Miss Hayley North

Profession: Social worker

Registration Number: SW113533

Hearing Type: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 26/07/2019 End: 17:00 26/07/2019

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

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Suspended

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Allegation

While registered with the Health and Care Professions Council as a Social Worker:

1. On 21 February 2018 at Portsmouth Magistrates Court, you were convicted
of parking a motor vehicle in a marked pay and display bay on Burnaby Road,
Portsmouth, using a disabled badge in the absence of deceased Person A,
and displaying in said vehicle a badge in valid form prescribed under section
21 of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970, and using said
vehicle in circumstances where a disabled person’s concession would have
been available to a disabled person’s vehicle, contrary to Section 117(1) of
the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 and Schedule 2 to the Road Traffic
Offenders Act 1988.

2. Between approximately July 2017 and October 2017, you used Person A
(deceased)’s disabled badge to park your car outside your work premises
when attending work.

3. Your conduct in paragraph 2 was dishonest.

4. The matters set out in paragraphs 2 -3 constitute misconduct.

5. By reason of your conviction and/or your misconduct, your fitness to
practise is impaired.

Finding

Preliminary Matters:

Service of Notice

1. The notice of this hearing was sent to the Registrant at her address as it appeared on the register on 29 April 2019. The notice contained the date, time and venue of today’s hearing.

2. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor, and is satisfied that notice of today’s hearing has been served in accordance with Rule 6(1) of the Conduct and Competence Rules 2003 (the “Rules”).


Proceeding in the absence of the Registrant

3. The Panel then went on to consider whether to proceed in the absence of the Registrant pursuant to Rule 11 of the Rules. In doing so, it considered the submissions of Ms Eales on behalf of the HCPC.

4. Ms Eales submitted that the HCPTS has taken all reasonable steps to serve the notice on the Registrant. The Registrant sent an email to the HCPTS on 14 May 2019 stating that she would not be attending the hearing today nor would she be represented. She indicated that she would like the hearing to proceed in her absence. Ms Eales reminded the Panel that there was a public interest in this matter being dealt with expeditiously.

5. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. He advised that, if the Panel is satisfied that all reasonable efforts have been made to notify the Registrant of the hearing, then the Panel had the discretion to proceed in the absence of the Registrant. He cautioned the Panel that the discretion was to be exercised with care and caution as set out in the case of R v Jones [2002] UKHL 5.

6. The Legal Assessor also referred the Panel to the case of GMC v Adeogba and Visvardis [2016] EWCA Civ 162 and advised the Panel that the Adeogba case reminded the Panel that its primary objective is the protection of the public and of the public interest. In that regard, the case of Adeogba was clear that “where there is good reason not to proceed, the case should be adjourned; where there is not, however, it is only right that it should proceed”.

7. It was clear, from the principles derived from case law that the Panel was required to ensure that fairness and justice were maintained when deciding whether or not to proceed in a Registrant’s absence.

8. The Panel was satisfied that all reasonable efforts had been made by the HCPTS to notify the Registrant of the hearing. It was also satisfied that the Registrant is aware of the hearing and wishes the hearing to proceed in her absence.

9. In deciding whether to exercise its discretion to proceed in the absence of the Registrant, the Panel took into consideration the HCPTS practice note entitled ‘Proceeding in the Absence of a Registrant’. The Panel weighed its responsibility for public protection and the expeditious disposal of the case with the Registrant’s right to a fair hearing.

10. In reaching its decision the Panel took into account the following:

• The Registrant has not made an application to adjourn today’s hearing and has explicitly requested that today’s hearing proceeds in her absence;

• The Registrant has engaged with the process and on 23 February 2018 provided the HCPC with details of the conviction in an email;

• This is a straightforward matter relating to a conviction that the Registrant has admitted;

• There is a public interest that this matter is dealt with expeditiously.

11. The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant had voluntarily absented herself from the hearing. There is a distinction between a case where the Registrant is clearly aware of the hearing date, and one where there has been no response from the Registrant. Having weighed the public interest for expedition in cases against the Registrant’s own interest, the Panel decided to proceed in the Registrant’s absence.


Amendment of Allegation

12. Ms Eales, on behalf of the HCPC, applied to amend the Allegation.  She submitted that the amendment sought was consistent with the evidence, and that it served to clarify the allegation by giving further and better particulars. The amendment was to amend the words “approximately July 2017” to read “November 2016”.

13. The Registrant was made aware of the proposed amendment by way of letter dated 17 April 2019 and there has not been any representation from her about it.

14. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor, who advised that it was open to the Panel to amend the allegation, provided the Panel was satisfied that no injustice would be caused by the amendments. The Panel considered that the amendment sought did not change the substance of the allegation. The amendment did clarify the allegation and would not cause injustice, as it is always preferable that allegations are as clear as possible so that registrants are clear what is alleged against them in order for them to respond. The Panel therefore allowed the amendment to be made. The amended Allegation is as set out above and the original Allegation is appended to this decision.

Background:

15. The Registrant is employed as a Social Worker at Hounslow Council. The Registrant commenced employment as a Social Work Assistant in July 2016. She began practising as a Newly Qualified Social Worker on 17 November 2017, and completed her Assessed Year in Employment in February 2018.

16. Whilst leaving her vehicle in a pay and display zone on 12 October 2018, the Registrant displayed a disabled parking badge (a blue badge) belonging to her deceased grandmother, Person A. The Car was impounded the same day.

17. On 13 October 2018 the Registrant paid £130 for the release of her car and was interviewed by Portsmouth City Council under caution.

18. On 21 February 2019, the Registrant pleaded guilty to two offences at East Hampshire Magistrates' Court, and ordered to pay a fine of £451.32. On 22 February 2019 the matter was reported in a local newspaper. The Registrant informed her Team Manager Nikki Coppin, about her court attendance, and a HCPC referral was submitted by her team manager.

Decision on Facts:

19. The Panel considered all the evidence in this case together with the submissions made by Ms Eales on behalf of the HCPC.

20. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor who reminded the Panel that the burden of proof rests with the HCPC, and that the Registrant need not disprove anything. The Legal Assessor also reminded the Panel that the standard of proof is the civil standard, namely the balance of probabilities.

21. The Panel also received a bundle of evidence which included:

• A certificate of conviction from the Portsmouth Magistrates Court and

• Record of Audio Recorded Interview conducted by Portsmouth City Council

Particular 1

22. The Panel found this particular proved by way of the Memorandum of Conviction from the Portsmouth Magistrates’ Court. It showed that the Registrant was convicted of using the disabled badge of Person A to avoid paying parking charges.

23. The Panel found Particular 1 proved.

Particular 2

24. The Panel found Particular 2 proved on the evidence before it. The Record of Audio Recorded Interview records that the Registrant admitted to using the disabled badge when she should not have on several occasions.

25. The Panel found Particular 2 proved.

Particular 3

26. The Panel’s attention was drawn to the case of Ivey v Genting Casinos (UK) Ltd t/a Crockfords [2017] UKSC 67 and the Panel noted the change in the test to be applied for dishonesty.

27. The Registrant’s knowledge in relation to the unauthorised use of Person A’s disabled badge is evidenced by her guilty plea to the criminal offences and also by her comments in the Audio Recorded Interview She agreed that using a deceased persons disabled badge was dishonest and inappropriate.

28. The evidence demonstrates that the Registrant’s improper use of the disabled badge was for the purpose of avoiding paying for parking.

29. The Panel determined that ordinary and decent people would consider the Registrant’s actions as set out above to be dishonest.

30. The Panel found Particular 3 proved.


Decision on Grounds:

31. The circumstances are that the Registrant was using the disabled badge to avoid paying for parking. Dishonest conduct is always a serious matter for any professional. The Panel was aware that there is a spectrum of dishonest conduct. A single occasion of the Registrant’s use of the disabled badge might be found to be at the bottom end of the spectrum. However, the Panel also found that the number of times the Registrant used the disabled badge further aggravated her conduct. The Registrant admitted that she had used the disabled badge on a number of occasions.

