Mr Zsolt Schmidt

Profession: Social worker

Registration Number: SW110073

Hearing Type: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 18/01/2019 End: 17:00 18/01/2019

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

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Impaired - no further action

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Allegation

On 18 January 2018, at Brighton Magistrates' Court you were convicted of:

 

  1. Driving a motor vehicle after consuming so much alcohol that the proportion of it in your breath, namely 89mg of alcohol, 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.

 

  1. By reason of your conviction as set out at paragraph 1 your fitness to practise as a Social Worker is impaired

Finding

Background

1. The Registrant is registered with the HCPC as an Social Worker. He has been employed as a Social Worker by East Sussex County Council in Adult Social Care since September 2016.

2. On 17 December 2017 the Registrant was involved in a road traffic accident which resulted in his car hitting two stationary cars and causing consequential damage to five cars. Police attended the scene and the Registrant provided a positive specimen of breath at the roadside. The Registrant was found to be over the legal limit of the consumption of alcohol to drive. The lower reading recorded by the Police was 89 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath, the legal limit in the United Kingdom being 35 microgrammes.

3. On 18 January 2018 at Brighton Magistrates Court the Registrant pleaded guilty to the offence referred to in particular 1 of the allegation. He received a community order of 90 hours unpaid work to be completed within 12 months. He was ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £85 and a contribution of £85 towards prosecution costs. He was disqualified from holding or obtaining a driving licence for 20 months, to be reduced by 20 weeks if he satisfactorily completed an approved course.

4. By email dated 2 February 20182 the Registrant notified the HCPC that he had been disqualified from driving due to consuming alcohol over the limit.

Decision on Facts

5. The Panel found the allegation proved by the certificate of conviction, which was confirmed by the Registrant’s admission at the outset of the hearing.

Decision on Impairment

6. The Registrant provided the Panel with a bundle of documents including a reflective statement relating to the circumstances surrounding the drink-driving offence and supportive statements from two senior work colleagues.

7. The Panel took into account the HCPC Practice Note on Impairment of Fitness to Practise and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.  The Panel took into account the documents in the Registrant’s bundle referred to above and the submissions of Mrs Williams on behalf of the HCPC and of Ms Hurd on behalf of the Registrant.

8. With regard to the “personal” element of impairment the Panel considered that the drink-driving offence was an isolated incident which had no bearing on his competence as a Social Worker. The Registrant had pleaded guilty and shown genuine remorse. The Panel considered that he had excellent insight into the underlying causes and had immediately taken appropriate remedial steps. In all the circumstances, the Panel determined that the risk of repetition was very low. Accordingly, the Panel did not consider the Registrant’s fitness to practise to be impaired having regard to the “personal” component.

9. However, the Panel also took into account the responsibility of the HCPC to uphold proper standards of conduct on the part of members of the profession and to maintain public confidence in the profession. The Panel considered that public confidence in the profession and in the Regulator would be undermined if a finding of current impairment were not made.

10. Accordingly, the Panel finds that the Registrant’s fitness to practise as a Social Worker  is impaired by reason of his conviction.

Decision on Sanction

11. The Panel took into account the HCPTS Indicative Sanctions Policy and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel was mindful that the purpose of a sanction is not to punish the Registrant but to protect the public and the wider public interest of upholding proper standards and maintaining the reputation of the profession. The Panel applied the principle of proportionality and considered the available sanctions in ascending order.

12. The Panel was favourably impressed by the Registrant’s reflective statement on the fact and circumstances relating to his conviction and its implications both personal and professional and the steps that he has taken to address the issues which gave rise to it.

13. The aggravating factor in the case is that the Registrant potentially put members of the public at risk by driving when he was considerably over the prescribed limit of alcohol.

14. The mitigating factors are as follows:-

• The drink-driving offence was an isolated incident in an otherwise unblemished career as a Social Worker.

• He pleaded guilty at the Magistrates Court.

• He immediately informed his employer and the HCPC of his conviction.

• He has successfully completed a Drink-Drive Offenders Course.

• Since the relevant incident it is clear that the Registrant has addressed the triggers which led to his misuse of alcohol in a mature and meaningful way. He has developed strategies to resist resorting to alcohol in times of stress.

• He has fully engaged with the HCPC in these proceedings.

• He has shown considerable remorse and insight both as to its causes and the consequences for himself professionally and personally.

• He has shown an impressive determination to rehabilitate himself and to avoid any future lapse.

15. As already stated, the Panel has no concerns about the Registrant’s competence or safety as a Social Worker. A sanction is not required for the protection of the public.

16. The Panel was mindful that his conviction and the finding of impairment of fitness to practise are in themselves a serious mark against the Registrant as a professional person.

17. The Panel considered that, in the particular circumstances of this case, a sanction was not required in the wider public interest.

 

 

Order

No Further action

Notes

No notes available

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Mr Zsolt Schmidt

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
18/01/2019 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Impaired - no further action