Mr Peter John Pike

Profession: Social worker

Registration Number: SW33604

Interim Order: Imposed on 11 May 2017

Hearing Type: Review Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 11/07/2019 End: 17:00 11/07/2019

Location: Jurys Inn Cardiff, 1 Park Place, Cardiff, CF10 3UD

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Struck off

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Allegation

The following allegation was considered by a panel of the Conduct and Competence Committee at the substantive hearing on 16-18 July 2018.

Whilst registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) as a Social Worker;

1. With regard to Service User A, you did not maintain professional boundaries, in that you:
 
a) gave Service User A your mobile phone number;

b) not proved;

c) took Service User A on holiday to Turkey during 2013;

d) paid for Service User A’s holiday to Turkey;

e) shared a room with Service User A whilst on holiday in Turkey;

f) not proved;

g) not proved;

h) not proved.

2. With regard to Service User B, on the 28 September 2012, you accessed their personal records on the RIO database without authorisation and/or professional reasons.

3. not proved.

4. The matters set out in paragraphs 1, 2, and 3 constitute misconduct.

5. By reason of your misconduct your fitness to practise is impaired.

The substantive hearing panel found particulars 1(a), 1(c), 1(d), 1(e), and 2 proved, that these amounted to misconduct, and that the Registrant’s fitness to practise was currently impaired. The panel imposed a Suspension Order for a period of 12 months.

Finding

Preliminary matters

Service

1. The Hearings Officer provided the Panel with details of service of the Notice of Hearing sent to the Registrant. The Presenting Officer addressed the Panel in relation to inaccuracies in the first paragraph of the Notice of Hearing with regard to the chronology of this matter. She submitted that the Notice of Hearing was not rendered ineffective as it did contain the correct required information, i.e. date, time, venue and nature of the hearing.

2. The Panel had regard to the HCPTS Practice Note in relation to “Service of Documents” and received advice from the Legal Assessor. It was satisfied that the Registrant was notified of the date, time, and venue of the hearing via a letter dated 14 June 2019 (the “Notice of Hearing”) which was sent by first class post to his registered address and to his email address. Neither communication had been returned as undeliverable. Accordingly, the Panel found that the HCPC had served notice on the Registrant in accordance with the Conduct and Competence Committee Procedure Rules 2003 (the Rules).

Proceeding in Absence of the Registrant

3. The Presenting Officer submitted that it was in the public interest for the hearing to proceed in the absence of the Registrant. She outlined the chronology of the matter, noting that a substantive hearing took place on 16-18 July 2018, following which that panel imposed a Suspension Order which is due to expire on 15 August 2019. The Presenting Officer invited the Panel to exercise its discretion to proceed with the case today in the absence of the Registrant, stating that he had chosen not to engage with his Regulator. There was an expectation that regulatory matters would be dealt with expeditiously. The Registrant had not engaged with the Regulator and there was no indication that, if the matter were adjourned, he would engage in future. The Presenting Officer informed the Panel that a further email was sent on 25 June 2019 and she had also attempted to contact him by telephone on 10 July 2019, but the number was invalid.

4. The Panel noted the provisions of the HCPTS Practice Note in respect of “Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant”. There had been no request for an adjournment received, nor any interest expressed by the Registrant in providing evidence via video- or telephone link. The Registrant had not indicated any desire to be represented at the hearing, nor had he provided any reason for his failure to engage with his Regulator in this matter. Included in the Notice of Hearing was confirmation that the hearing could proceed in the absence of the Registrant. He was therefore on notice that the hearing could proceed.

5. The Panel was satisfied that it was appropriate for it to exercise its discretion to hear the matter in the absence of the Registrant. Although proceeding in absence may disadvantage the Registrant, the Panel was satisfied that he was aware of the hearing (the Panel having already found that there had been good service in relation to the Notice of Hearing). The Registrant had chosen not to be represented or provide any comment on the matter, and he had not engaged with the Regulator at all from the commencement of the regulatory proceedings, save to provide written representations in April 2018. There was no evidence to suggest that the Registrant would attend or even engage if the matter were adjourned to an alternative date. The Panel considered that the public interest in proceeding outweighed any potential prejudice which may be suffered by the Registrant. It was satisfied that the Registrant had voluntarily absented himself from the proceedings without making representations.

Background

6. The Registrant is a registered Social Worker who became a volunteer with Community Housing Aid, a homeless charity, in December 2011. He participated in the Nightstop scheme, which enabled volunteer hosts to offer their spare rooms for one or two nights to young people aged 16-25 who were at risk of homelessness.

7. In 2015, concerns were raised in relation to the Registrant’s interaction with Service User A in 2013, as a consequence of which the Registrant was interviewed by the Police. Subsequently, concerns were raised in respect of the Registrant accessing the personal records of Service User B in 2012.

8. Following a hearing of the Conduct and Competence Committee on 16-18 July 2018, which the Registrant did not attend, a number of the particulars alleged were found proved as set out above, and the Registrant’s fitness to practise was assessed as being impaired on both the personal and public components. A Suspension Order was imposed by the panel, of which this is the first mandatory review. The substantive hearing panel also indicated that a reviewing panel may be assisted by:

• the Registrant’s attendance at the review;

• a reflective piece completed by the Registrant, reflecting on his failings and the potential impact of those failings on Service Users A and B, service users in general, the Registrant’s colleagues and employer, and public confidence in the profession;

• evidence that he has considered the August 2012 edition of the HCPC guidance document entitled “Returning to Practice”, together with evidence of any actions he has taken in response to that guidance, including evidence of training and keeping his skills and knowledge up-to-date;

• testimonials or references from paid or unpaid work;

• details of current employment detailing any remedial action he may have taken in order to avoid repetition of those failings in the future.

9. As well as being provided with the bundle of documents submitted by the HCPC for the review hearing, the Registrant was contacted by the Presenting Officer in June 2019 via email in respect of the hearing, but no response was received.

Decision
 
10. In relation to impairment, the Presenting Officer submitted that the Registrant remains impaired, as he has not demonstrated insight or remediation and, therefore, there is a real risk of repetition. She submitted that he remains impaired on both the personal and public components of impairment.

11. In relation to sanction, the HCPC’s position was that a Striking Off Order could be appropriate given the lack of engagement by the Registrant. In the event that the Panel did not find that a Striking Off Order was appropriate, the Presenting Officer submitted that the most appropriate Order would be a Suspension Order, given that it would not be possible to formulate proportionate and workable Conditions of Practice to address the risk posed to the public if the Registrant returned to practice.

12. The Panel listened carefully to the submissions made by the Presenting Officer, and considered all of the documentation provided to it. It accepted and applied the advice of the Legal Assessor in relation to the proper approach in determining this matter. It also had regard to the policies adopted by HCPC in relation to the approach to take in Fitness to Practice proceedings. It also noted and applied the following practice notes adopted by HCPTS:

• “Review of Article 30 Sanction Orders”;

• “Finding that Fitness to Practice is Impaired”;

• “Drafting Decisions”.

13. The Panel reminded itself that Suspension Orders are imposed only when there is either a serious and on-going risk to service users or the public from the Registrant’s lack of professional knowledge or skills, conduct or unmanaged health problems, or the allegation is so serious that public confidence in the profession or the regulatory process would be seriously harmed if the Registrant was allowed to remain in practice. The review process is to consider whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired and, if so, whether the existing Order or another order needs to be in place to protect the public. The key issue which needs to be addressed is what, if anything, has changed since the current Order was imposed. The factors to be taken into account include:

• the steps which the Registrant has taken to address any specific failings or other issues identified in the previous decision;

• the degree of insight shown and whether this has changed;

• the steps which the Registrant has taken to maintain or improve his professional knowledge and skills;

• whether any other fitness to practise issues have arisen;

• whether the Registrant has complied with the existing Order.

14. The Panel considered whether the concerns which led to a finding of impairment at the substantive hearing in July 2018 remain. As the decision in Abrahaem v GMC [2008] EWHC 183 (Admin) indicates, in practical terms this places a “persuasive burden” on the Registrant to demonstrate at a review hearing that he has fully acknowledged the issues which led to the original finding and has addressed them sufficiently “through insight, application, education, supervision or other achievement...”.

15. The Panel reminded itself that, when reviewing sanctions under Article 30 of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001 (the Order), the reviewing panel may:
  
• confirm the Order;

• extend, or further extend, the duration of the Order;

• reduce the duration of the Order;

• replace the Order with any other order which the Panel could have made (to run for the remaining term of the original order); or

• revoke the Order or revoke or vary any condition imposed by it.

16. The decision reached by the Panel must be proportionate, striking a fair balance between interfering with the Registrant’s ability to practise and the overarching objective of public protection. Of particular relevance to the Panel is whether the concerns raised in the original finding of impairment have been sufficiently addressed, with the burden on the Registrant to demonstrate that he has fully acknowledged the deficiencies which led to the original finding and has addressed that impairment sufficiently.

17. The Panel concluded that the failings identified by the previous panel considering this matter have not been addressed by the Registrant. He had submitted information to the HCPC in advance of the substantive hearing but was neither present nor represented at that hearing. He has not provided any information for consideration during this review, despite the previous panel setting out in detail the information which could assist such a reviewing panel. Given the lack of engagement, there is no evidence of insight or remediation, and the Panel considered there is a real risk of repetition if the Registrant were allowed to return to unrestricted practice.

18. Further, a reasonable and well-informed member of the public would be concerned if no action were taken to restrict the Registrant’s practice. The Panel considered that public confidence in the profession and the regulatory process would be seriously undermined given the nature and gravity of the Registrant’s shortcomings and his failure to engage with the regulatory process over time.

19. Accordingly, the Panel determined that the Registrant remains impaired on both the personal and public components.

20. In considering sanction, the Panel first considered no further action or a Caution Order, but was of the view that these were not sufficient given the nature of the failings. The Panel next considered a Conditions of Practice Order, but concluded that this would be unworkable given the lack of engagement by the Registrant with the regulatory process.

21. The Panel next considered a Suspension Order. The previous panel did note that a Striking Off Order was “a very real possibility.” However, that panel determined that a Suspension Order was appropriate as the conduct was remediable and this would allow the Registrant time to reflect on his failings. The Panel considered the seriousness of the misconduct and the guidance which the previous panel gave the Registrant as to how to demonstrate that he has reflected on his failings or remediated his practice. The Panel considered whether a further Suspension Order would be appropriate. The Registrant presented no information to the Panel, such as a reflective piece, which would demonstrate insight or remediation. He presented no information as to why he had not done so. The Panel was not persuaded that a further Suspension Order would serve any purpose, given the lack of engagement in the regulatory process by the Registrant. The Panel considered that it would not be in the public interest or in the Registrant’s interest to maintain a cycle of mandatory reviews.

22. The Panel had regard to the consequential impact a Striking Off Order would have on the Registrant, but concluded that his interests were outweighed by the Panel’s duty to give priority to the public interest and maintain confidence in the Regulator. It was satisfied that no lesser sanction order would be appropriate in the particular circumstances of this case.

23. The Panel therefore decided that the appropriate and proportionate order is a Striking Off Order.

Order

The Registrar is directed to strike the name of Mr Peter John Pike from the Register on the expiry of the existing Order.

Notes

The Order imposed today will apply from 15 August 2019.

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Mr Peter John Pike

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
11/07/2019 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Struck off
16/07/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended
09/05/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Interim Order Review Interim Suspension
16/02/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Interim Order Review Interim Suspension
16/11/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Interim Order Review Interim Suspension
11/05/2017 Investigating committee Interim Order Application Interim Suspension