Social Worker. He was employed by The Children’s Family Trust. Police interest in the Registrant began when they raided a property and container unit and discovered a mobile telephone, with a contract taken out in the Registrant’s name. The police raid had been in connection with the manufacture of anabolic steroids.


2. The Registrant was subsequently arrested, at his home address on 02 December 2016. During the arrest his property was searched and he was found to have £1000 worth of anabolic steroids in his possession and a large amount of cash.


3. The Registrant was granted conditional bail pending further enquires, for committing the offence of "Possession with Intent to Supply a controlled drug of Class C - Other.”


4. The Registrant informed his employer of his arrest on 02 December 2016 and was subsequently suspended from his employment on 06 December 2016. He was invited to attend a disciplinary hearing on 14 December 2016. However, this did not take place as the Registrant resigned in advance. His resignation was accepted by his employer.


5. The Registrant was charged on 19 April 2017. The Registrant was originally charged with being part of a wider conspiracy, along with a number of co-defendants. The Registrant subsequently pleaded guilty to an offence of possession with intent to supply a controlled drug of Class C- anabolic steroids, contrary to section 4(1)(b) of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, at Mold Crown Court on the 03 April 2018. This was after the indictment was altered, on the first day of the trial, in effect dropping the conspiracy allegations against him.


6. The Registrant was sentenced on 25 May 2018 at Mold Crown Court to 9 months imprisonment, which was suspended for 12 months. He was also ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work before 25 May 2019.


7. The Panel has been provided with an Exhibits bundle by the HCPC running to 50 pages. The Panel has not heard any oral evidence witness evidence on behalf of the HCPC.


8. This bundle includes a transcript of the sentencing hearing which took place on 24 May 2018, before HHJ Rees. The evidence before the Court was that the Registrant was a “downstream supplier of steroids in Yorkshire” and admitted his involvement when interviewed by the police on 02 December 2016.


9. The Registrant admitted that the steroids found in his address were for supply to others and that the quantity of cash, which was said to be about £6000, represented the proceeds for the supply of steroids. The Registrant sold the steroids on behalf of a male who he would not initially name, but that individual had asked him to acquire a mobile telephone SIM card registered in his name in or around 2011/2012.The Registrant subsequently identified this male as one of his fellow Defendants in his second interview. The Registrant maintained that he only supplied steroids to friends.


10. In the transcript, it is stated anabolic steroids are widely abused in sport, primarily when the requirement is either to increase muscle mass, strength or both. The self administration of steroids in otherwise healthy bodies often produces a number of unwanted side effects, such as mood wings, exacerbation of existing anger management issues, over confidence, aggression, loss of libido and liver toxicity. Side effects are said to vary widely between individuals.


11. The Judge in passing sentence noted that the quantity of drugs which the Registrant had was described in the evidence as “large”.


12. The Panel has also seen a transcript of a meeting between the Registrant and his employer, which took place on 14 December 2016. During the meeting, the Registrant admitted that he had been supplying friends with steroids as long as he had been using them, which was approximately 3-4 years. He conceded that he supplied the steroids to others in order to pay for his own.


13. The Registrant was asked whether there was any effect on his employment and stated that he did not: “Naively he didn’t think of it as dealing, just as getting for his friend…”
14. The Panel has seen a bundle of documents on behalf of the Registrant. This included a document entitled “Facts of Case and Evidence as Presented in HCPC Bundle” along with a number of references and testimonial evidence.


15. The Registrant states that in fact he had only been supplying steroids to friends for a period of 18 months; before that date he would have gone together with friends, who would purchase their own supply at the same time he bought his own. The previous reference to 3-4 years, included the period when he would visit to purchase steroids along with friends, which did not amount to the offence of supplying Class C drugs.


16. The Panel heard and accepted the Legal Assessor’s advice and exercised the principle of proportionality at all times. In approaching the task of deciding the facts, the Panel has kept at the forefront of its deliberations, the importance of requiring the HCPC to prove matters against the Registrant. The standard of proof to which the HCPC is required to prove matters is the civil standard – on the balance of probabilities.


17. The Panel was very conscious that when a witness has not given oral evidence, this is hearsay evidence. When considering hearsay evidence, which is admissible, the Panel has paid due regard to the weight which it can attach to it, bearing in mind that it has not been possible for that evidence to be challenged or probed.


Decision on Facts and Grounds:


Particular 1 Proved


18. The Panel has seen the Certificate of Conviction dated 17 May 2018 evidencing a guilty plea on 03 April 2018.


19. The Registrant also admitted the conviction.


Impairment:


20. The Panel then had to consider whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired, in light of the Registrant’s conviction, having regard to the HCPTS Practice Note ‘Finding that Fitness to Practise is Impaired’ and the Practice Note on ‘Conviction and Caution Allegations’. The Panel’s task is to determine whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired, based upon the nature, circumstances and gravity of the offence.


21. The Panel is mindful of the forward looking test for impairment.


22. The Registrant gave evidence before the Panel.


(a) He expressed regret at his actions and told the Panel he was younger, and would not find himself in a similar position again. He expressed the view that he had been “stupid and naive”. He stated that there was no risk of repetition.


(b) He no longer uses steroids. He has left the gym where he used to train and has changed his friendship circles. He is now open with his family about his previous use and they are supportive of him. The last 2 years have been very hard and he has not been tempted to return to using steroids.


(c) The Registrant denied that he had any dependency on steroids but did concede that there was a mental element to this, in terms of his physical appearance and looking good. He had spent considerable time reflecting on why he no longer needs steroids and now feels better, and sleeps better. He has less aggression and feels “more at one with himself.” The Registrant had counselling when he was younger but has not been able to afford professional support on this occasion. He has used his previous experience to undertake “self-directed counselling”.


(d) The Registrant was aware of the effect on the profession of Social Worker caused by his conviction and indeed by his consumption of steroids for personal use. The Registrant acknowledged the impact of his sudden removal from work on vulnerable service users and said he would not want to have a situation again in the future when service users had a forced immediate change of Social Worker imposed on them.


(e) The Registrant denied making any personal financial gain out of the supply of steroids to friends. He stated that he ended up purchasing steroids on behalf of friends, as he lived in closer proximity to the supplier. His evidence was that the £6000 had been given to him by friends to pay for steroids and in fact was owed to the supplier. The only personal financial advantage was that there was a reduced price, because of a collective or bulk purchase. He did not think about the wider implications at the time.


(f) The Registrant would collect steroids on behalf of himself and 3 other friends. They were collectively spending £1000 per month.


(g) There are ongoing Proceeds of Crime Proceedings. The prosecution have alleging a fee of £22,000 on the basis of his involvement over 18 months. The Registrant candidly told the Panel that it was very difficult for him to demonstrate he made no financial gain from the supply of steroids to friends, but maintained his position.


(h) The Registrant is currently employed in an admin role. He is due to start a new a job as a trainee quantity surveyor in the construction sector. He made a conscious decision not to work in social care following his conviction. He felt it would be hypocritical to do so and would undermine the profession and regulatory process. He did express the strong desire to return to Social Work in the future. To that end, he has sought to keep up to date with his Continuing Professional Development.


23. The Panel heard submissions on the issue of impairment from the HCPC and the Registrant. It was submitted on behalf of the HCPC that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired on both the public and private components of impairment, based on the following factors:


(a) The Registrant had been inconsistent in a number of ways, regarding the length and extent of his criminal behaviour and whether he made any financial gain from supplying steroids;


(b) The seriousness of the criminal offence of which the Registrant was convicted;


(c) Suppling Class C drugs is incompatible with being a Social Worker, given the potential involvement with vulnerable service users.


24. The Panel has seen a letter from Chelsea Holmes, from West Yorkshire Community Rehabilitative Company, dated 27 October 2018 confirming that the Registrant has completed the unpaid work requirement which was imposed upon him. This included gardening, and cleaning waste ground in churchyards, building furniture at a school and working in a school nature garden.


25. The Panel was also provided with the Registrant’s Individual Performance Appraisal, from his former employer, dated 16 November 2016.


26. The Panel has seen the following character references/testimonial evidence submitted on behalf of the Registrant:


(a) MH, Chief Executive of The Children’s Family Trust dated 15 May 2018;


(b) CW, dated 14 May 2018;


(c) TS, dated 11 May 2018.


27. The Panel, after reviewing all the evidence in this case, and the advice from the Legal Assessor, considered both the personal and public components of current impairment of fitness to practise.


28. In reaching its decision:


(a) The Panel regarded the offence as being serious;


(b) The Panel considered that the risk of repetition was low; the Registrant is unlikely to find himself in a similar position again;


(c) The Registrant cooperated with the police and admitted his guilt at the earliest opportunity;


(d) The Registrant has been fully engaged in these proceedings and did not oppose the imposition an Interim Suspension Order;


(e) He made a number of admissions in these proceedings, which demonstrated that he has shown a level of insight into his offending behaviour, including the reasons why he has not returned to a social care role and conceding he is impaired, simply having regard to his conviction;


(f) The Registrant has expressed genuine remorse;


(g) The Panel has seen a number of references on behalf of the Registrant, although these are more relevant to the sanction stage.


(h) The Panel concluded that the Registrant had breached a fundamental tenet of the profession of being a Social Worker and has brought the Social Work professional into dispute. The Panel also had regard to the need to uphold the proper standards of behaviour, in concluding that the public component of impairment is clearly established, notwithstanding the mitigation advanced. The Panel concluded that confidence in the profession would be undermined if there was no finding of impairment, given the seriousness of the offence.


29. The Panel’s overall conclusion, in relation to the personal component of impairment, was that the Registrant’s current fitness to practise is not impaired.


30. However, in relation to the public component, it is clear that the public’s perceptions of the Registrant’s actions would have been negative and they have harmed the reputation of both his then employer and the profession as a whole.


31. The Panel therefore finds that the Registrant’s current fitness to practise is impaired with respect to the public component.


Decision on Sanction:


32. The Panel has heard submissions on sanction on behalf of the HCPC and the Registrant. It has paid regard to the HCPC’s Indicative Sanctions Policy and has accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.


33. The Panel has had regard to the aggravating and mitigating circumstances in this case. The aggravating features were:


(a) The offence was serious and went on for some period (minimum 18 months) whilst he was also practising as a Social Worker,


(b) The Registrant was found to have in his possession significant quantities of steroids and cash.


34. The mitigating features were:


(a) The Panel was impressed by the Registrant’s full engagement in these regulatory proceedings and the honesty and openness with which he gave evidence.


(b) He pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity in the criminal proceedings;


(c) The Registrant was of previous good character;


(d) The Registrant has provided references, showing that he was very well regarded as a Social Worker by his former employer, prior to his arrest. The Panel was impressed by the Registrant’s expressed commitment to his profession.


(e) The Panel also takes into account the matters set out above, which led to the Panel concluding that the Registrant was not impaired on the basis of the personal component, including his expressions of remorse and the low risk of repetition.


35. The Panel was mindful that the purpose of imposing a sanction in regulatory proceedings is to protect the public, and not to punish the individual Registrant.


36. The Panel also bore in mind the wider public interest and deterrent effect on other Registrants, the reputation of the profession and public confidence in the regulatory process.


37. The Panel has carefully considered what type of order should be imposed, starting with the least restrictive order. It has taken into account the principle of proportionality, and balanced the rights of the public and the rights of the Registrant to practise in his chosen profession.


38. In light of the above factors, the Panel determined that to take no action, or to impose a Caution Order would not be in the public interest, and would not retain public confidence in the regulatory process, given the seriousness of the offence. The Panel further concluded that public confidence in the profession would be undermined by imposing no sanction or imposing a Caution Order.


39. The Panel went on to consider whether to impose a Conditions of Practice Order and concluded that there were no workable and/or identifiable conditions, which could be imposed. The Panel also concluded that given the seriousness of the offence, allowing the Registrant to return to practise, even on a restricted basis, during the period of his suspended criminal sentence would undermine confidence in the profession.


40. The Panel next considered a Suspension Order and determined this was a suitable and proportionate sanction, adequately reflecting the seriousness of the offence. The Panel concluded that a Suspension Order for 6 months was appropriate, having regard to the Indicative Sanctions Policy. A 6 month Suspension Order reflects the fact that a less restrictive sanction would undermine public confidence and be unlikely to have a deterrent effect upon the Registrant concerned or the profession at large. The decision to impose a short Suspension Order also reflects the findings made above, regarding the mitigation advanced and the lack of impairment on the personal component.


41. Having arrived at an appropriate and necessary sanction, the Panel concluded that to impose the more restrictive sanction of a Striking Off Order would be unnecessarily punitive and disproportionate, given that a suitable level of public protection could be obtained from a less restrictive sanction, whilst maintaining public confidence in the profession and the regulatory process. The Panel concluded that his failings are remediable and he would be a loss to the profession, if he were to be the subject of a Striking Off Order.


42. Whilst in no way seeking to bind any future review panel, this Panel anticipates that the following matters are likely to be of assistance to any future reviewing panel:


(a) An updated written document/reflective piece of writing,


(b) Up to date references/testimonial evidence,


(c) Evidence of an up to date CPD record.

Order

That the Registrar is directed to suspend the registration of Mr Joseph R Taylor-Hannah for a period of 6 months from the date this order comes into effect


This order will be reviewed again before its expiry.

Notes

Right of Appeal:
You may appeal to the High Court in England and Wales against the Panel’s decision and the order it has made against you.
Under Article 29(10) of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001, any appeal must be made within 28 days of the date when this notice is served on you. The Panel’s order will not take effect until the appeal period has expired or, if you appeal, until that appeal is disposed of or withdrawn.

European alert mechanism:
In accordance with Regulation 67 of the European Union (Recognition of Professional Qualifications) Regulations 2015, the HCPC will inform the competent authorities in all other EEA States that your right to practise has been prohibited.
You may appeal to the County Court against the HCPC’s decision to do so. Any appeal must be made within 28 days of the date when this notice is served on you. This right of appeal is separate from your right to appeal against the decision and order of the Panel.


Interim Order:
The Panel makes an Interim Suspension Order, under Article 31(2) of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001, being 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.

 

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Mr Joseph R Taylor-Hannah

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
20/06/2019 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Hearing has not yet been held
25/01/2019 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended