Miss Natalie Asquith
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1. On 19 October 2018, at West Yorkshire Magistrates’ Court, you were convicted of driving a motor vehicle on a road after consuming so much alcohol that the proportion of it in your breath, namely 97 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath, exceeded the prescribed amount, contrary to section 5(1)(a) of the Road Traffic Act 1988 and Schedule 2 to the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988.
2. By reason of your conviction your fitness to practise as a social worker is impaired.
1. At the outset of the hearing Ms Simpson made an application under Rule 10 of the HCPC Practice Committee Rules, for part of the hearing to be in private. She indicated that she would be making some references to matters personal to the Registrant and that those matters should be in private to protect the Registrant’s private life. The Registrant supported the application.
2. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor that, although hearings are usually heard in public, the Rules allow for the hearing to be heard in private where matters pertaining to the health, or private matters, of the Registrant are to be referred to. The Panel therefore agreed that where such matters were referred to the hearing would be in private in order to protect the private life of the Registrant.
3. The Registrant is a registered Social Worker.
4. At approximately 24 minutes past midnight on 5 October 2018, the Registrant drove past an unmarked police car in excess of the speed limit. The police car followed her and when she come to a halt in a cul de sac the police found the Registrant to be obviously intoxicated and not wearing any shoes. She subsequently provided a positive roadside breath test and was arrested. At the police station she proved a specimen of breath for analysis which indicated 97 micrograms of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath, the legal limit being 35 micrograms of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath.
5. On 19 October 2018, the Registrant appeared before the Magistrates’ Court at Leeds, entered a plea of guilty and was convicted of driving a motor vehicle whilst over the legal alcohol consumption limit. She was disqualified from holding or obtaining a driving licence for 25 months, with a reduction of 25 weeks, should she complete a drink driving course by 27 March 2020. The Registrant was also fined £400, had to pay the victim surcharge of £40 and the Crown Prosecution Service costs of £85.
6. On 23 October 2018, the Registrant self-referred to the Fitness to Practise Department of the HCPC. In her self-referral, the Registrant explained that, at the time of the offence, she was due to begin her social work career with a local council who withdrew her application as a result of the incident.
7. The Registrant also provided some life factors which she said may have influenced her bad decision making on that particular night. She referred to: struggling with the transition from leaving university into social work; working full-time with vulnerable children and families with low quality/no supervision and limited resources; financial strain.
8. She said that although she did not view those life facts as an excuse for her wrongful behaviour, she wished them to be taken into consideration when reviewing her case. She said that she understood the potential risk she imposed on herself and others.
9. On 15 March 2019, an Investigating Committee Panel (ICP) determined that there was a case to answer in respect of the above allegation against the Registrant.
10. On 6 January 2019, as part of her submissions to the ICP, the Registrant admitted the allegation, demonstrated ongoing reflection around the relevant event and a willingness to address the issues identified.
11. Disposal by way of consent was subsequently explored with the Registrant. Following the ICP meeting, in an email dated 14 May 2019, the Registrant affirmed her admission of the allegation and also admitted that her fitness to practise is currently impaired.
12. Following the ICP decision, the Registrant provided evidence that she had completed a drink driving course on 31 May 2019.
13. On 5 June 2019, a Consent Order proposing the Registrant be subject to a three year Caution Order was sent to the Registrant for consideration. The Registrant signed and returned the Consent Order on 13 June 2019. In this Order the Registrant makes it clear that she accepts the allegation, that her fitness to practise is currently impaired and that she agrees to be subject to a Caution Order for a period of three years from 15 July 2019 (the Operative Date).
14. At the hearing, the Registrant said she was “truly sorry” for her actions and stated emphatically that she would never drink and drive again. She said how she had reflected on the incident and learned from it. She had attended the three day drink driving course and reflected on her behaviour and how it impacted upon herself, others and the social work profession. She said she had since put strategies in place to ensure she would not allow herself to behave in such a way again. She provided detail of the steps she had taken and her positive attitude in moving forward. She was passionate about wanting to work as a Social Worker and keen to progress her career.
15. The Registrant provided a very positive testimonial from her academic tutor and mentor, who said if he had to choose just one student of his ex-students for a career in social work, the Registrant would be far ahead of the rest. He concluded by saying, “The Social Work profession and Children/families would be so much worse off without this outstanding person.”
16. Before considering the facts, statutory ground, impairment and proposed sanction the Panel heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.
Decision on Facts
17. The Panel accepted the Registrant’s admissions to the facts alleged, which were supported by the Memorandum of Conviction, and found the facts proved.
Decision on Grounds
18. The Panel found the statutory ground to be made out by virtue of the Memorandum of Conviction.
Decision on Impairment
19. The Panel noted the Registrant’s acceptance that her fitness to practise was currently impaired by virtue of her conviction. Notwithstanding that acceptance, the Panel reached its own independent conclusion, which was that her fitness to practise was indeed impaired by virtue of the conviction. The Panel noted that the Registrant’s alcohol reading had been significantly over the legal limit, as reflected by the long driving ban she received. By driving whilst under the influence of such an amount of alcohol she clearly put herself and others at risk of injury. However, the Panel did not consider she represented on ongoing risk to the public because: this was an isolated incident; no actual harm was caused; she had shown significant insight and taken effective steps to ensure there would be no repetition; these included attendance on a three day drink driving course and she was able to say what she had learned from the course; she had expressed genuine remorse and said she would never drink and drive again; there was no history of such behaviour and the Panel was satisfied that the risk of repetition was very low.
20. The Panel did not, therefore, find the Registrant’s fitness to be impaired on public protection grounds. It did, however, find her to be impaired on public interest grounds. She was in breach of Standard 3.1 of the Standards of Proficiency for Social Workers in England, which requires Registrants to understand the need to maintain high standards of personal and professional conduct. On this occasion she failed in this regard and thereby brought the profession into disrepute. By driving whilst under the influence of alcohol, particularly when so far over the legal limit, the Registrant behaved in a way which was likely to undermine public confidence in the profession. In such circumstances, the Panel was satisfied that a finding of current impairment was necessary on public interest grounds.
Decision on Sanction
21. In reaching its decision on whether the proposed sanction of a Caution Order for three years was appropriate and proportionate, the Panel took into account the submissions made by Ms Simpson and those made by the Registrant, together with all the written evidence and all matters of personal mitigation. The Panel also referred to the HCPTS Practice Note on Consent Orders as well as the guidance issued by the Council in its Indicative Sanctions Policy. 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 had already indicated that it did not consider there to be any public protection concerns in this case.
22. The Panel noted that the Registrant has been transparent and forthright in her admission of the allegations throughout the fitness to practise process. In her email dated 14 May 2019, the Registrant also explicitly accepted that her fitness to practise is currently impaired and submitted that she is willing to work with the HCPC to address the reasons for her impairment. In her reflections submitted to the ICP, the Registrant demonstrated insight and remorse for her actions and an understanding of the impact of her behaviour. She has provided a positive testimonial from her Academic Tutor and Mentor, who speaks very highly of her potential as a Social Worker.
23. Based on the evidence available, the Panel was satisfied that the incident of 5 October 2018 was isolated in nature and the Registrant had outlined some compelling mitigating personal circumstances which she indicated may have contributed to her lapse in judgement at the time of the conviction. In completing her drink driving course and complying with the conditions of the Court, the Registrant had also demonstrated evidence of remediation. In addition, she has demonstrated significant insight into her behaviour, together with genuine remorse and she has put strategies in place to help avoid any repetition.
24. In all the circumstances, the Panel was satisfied that a three year Caution Order would mark that the Registrant’s conduct was serious, had the potential at the time to cause harm to members of the public and also brought the social work profession into disrepute. The Panel considered the public interest would be satisfied by a three year Caution Order and that resolving the case in this way would not, in the Panel’s view, be detrimental to the wider public interest. The Panel considered three years was the minimum necessary to satisfy public confidence in the profession, particularly in light of the very high alcohol reading and the risk the Registrant posed to the public at the time of the offence.
25. The Panel did not consider a more onerous sanction was necessary or proportionate in this case.
26. Accordingly, the Panel agrees with the proposed Consent Order.
Order: That the Registrar is directed to annotate the Register entry of Miss Natalie Asquith with a Caution, which is to remain on the Register for a period of 3 years from the date that this order comes into effect.
A hearing took place in London on 15 July 2019 in which a three-year Caution was imposed by Consent.
History of Hearings for Miss Natalie Asquith
|Date||Panel||Hearing type||Outcomes / Status|
|15/07/2019||Conduct and Competence Committee||Consent Order Hearing||Caution|