32. The Panel found that Particulars 2 and 3 amounted to conduct that was so serious that it amounted to Misconduct.

 

Decision on Impairment: 

33. The Panel then went on to consider whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired by reason of her misconduct and the conviction. The Panel heard the submissions of Ms Eales and it accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

34. The Legal Assessor drew the Panel’s attention to the approach set out in the case of CHRE v NMC and Grant (2011) EWHC 927 (Admin), and reminded the Panel that there was a personal and public component when considering whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise was currently impaired.

35. For this purpose, the Panel adopted the approach formulated by Dame Janet Smith in her fifth report of the Shipman inquiry by asking itself the following questions:

“Do our findings of fact in respect of the Registrant’s misconduct show that his fitness to practise is impaired in the sense that she:

a) has in the past acted and/or is liable in the future to act so as to put service users at unwarranted risk of harm; and/or

b) has in the past brought and/or is liable in the future to bring the Social Worker profession into disrepute; and/or

c) has in the past breached and/or is liable in the future to breach one of the fundamental tenets of the profession; and or

d) has in the past acted dishonestly and/or is liable in the future to act dishonestly?”

36. The Panel determined that the Registrant had brought the profession into disrepute and has breached one of the fundamental tenets of the profession, namely to behave honestly. This is evidenced by the newspaper articles, which demonstrate the public opprobrium her actions attracted.

37. The Panel took into account that the Registrant was a Newly Qualified Social Worker when she acted in the manner she did and when these matters came to light. The Panel considered that the fact that she was newly qualified goes some way to explaining the Registrant’s lack of insight that her conduct had adversely impacted upon the reputation of the profession and the public’s trust in the profession. By the time of her employer’s disciplinary hearing in April 2018, it appears that the Registrant has developed some insight into that impact. However, there is no additional evidence of insight form that date. The letter from her employer to the Registrant informing her of the outcome of the disciplinary hearing records the following:

“You said you hadn’t appreciated the consequences this could have on your career as a newly qualified Social Worker; to the point that you could be prevented from practising. You admitted to being totally naïve that the offence related solely to a parking infringement and not the wider act of using a deceased persons [sic] disabled blue badge. You stated that the offence has affected you both personally and professionally and has caused you considerable worry whereby you are constantly having to think about every decision you make.”

38. The Panel took the above into consideration and also considered what the Registrant said in her interview. It determined that the there was now a low risk of the Registrant repeating her misconduct or acting dishonestly again. The Panel noted that the Registrant admitted the criminal offences at the first available opportunity. The Registrant also admitted the allegations that she faced at her employer’s disciplinary proceedings, and expressed her deep remorse for her actions.

39. The Panel did not find that the Registrant’s fitness to practise was impaired on the personal component for impairment of fitness to practise.

40. However, the Panel determined that the Registrant’s misconduct was such that the need to uphold professional standards and public confidence in the professions would be undermined if a finding of impairment were not made in these circumstances.

41. Therefore, Panel determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired on public interest consideration

 

Decision on Sanction:

42. Having determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired, the Panel then considered what sanction, if any, should be imposed. It took into account the submissions of Ms Eales. She referred the Panel to the Sanctions Policy issued by the HCPC.

43. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. He advised the Panel that it should bear in mind that its over-arching duty is to protect the public and also the wider public interest, which includes maintaining and declaring proper standards of conduct and behaviour, maintaining the reputation of the profession, and maintaining public confidence in the profession and the regulatory process.

44. The Panel had regard to all the evidence presented, and to the HCPTS’ Indicative Sanctions Policy. The Panel reminded itself that the purpose of a sanction is not to be punitive although it may have a punitive effect. The Panel bore in mind the principles of fairness and proportionality when determining what the appropriate sanction in this case should be.

45. The Panel was aware that any sanction it imposes must be the least restrictive sanction that, in this case, is sufficient to protect the public interest. It should take into consideration the aggravating and mitigating factors in the case. The Panel also reminded itself that it must apply the principle of proportionality, weighing the Registrant’s interest against the public interest. 

 

Panel’s consideration and decision

46. The Panel has had regard to all the evidence presented, and to the HCPTS’ Sanctions Policy. This was not a case where the Registrant’s practice skills are in question. There are no identifiable areas of her practice that might benefit from re-training.

47. The Panel took into account the factors it had done when considering the issue of current impairment. In addition, it took into account the following factors:

a)  the Registrant had engaged with this regulatory process;

b)  no actual harm was caused to any patient or service user;

c) the Registrant has apologised and is clearly remorseful and ashamed   of her actions; and

d) the Registrant was at the time a newly qualified Social Worker.

48. The Panel first considered taking no action but concluded that the misconduct in this case was too serious for no action to be appropriate.

49. The Panel then considered whether to make a Caution Order. It bore in mind that a caution order would not restrict the Registrant’s right to practise. The Panel was mindful of its finding that the Registrant has demonstrated insight, has taken positive steps to avoid a repetition of her misconduct and has demonstrated that she was unlikely to repeat her misconduct.

50. The Panel was also mindful that a Caution Order is not an insignificant sanction and that it will appear on the registrant's online register entry for the period specified, and any prospective employer will be able to see it when checking the Registrant’s registration.

51. However, the Panel noted the Sanctions Guidance on imposing Caution Orders. The actions of the Registrant could not be described as relatively minor in nature such that a Caution Order would be appropriate. The Panel accepted that the issue was isolated, and that there was a low risk of repetition, but determined that the dishonesty displayed in this case was too serious for a Caution Order to be the appropriate sanction.

52. The Panel next considered the imposition of a Conditions of Practice Order. This was not a case where the Registrant’s skills as a Social Worker are in question. There are no identifiable areas of her practice, which might benefit from re-training. These are matters involving attitudinal issues, which cannot be addressed by the imposition of conditions of practice.

53. Taking into account all of the above, the Panel concluded that conditions could not be formulated which would adequately address the risk posed by the Registrant, and in doing so protect patients, colleagues and the public during the period they are in force.

54. The Panel went on to consider whether a period of suspension would be appropriate in this case. The Panel considered the Sanctions Guidance on imposing suspension orders. It determined that a Suspension Order was appropriate in this case as:

• the misconduct was a serious breach of the Standards of conduct, performance and ethics (ie. The need for a Registrant to act honestly);

• the Registrant has demonstrated sufficient insight;

• there is a low risk of repetition of this, or any other dishonest behaviour;

• the Registrant has remedied her behaviour.

55. The Panel then went on to consider the period for which to impose the Suspension Order. It reminded itself that the Registrant is still at the start of her career as a Social Worker, and noted the positive comments made about her by her Team Leader during the disciplinary proceedings. It was not lost on the Panel that it was the Team Leader who had referred the Registrant to the HCPC.

56. The Panel firstly considered a period of one month’s suspension. It considered that a period of one month would represent a token period to mark misconduct, but determined that these matters were too serious to by marked by such a short period.

57. The Panel then considered a period of two month’s suspension. It determined that this period would be the shortest period that would suffice to mark the misconduct of the Registrant and her conviction. That period represents a balance between the need to mark the seriousness of the Registrant’s actions, and the fact that she is at the start of her career as a Social Worker. The Panel did consider imposing a suspension order for three months, but determined that period would be punitive in nature, taking the above factors into consideration.

58. The Panel therefore imposes a two-month suspension upon the Registrant as a sanction.

59. The Panel considered whether an Interim Order was necessary in this case but determined that one was not, as there were not public protection issues involved

 

Order

Order: That the Registrar is directed to suspend the registration of Miss Hayley North for a period of 2 months from the date this order comes into effect.

Notes

This order will be reviewed again before its expiry on 23 October 2019

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 restricted
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.

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Miss Hayley North

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
20/09/2019 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Hearing has not yet been held
26/07/2019 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended