Mr Mark Jonathan Dunham
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By reason of your physical and/or mental health, your fitness to practice as a Social Worker is impaired.
Service of Notice
1. The Panel was provided with a copy of the Notice sent by first class post to the Registrant’s registered address on 14 May 2019, setting out the time, date and venue for what was originally to be a review of the substantive order, and the possibility of the Panel proceeding without the Registrant in the event that he did not attend. The Panel was provided with proof of postage by way of a signed declaration by an HCPC employee. Following the decision to apply for voluntary removal, the HCPC sent a letter to the Registrant dated 11 June 2019, notifying him of the intention to make such an application at today’s hearing. In all the circumstances, the Panel was thus satisfied with service in this case.
Application to hear the case in private
2. Ms Senior made an application for the hearing to be conducted wholly in private because the entire case concerned the health of the Registrant.
3. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and agreed that it was appropriate for the case to be conducted entirely in private in order to protect the private life of the Registrant, since it related to his health. This was not a case where the public interest required the hearing to be conducted in public.
Proceeding in the absence of the Registrant
4. The Registrant did not attend the hearing. On 7 June 2019, he did send an email to the HCPC in which he stated:
“Further to the email below and our telephone conversation yesterday. I confirm that I have read the practice notes and wish to be voluntarily removed from the register.”
5. In a telephone call to the Presenting Officer on 6 June 2019, the Registrant said that he wished to be voluntarily removed from the Register because he no longer wished to work as a Social Worker. He stated that he did engage initially with the HCPC and should have requested voluntary removal earlier. He stated that the ongoing cycle of review hearings was stressful for him and contributing to his ill health.
6. In an email dated 11 June 2019, the Registrant said, “I do not intend to be at the hearing, but can be contacted by telephone.”
7. Ms Senior submitted that in such circumstances it would be appropriate to proceed in the Registrant’s absence. It was clearly in his interests to do so and in both the public interest and the interests of the HCPC. She submitted that an adjournment would serve no useful purpose.
8. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. He advised that, if the Panel was 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. The Legal Assessor referred the Panel to the case of GMC v Adeogba and Visvardis  EWCA Civ 162 and advised the Panel 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”.
9. The Panel is required to ensure that fairness and justice are maintained when deciding whether or not to proceed in a Registrant’s absence.
10. The Panel was satisfied that all reasonable efforts had been made by the HCPC to notify the Registrant of the hearing and that he was aware of it.
11. The Panel was mindful to exercise its discretion to proceed in the absence of the Registrant with care and caution. 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 be present.
12. In reaching its decision, the Panel took into account the fact that the Registrant had indicated that the review cycle was stressful and contributing to his ill health. It also took into account the fact that he had signed a Voluntary Removal Agreement and had stated that he did not intend to attend the hearing.
13. In all the circumstances, the Panel was satisfied that the Registrant had voluntarily absented himself. Having weighed the public interest against the Registrant’s own interest, the Panel decided to proceed in the Registrant’s absence.
ORDER: The Panel directs that the Suspension Order (the Existing Order) be revoked and approves the Voluntary Removal Agreement on the basis that the Registrar will remove the name of Mr Mark Jonathan Dunham from the Register with immediate effect.
No notes available