Mrs Sigrun Legemah

Profession: Social worker

Registration Number: SW58568

Interim Order: Imposed on 11 Sep 2017

Hearing Type: Review Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 02/07/2019 End: 12:00 02/07/2019

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

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Struck off

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Allegation

As found proven at the final hearing on 7 July 2018:

Whilst registered as a Social Worker:


1)     You smelt of alcohol whilst at work on the following dates:

    i)      29 December 2015;
    ii)     13 January 2016;
    iii)    found not proven;
    iv)    15 February 2016.

2)     In relation to Young Person A:

    a) You arrived approximately one hour late for a meeting on 4 January 2016

    b) You did not attend a meeting scheduled for 10 February 2016;

    c) You attended a meeting on 12 February 2016 in relation to Young Person A and:
        i)  You smelt of alcohol;
        ii)  You breached confidentiality by sharing information about Young Person A during the meeting;
       iii) Your manner was rude and/or unprofessional.

3)     On 24 February 2014 at East Berkshire 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 blood exceeded the prescribed limit.

4)     In November 2014 you did not disclose the fact of your conviction on 24 February 2014 to the HCPC.

5)     Your actions in paragraph 4 were dishonest.

6)     The matters set out in paragraphs 1, 2, 4 and 5 constitute misconduct.

7)     By reason of your conviction in paragraph 3 and/or your misconduct in paragraph 1, 2, 4 and 5 your fitness to practise is impaired.

Finding

Preliminary Matters

Service

1. The Panel had information before it that Notice of today’s hearing dated 31 May 2019 was sent to the Registrant’s address on the Register on the same date by first class post. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and was satisfied that service had been effected in accordance with Rules 3 and 6 of the Health and Care Professions Council (Conduct and Competence Committee) (Procedure) Rules 2003 (the Rules).

Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant

2. Ms Simpson, on behalf of the HCPC, applied for the Panel to proceed today. She informed the Panel that the Registrant has not corresponded or engaged at all with regard to today’s hearing or been in contact since December 2017, which was prior to the final hearing.

3. Ms Simpson informed the Panel that the Notice of hearing which had been posted to the Registrant’s address had been returned in the post. However, it had also been emailed to the Registrant’s email address which is held on the register by the HCPC and a further reminder of today’s hearing was sent by email on 17 June 2019.

4. The Panel noted that latter communication encouraged the Registrant to attend by telephone or in person and helpfully suggested further information which could be submitted to today’s Panel. There has been no response.

5. Ms Simpson reminded the Panel that no application to adjourn has been received from the Registrant, and there is no indication that she will attend in the future.  Ms Simpson reminded the Panel that the Order expires on 2 August 2019 and therefore it is in the public interest as well as the Registrant’s interests to proceed.

6. The Panel took into account the HCPTS Practice Note entitled “Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant” and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel was aware that the discretion to proceed in the absence of a Registrant should be exercised with the utmost care and caution. The Panel was of the view that there is no indication that an adjournment would secure the Registrant’s attendance at a future date on the basis of the absence of a request for an adjournment from the Registrant, the lack of a response to attempts to communicate with her, and noting that she has not engaged with the HCPC since prior to the substantive hearing. The Panel took into account the potential disadvantage to the Registrant if it were to proceed. However, taking into account the lack of  a response or request for an adjournment from the Registrant, the Panel was satisfied that it is in the public interest, as well as being fair to the Registrant, for today’s review to proceed expeditiously.

7. The Panel therefore decided to proceed today.

Application for hearing to be in Private

8. Ms Simpson applied for the hearing to be in private to protect the private life of the Registrant when matters relating to her health were referred to.

9. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and were aware of the HCPTS’ Practice Note entitled Conducting Hearings in Private.

10. The Panel decided that the hearing should be heard in public although any reference to matters of the Registrant’s health and private life would be heard in private.

Background

11. The Registrant was employed as a locum Social Worker with Surrey County Council between 8 December 2015 and 15 February 2016. During that period she worked as a member of the North East Surrey Looked After Children’s Team (‘LAC’ or ‘the LAC Team’), when there arose concerns regarding the matters to which particulars 1 and 2 of the Allegation relate.

12. Those concerns were referred to the HCPC on behalf of the Council by a written referral dated 25 February 2016. Following enquiries made of the Registrant by the HCPC, there arose further concerns, giving rise to the matters in paragraphs 3 and 4 of the Allegation.

Decision 

13. Ms Simpson submitted that, in light of the lack of any evidence from the Registrant to address the concerns found, and the lack of evidence of insight before the Panel, the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired. Ms Simpson submitted that, a Striking Off Order is the appropriate sanction in the circumstances.    

14. There were no submissions from the Registrant before the Panel.

15. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

16. The Panel was aware that its purpose today was to conduct a comprehensive review of the Registrant’s fitness to return to unrestricted practice and considered the HCPTS Practice Note entitled “Review of Article 30 Sanction Orders”.
17. The Panel must exercise its own independent judgement with regard to impairment.

18. Today’s Panel noted that while the original Panel found that the Registrant had shown some insight into the aspects of her misconduct relating to alcohol use, as well as taken some positive steps to address it in 2016, she had, by the time of the substantive hearing, demonstrated no insight into her misconduct insofar as it concerned the wrongful disclosure of confidential information, her rude and unprofessional manner as found by the Panel, or her dishonesty.

19. There has been no evidence before today’s Panel from the Registrant demonstrating the level of her insight. Further, there is a lack of any evidence that she has taken any steps to address the misconduct, or her misuse of alcohol, or of any evidence about steps taken by her to maintain her professional skills and knowledge since the substantive hearing.

20. This absence of such evidence is despite the Registrant having had almost 12 months to consider her position, to reflect on what occurred, to engage with the regulatory process, and to demonstrate evidence of remedial steps. Taking into account the lapse of time since the substantive hearing, the Panel concluded that a real risk of repetition remains in respect of the misconduct.

21. With regard to the wider public interest which includes public confidence in the profession, the Panel was of the view that in light of the concerns which have not been addressed, and the consequent risk to patient safety, the Panel was satisfied that a fully informed and fair minded member of the public would be gravely concerned if the Registrant were returned to unrestricted practice. The Panel was therefore satisfied that the need to maintain public confidence in the profession and to uphold proper standards, would be undermined if a finding of impairment were not made in the particular circumstances.

22. The Panel therefore found that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired in respect of the personal and public components.

23. The Panel next went on to consider sanction, and took into account the Indicative Sanctions Policy (ISP). The Panel bore in mind that sanction is a matter for its own independent judgment, and that the purpose of a sanction is not to punish the Registrant but to protect the public. Further, sanction must be proportionate, so that any order that it makes be the least restrictive order necessary to protect the public interest, including public protection. 

24. The Panel first considered taking no action. The Panel concluded that, in view of the nature and seriousness of the Registrant’s misconduct which has not been remedied, and the ongoing risk to public protection, it would be inappropriate to take no action. It would be insufficient to protect the public, maintain public confidence and uphold the reputation of the profession. The Panel concluded that a Caution Order would be inappropriate and insufficient to protect the public and meet the public interest for the same reasons.

25. The Panel next considered a Conditions of Practice Order. Para. 33 of the ISP states that

“Conditions will rarely be effective unless the registrant is genuinely committed to resolving the issues they seek to address and can be trusted to make a determined effort to do so. Therefore, conditions of practice are unlikely to be suitable in cases:

where the registrant has failed to engage with the fitness to practise process, lacks insight or denies any wrongdoing…”

26. On the basis of the Registrant’s lack of engagement since prior to the substantive hearing, there is no indication that she would be willing to comply with conditions. The Panel therefore decided that conditions would be unworkable and neither sufficient to protect the public, nor in the public interest.

27. The Panel next considered a Suspension Order and considered para. 39 of the ISP:
“Suspension should be considered where the Panel considers that a caution or conditions of practice would provide insufficient public protection or where the allegation is of a serious nature but unlikely to be repeated and, thus, striking off is not merited”.

28. Further para. 41 of the ISP states:

“If the evidence suggests that the registrant will be unable to resolve or remedy his or her failings then striking off may be the more appropriate option. However, where there are no psychological or other difficulties preventing the registrant from understanding and seeking to remedy the failings then suspension may be appropriate.”

29. The Panel has decided that there is a real risk of repetition of the misconduct. In light of the Registrant’s lack of engagement, the Panel concluded that she is either unable or unwilling to resolve her failings. The underlying issues of a lack of engagement with the regulatory process, the lack of indication that the Registrant wishes to return to the profession, and the ongoing risk of repetition, led the Panel to conclude that Suspension would not be appropriate or sufficient to protect the public or uphold the wider public interest.

30. The Panel considered the following paragraphs of 48 and 49 of the ISP which state:

“48. Striking off should be used where there is no other way to protect the public, for example, where there is a lack of insight, continuing problems or denial. A registrant’s inability or unwillingness to resolve matters will suggest that a lower sanction may not be appropriate.

49. Striking off may also be appropriate where the nature and gravity of the allegation are such that any lesser sanction would lack deterrent effect or undermine confidence in the profession concerned or the regulatory process. Where striking off is used to address these wider public protection issues, Panels should provide clear reasons for doing so. Those reasons must explain why striking off is appropriate and not merely repeat that it is being done to deter others or maintain public confidence.”

31. The Panel took into account the continuing lack of engagement during the period of Suspension over the last year, the lack of any indication from the Registrant that she wishes to return to the profession, the lack of any evidence of insight in the intervening period or resolution of the concerns found proved, as well as the ongoing significant risk of repetition of misconduct and therefore ongoing risk to service users. The Registrant is either unable or unwilling to resolve the concerns. All of these factors led the Panel to decide that Striking off is the only way in which the public can be protected, and which can uphold the wider public interest.

32. In coming to its decision, the Panel took into account the principle of proportionality, and the impact that such a sanction will have on the Registrant’s right to practise her profession, as well as the likely reputational and financial impact. However, the Panel decided that the need to protect the public and uphold the public interest outweighed the Registrant’s interests in this regard.

33. The Panel therefore decided to impose a Striking Off Order which will come into effect on the expiry of the current Order.

Order

ORDER: The Registrar is directed to strike the name of Mrs Sigrun Legemah from the date of the expiry of the current Order.

 

Notes

The Order imposed today will apply from 2 August 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 Articles 30(10) and 38 of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001, any appeal must be made to the court not more than 28 days after the date when this notice is served on you.

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.

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Mrs Sigrun Legemah

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
02/07/2019 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Struck off
02/07/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended