Mrs Anne Ripley

Profession: Social worker

Registration Number: SW60683

Hearing Type: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 24/06/2019 End: 17:00 27/06/2019

Location: Health and Care Professions Tribunal Service

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Struck off

Please note that the decision can take up to 5 working days to be uploaded onto the HCPTS website. Please contact one of our Hearings Team Managers via tsteam@hcpts-uk.org or +44 (0)808 164 3084 if you require any further information.

 

Allegation

Whilst registered with the Health and Care Professions Council as a social worker, you:

 

1) On dates between on/or around 13 June 2017 and on/or around 24 June 2017, borrowed approximately £52,500 from Person A, which you did not repay to Person A.

 

2) On or around 24 May 2017, took a watch belonging to Person A.

 

3) Between 3 July 2017 and 7 July 2017, took approximately EU4000 and £120 from Person A.

 

4) Between 24 May 2017 and 7 July 2017, took approximately £4000 and EU1000 from Person A.

 

5) The matters set out in paragraphs 1 - 4 constitute dishonesty.

 

6) That matters set out in paragraphs 1 – 5 constitute misconduct.

 

7) By reason of your misconduct your fitness to practise as a Social Worker is impaired.

Finding

Preliminary Matters

Service

1. As the Registrant did not attend the hearing and was not represented at it, the Panel first considered whether valid notice of hearing had been sent to her. The Panel concluded that the letter dated 11 March 2019 sent to the Registrant’s address as it appeared on the HCPC Register amounted to good service.


Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant

2. After the Panel stated that it was satisfied that there had been good service of the notice of hearing, the Presenting Officer applied for a direction that the hearing should proceed in the absence of the Registrant. In considering this application the Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and had regard to the factors identified in the relevant HCPTS Practice Note on the topic. Accordingly, the Panel accepted that a decision to proceed with a hearing in the absence of the person concerned is not one to be taken lightly. Having given the matter careful consideration, the Panel concluded that in the present case the hearing should proceed in the Registrant’s absence. The reasons for this decision were as follows:

• On three separate occasions, namely by her reply to a “Response Pro-Forma And Pre-Hearing Information Form”, an email sent on 11 March 2019, and an email sent on 12 March 2019, the Registrant stated that it was not her intention to attend the hearing. The email of 12 March 2019 was sent as a reply to the emailed version of the notice of hearing, from which the Panel is able to conclude that the indication of an intention not to attend was made in the knowledge of the scheduled hearing dates.

• There was no suggestion by the Registrant that her decision not to attend the hearing arose from the scheduled hearing dates being inconvenient for her, and she made no request for the hearing to be held at another time.

• The Panel did consider a GP letter which stated that the Registrant’s health would be significantly impacted by the hearing process. The letter was dated 31 October 2018, and the Panel did not consider that it amounted to a reason not to proceed given the Registrant’s later assertions, which were simply that she would not attend.

• Accordingly, the Panel concluded that the Registrant had voluntarily waived her right to attend the hearing. Further, there was no information from which the Panel could conclude that the Registrant would be likely to attend a hearing on a future occasion if it did not proceed at the present time.

• The Registrant requested that the Panel should see documents recording her version of the relevant events, and accordingly the disadvantage to the Registrant arising from her absence was mitigated by the Panel being able to consider her representations.

• Person A was in attendance waiting to give evidence.

• The events were already two years in the past, and further delay was undesirable.

• All of these factors resulted in the Panel concluding that the public interest required the hearing to proceed.

Conduct of the hearing

3. Before the Presenting Officer opened the case the Panel suggested that the present case was one where it would be sensible to reach a decision on the factual issues before consideration of any issues of misconduct or impairment of fitness to practise. The Presenting Officer stated that she agreed with this suggestion. Accordingly, the Panel’s initial enquiry was restricted to the factual issues in the case.

Background

4. The relevant events occurred in the period May 2017 to July 2017. They do not concern the manner in which she discharged her professional role as a Social Worker, being events that occurred in her private life. Accordingly, the Panel does not consider it necessary to detail such evidence as it received about her professional work.

5. Person A is retired and a man of some wealth. In May 2017 he was in the process of becoming divorced and placed an advertisement on a dating website run by a national newspaper. The Registrant replied to his advertisement. On the evidence received by the Panel they first met on Saturday, 20 May 2017. By 8 July 2017 the relationship between Person A and the Registrant was over.

Decision on Facts

6. The HCPC called a single witness to give evidence before the Panel, Person A. In addition to his oral evidence, the Panel had a written witness statement he made on 9 January 2019 for the purposes of the present hearing and two witness statements, dated respectively 13 July 2017 and 3 August 2017 in the context of his referral of concerns to Sussex Police. Additionally, the exhibits bundle included documents prepared by Sussex Police to which further reference will be made.

7. Mention has already been made of the fact that the Panel was provided with documents reflecting the Registrant’s account of her involvement. These documents included:

• A Telephone Attendance File Note dated 13 November 2017 recording a telephone conversation between an employee of the HCPC and the Registrant.

• An email dated 29 May 2018.

• A Telephone Attendance File Note dated 27 July 2018 recording a telephone conversation between the HCPC Case Manager and the Registrant.

• An email dated 15 August 2018 commenting on some, but not all, of the particulars.

• An email dated 23 August 2018 making a further comment on the allegations made against her.

• Emails dated 21 and 28 August 2018.

• A Telephone Attendance File Note dated 17 October 2018 recording a telephone conversation between an employee of the HCPC and the Registrant.

• A letter written by the Registrant’s
General Practitioner dated 31 October 2018.

• An email dated 11 March 2019.

• An email (addressed to the HCPC’s Solicitors) dated 12 March 2019.

In reaching its decisions the Panel has paid close attention to these documents. The Panel read them in advance of the case being opened and before Person A gave evidence. In response to questions from the Legal Assessor and the Panel, Person A was asked to comment on the Registrant’s account as it was contained in the documents just described. After Person A’s evidence was concluded, the Panel retired to re-read the Registrant’s account of her involvement with him, so that they would have her version of events at the forefront of their minds when hearing the Presenting Officer’s closing submissions.

8. Included in the documentary exhibits provided to the Panel were the following documents obtained by the HCPC from Sussex Police:

• A Notification Of No Further Action dated 30 April 2018 which stated that the Police had decided that at that time the Registrant was not to be prosecuted. That decision was made on the basis that the view of the Police was that the evidence did not meet the evidential stage of the full code test set out in the Code for Crown Prosecutors.

• An investigation report that disclosed that searches had been made but that no probative evidence was discovered.

• The report of a Digital Forensics Analyst who examined the Registrant’s laptop, and discovered that the following Google searches had been made on it:

o 24/05/2017 – ‘how to get a rich man to give you money’

o 25/05/2017 – ‘[ ] & Person A [ ]’

o 30/05/2017 – ‘ghow to get mobey out of a rich man’

o 05/06/2017 – ‘price of omega constellation images’

o 07/07/2017 – ‘paying money into uk account from southern ireland’

o 07/07/2017 – ‘can I pay money into irish bank to national westminster’

o 08/07/2017 – ‘how many euros can I take from Ireland to uk’

o 08/07/2017 – ‘best way to transport money when travelling abroad’

o 08/07/2017 – ‘does cash show up on airport scanners’

o 08/07/2017 – ‘can I carry cash in my pocket going through airport scanners’

o 17/07/2017 – ‘how to get rid of your fingerprints’

9. It is necessary for the Panel to explain its approach to the information contained in the Notification Of No Further Action document referred to. That the Police investigated the matter and concluded that there was insufficient evidence to justify the criminal process proceeding is information properly put before the Panel as part of the background information on which the Panel is required to decide the case. However, it would not be appropriate for the Panel to adopt the view of Sussex Police that there was insufficient evidence. The task for the present Panel is to form its own judgements on the basis of the evidence introduced in this case. It would be no more proper for the Panel to apply the view formed by Sussex Police that there was insufficient evidence to justify matters proceeding than it would have to have adopted the Police view had the opposite view been taken.

10. The task of the Panel has been to consider all of the evidence. The Registrant has admitted none of the factual elements of the case, and so if follows that they are all to be proved by the HCPC on the balance of probabilities. Such is the seriousness of the HCPC’s allegations that the Panel has heeded the advice it received that it should not find a matter proved on the balance of probabilities unless there is solid and cogent evidence that justifies such a finding. The Panel drew no adverse inferences from the Registrant’s absence.

11. Before it considered the individual particulars, the Panel formed its general impression of Person A’s reliability as a witness. This assessment was particularly important in this case in view of the fact that to a very large extent the case involved a direct conflict of evidence between Person A and the Registrant. The Panel found Person A to be credible witness who gave an account that was consistent both with earlier accounts he had given and with other evidence. He gave a plausible account, and although being firm in relation to matters on which he could be sure, he demonstrated an appropriate willingness to accept alternative propositions suggested to him. He accepted that he had acted naïvely and ignored warning signs. He did not demonstrate any vindictiveness or malice towards the Registrant. The Panel’s conclusion was that Person A was a witness upon whose evidence it could safely rely.

12. In contrast, the Panel considered that there were a number of issues relating to the Registrant’s representations, which were unsatisfactory. For example:

• The Registrant asserted that the Police had complete access to her “online data”, but this was not the case, in that there were areas to which the Police were unable to gain access due to encryption. The Panel noted that the Registrant appeared to have regularly deleted her browsing history, but some Google searches, which are specified in paragraph 8, were recorded in the Operating System event logs, which had not been deleted and of which most computer users are unaware.

• The Registrant asserted that Person A had been trying to hide some of his assets in a particular bank account from his wife. The Panel, with the aid of the Presenting Officer, was able to establish that Person A’s wife had been a Director and Company Secretary of the particular company related to this bank account. The Panel accepted Person A’s account that full financial disclosure of all his assets had been made in his divorce proceedings.

13. The Panel will explain its decisions in the order in which they appear in the numbered particulars. However, it should be stated that they are not set out in a chronological order. On the evidence received by the Panel, the first head of charge should have been particular 2, followed by particular 1, with particular 3 being the last. For reasons that will be explained when that head of charge is considered, it is not possible to place particular 4 in that chronology.

Particular 1

On dates between on/or around 13 June 2017 and on/or around 24 June 2017, borrowed approximately £52,500 from Person A, which you did not repay to Person A.

14. Fairly early in the relationship, Person A asked the Registrant if she wished to accompany him to New York where he was proposing to travel for a reason connected to his business interests. They flew to New York upper class on 7 June 2017 and stayed in an expensive hotel in central New York. While in New York Person A bought the Registrant clothes. They returned on 13 June 2017, and a short while later there was discussion about the transfer of funds included in particular 1. The sum was initially £40,000 but approximately a week later it was supplemented by a further £12,500.

15. That the sums of £40,000 and £12,500 were transferred from Person A’s account to the Registrant is not in dispute. There is, however, a stark conflict between the two participants as to why the transfers were made. Person A’s consistent account was that the Registrant asked for a short term loan to facilitate a house move she was undergoing, in particular that she needed the money for a house purchase in Arundel, but would not have the money until she sold a property in Peacehaven. On Person A’s version, the Registrant stated that she only needed the money for a short period. Person A stated that there was talk of the Registrant writing an IOU for the sum advanced, but it never materialised. The Registrant’s account of the background, on the other hand, is that Person A gave her the money as a gift in order that she would be able to buy a house in Arundel.

16. The return of Person A and the Registrant from a subsequent trip to Ireland (an event that will be returned to in relation to particular 3) marked the end of the relationship. The Panel accepted the account of Person A, who stated that when they arrived back at his home, the Registrant put her suitcase in the boot of her car and prepared to drive away. At this point Person A asked the Registrant about the return of the monies advanced to her. She stated that he had no proof it had been a loan.

17. The conflict between Person A’s account and that of the Registrant is too great to be explained by misunderstanding of different perception. One of them must have told a deliberate untruth about the matter. The Panel’s assessment of the truthfulness of Person A, coupled with the somewhat mercenary flavour of the Registrant’s internet searches in the period running up to the transfers being made, has resulted in the Panel concluding that Person A’s account is to be preferred.

18. It follows that the Panel finds that the sums totalling approximately £52,500 were advanced as loans, and not as gifts. There being no suggestion that they were repaid, the Panel also finds that element also proved. It follows that particular 1 is proved.

Particular 2

On or around 24 May 2017, took a watch belonging to Person A.

19. It has already been stated that after the introduction effected through the dating website, Person A and the Registrant first met on either 19 or 20 May 2017. They met again few days later, at which time, knowing that Person A was due to move into a new home on 24 May 2017, the Registrant offered to help him. When the day of the move arrived, she did help him. The Registrant stayed that night at Person A’s new flat. The following morning Person A left quite early, and when he returned the Registrant informed him that she had been out of the flat for a walk, closing but not locking the door to do so. She said that on her return she had been unable to locate a necklace she had been wearing, and that it had been stolen whilst she was out walking. Person A’s evidence was that later that day he realised that his Omega Constellation wristwatch was missing. It was a watch given to Person A by his wife some years earlier. Given that he was moving into his new home, he assumed that he had left the watch at his former family home. He made efforts to, but did not, find it. In evidence before the Panel he stated that he still has the provenance document relating to the watch.

20. There is no dispute but that the Omega watch was in the Registrant’s possession when her relationship with Person A ended less than seven weeks later. It is the Registrant’s case that Person A gave her the watch as a present. She told the Police that she and Person A went to a jeweller in Lewes to have the metal wristband altered so that it would fit her wrist. Attempts were made by the Police to confirm that this visit had taken place, but they were unsuccessful. Person A completely refuted the Registrant’s assertion.

21. The Panel noted and accepted the evidence of Person A that his apartment was on the top floor of a three-floor building. He thought that it was unlikely that anyone would have gained access to his apartment. In those circumstances, the Panel considered it particularly unlikely that anyone would have happened to gain access during the relatively short period that the Registrant asserted she left it.

22. The Panel’s view is that the difference in accounts between Person A and the Registrant is too stark to be explained by misunderstanding. To be blunt about the matter one of them must be telling a deliberate untruth about the circumstances in which the watch came to be in the possession of the Registrant. Having given the matter very careful consideration, and remembering throughout where the burden of proof lies, the Panel has concluded that Person A’s account is to be accepted. The Panel rejects the Registrant’s account that she was given the watch by Person A as a gift. In circumstances where the Panel accepted that Person A was an honest and reliable witness, it does not consider it likely that he would have retained the provenance documents had he given the watch as a gift.
 
Particular 3

Between 3 July 2017 and 7 July 2017, took approximately EU4000 and £120 from Person A.

23. The most likely explanation for the inclusion of £120 in this particular was that Person A’s witness statement made to Sussex Police was misread when the HCPC allegation was drafted. In that statement Person A stated that his wallet containing £120 was placed in a hotel safe along with the envelope which had contained the €4,000. So far as the Panel has been able to establish, Person A has never alleged that the £120 was taken. The Presenting Officer agreed that there was no evidence in relation to the £120, and the Panel accordingly discounted it from its consideration.

24. On Saturday 1 July 2017 Person A and the Registrant travelled to Ireland where the former had business interests. One task Person A wished to undertake was to pay a debt of approximately €4,000, and accordingly on Monday 3 July 2017 he visited an Irish bank with the Registrant and withdrew that sum from an account. The cash was placed in a sealed white envelope. Person A’s recollection is that the Registrant took responsibility for placing the money in the room safe in the hotel in which they were then staying. Person A further recollected that the Registrant took particular interest in being involved in the setting of the combination for the room safe’s lock.

25. On Thursday 6 July 2017 they moved to another town and checked in to a new hotel. The envelope was placed in the safe in the hotel to which they moved. Person A told the Panel that, at some stage, the Registrant suggested that some item had been left at the previous hotel. She encouraged Person A to go back to check, which he did. This resulted in the Registrant being left at the hotel on her own for some hours.

26. On Friday 7 July 2017 Person A went alone to pay his debt, but when he arrived to do so and opened the envelope, he discovered that although the envelope appeared not to have been tampered with, when opened it contained no money, but rather ripped up pages of what appeared to be a women’s magazine. The matter was reported to the Irish Police. Person A stated that the Registrant blamed one of the hoteliers for stealing the money.

27. On Saturday 8 July 2017 Person A and the Registrant were due to return to England together. However, before checking out of the hotel, Person A went to a Police Station to make a statement about the theft of the money. On his return to the hotel he expected to find the Registrant, but instead he discovered that she had already checked out and made her way to the airport where she had checked in for the return flight. Person A told the Panel that he had been surprised that the Registrant had changed the seating arrangements so that, on the flight, Person A and the Registrant did not sit together. On arriving back at Person A’s home, the Registrant put her case in her car and drove off after the conversation about the repayment of the £52,500 that has already been described.

28. Having carefully considered all of the evidence relating to this particular, the Panel finds it to be proved for the following reasons:

• It accepts Person A’s evidence that he withdrew the sum from the bank in Ireland and that it was placed in an envelope.

• It accepts Person A’s evidence that the Registrant had knowledge of hotel room safe codes.

• It accepts Person A’s evidence that when he attempted to discharge the debt, he discovered that the envelope did not contain money, but rather ripped up magazine pages.

• The Registrant had knowledge of the room safe combination and opportunity to remove the cash when Person A made the journey to retrieve the missing items left at the previous hotel.

• The circumstance in which the envelope that the money had been placed in between the time of withdrawal from the bank and the discovery that the money was not in the envelope make it extremely unlikely indeed that anyone other than Person A or the Registrant would have had knowledge of, and the opportunity to remove, the money.

• The six internet searches made by the Registrant on 7 and 8 July 2017 are indicative of her being in possession of a large quantity of Euros, and variously, wishing to pay them into a UK account or travelling back to the UK with them still in her possession.

29. The Panel finds particular 3 to be proved.

Particular 4

Between 24 May 2017 and 7 July 2017, took approximately £4000 and EU1000 from Person A.

30. It was the evidence of Person A that upon his return to his home address from Ireland on 8 July 2017, he decided to check the cashbox he kept in his home. He stated that it had contained approximately £5,000 and €1,000. He stated that he had last checked it on about 1 June 2017, but when he looked inside it on 8 July 2017 it was empty.

31. Person A did not positively assert that the Registrant had knowledge of the cashbox or its contents, and he was not able to point to a specific occasion when she might have removed the contents of the box. Rather, he contended that her access to his home would have given her the opportunity to discover the box and the key to it that was kept in a drawer. He acknowledged that the money could have been taken at any time, although he also stated it was his suspicion that it was taken at an early stage of his moving in when he went to get a computer that had been left at his former home.

32. Having carefully considered the evidence relating to this particular, the Panel accepts that cash was missing from Person A’s cashbox. It also accepts that the Registrant would have had opportunities to take the cash, as would, for example, Person A’s cleaner. However, in circumstances where there is no supporting evidence that the Registrant did in fact take this cash, and forensic examination failed to provide any link, the Panel has concluded that the HCPC has failed to discharge the burden of proof in relation to this particular. It follows that particular 4 is not proven.

Particular 5

The matters set out in paragraphs 1 – 4 constitute dishonesty.

33. This contention required the Panel to consider the issue separately in relation to the proven particulars, namely, particulars 1, 2 and 3. The Panel accepted that it was necessary to ascertain the Registrant’s knowledge or belief as to the facts, and then decide if her actions would be considered to be honest or dishonest by the standards of ordinary decent people.

34. In relation to particular 1, the Panel has already stated that the conflict is too stark to amount to a mistake or misunderstanding. The Panel is satisfied that, right from the outset, the Registrant understood that Person A was transferring to her the sums totalling approximately £52,500 as loans and not as gifts. Therefore, the Panel considered what ordinary decent people would make of her denial of an obligation to repay, coupled with a statement that Person A had no evidence that he had made loans, when the couple returned from Ireland on 8 July 2017. The Panel concluded that ordinary decent people would consider that denial to be dishonest.

35. The taking of the Omega wristwatch was a dishonest act.

36. The taking of the €4,000 from the envelope when in Ireland was a dishonest act.

37. It follows from these findings that particular 5 is proved in relation to particulars 1, 2 and 3.

Decision on Grounds

38. In deciding whether the proved facts amounted to misconduct, the Panel considered whether the Registrant’s behaviour breached HCPC Standards.  The Panel concluded that the following standards had been breached:

• Section 9 of the HCPC’s Standards of conduct, performance and ethics require registrants to be honest and trustworthy, and explicitly includes personal as well as professional behaviour.  Standard 9.1 states, “You must make sure that your conduct justifies the public’s trust and confidence in you and your profession.”

• Section 3 of the HCPC’s Standards of proficiency for Social Workers in England relates to maintaining fitness to practise, and standard 3.1 requires Social Workers to understand the need to maintain high standards of personal and professional conduct.

39. It has already been stated that the Registrant’s behaviour did not arise in the context of her professional work as a Social Worker.  Social workers need to be trusted by service users and the families of service users, many of whom will be vulnerable. Accordingly, it is a fundamental requirement that Social Workers are trustworthy and honest.  In turn, this means that behaviour that arises in a Social Worker’s private life is potentially relevant to their professional standing.  The Panel is satisfied that the dishonest denial that the money advanced as a loan was in fact a loan, the dishonest taking of the watch and the dishonest taking of the large sum of Euros while in Ireland represent serious fallings short of what would be proper behaviour for a Social Worker in their private life.  Furthermore, fellow professionals would regard that behaviour as deplorable.

40. The Panel is satisfied that the findings are properly to be described as misconduct.

Decision on Impairment

41. In deciding whether the Registrant’s misconduct is currently impairing her fitness to practise, the Panel accepted the advice it received that it is necessary to consider both the personal and public component relevant to that consideration.

42. There has been no acceptance of wrongdoing on the part of the Registrant.  She has shown no remorse or insight into her behaviour and, accordingly, there has been no remediation of these serious shortcomings.  It follows from these findings that the there is no material from which the Panel could conclude that the risk of repetition has been diminished.

43. The Panel concluded that the Registrant:

• has in the past brought the profession of Social Work into disrepute and is liable to do so in the future;

• has in the past breached a fundamental tenet of her profession and is liable to do so again in the future; and,

• has in the past acted dishonestly and is liable to do so again in the future.

44. The risk of repetition has the consequence that a finding of current impairment of fitness to practise is required.

45. Furthermore, the wider public interest requires a finding of current impairment of fitness to practise.  It is required to declare and uphold proper professional standards and it is also required to satisfy the public that dishonest behaviour of the sort committed by the Registrant will not be overlooked.  The Panel is satisfied that members of the public would be dismayed were there to be no restriction placed on the Registrant’s ability to practise as a Social Worker.

46. The consequence of these findings is that a finding of current impairment of fitness to practise is required to satisfy both the personal and public components relevant to that consideration.

47. The Panel must therefore proceed to consider the issue of sanction.

Decision on Sanction 

48. After the Panel announced its decision on the issues of misconduct and impairment of fitness to practise, the Presenting Officer made submissions on sanction.  The Presenting Officer reminded the Panel of the proper purpose of a sanction and of the available sanctions and urged the Panel to have regard to the HCPC’s Indicative Sanctions Policy.  She also identified factors that she submitted were aggravating and mitigating factors.

49. The Panel accepted the advice it received from the Legal Assessor as the proper approach it should adopt when making its decision on sanction.  The Panel also had regard to the Indicative Sanctions Policy.  Accordingly, the Panel accepted that a sanction is not to be imposed in order to punish the Registrant, but rather should be the least restrictive outcome consistent with the proper sanction aims of protection of the public and maintenance of a proper degree of confidence in the Social Work profession.  The first decision the Panel is required to make is whether the findings in relation to the allegation require the imposition of any sanction.  If the answer to that question is that a sanction is required, then the available sanctions must be considered in an ascending order of seriousness until one that sufficiently addresses the proper sanction aims is reached.  As the finding in the present case is one of misconduct, the entire sanction range up to and including striking off is available.

50. The Panel identified those factors that could be said to be in the Registrant’s favour and those which were aggravating features.  The sole matter in the Registrant’s favour was that there was no suggestion that she had behaved with a lack of integrity in the past.  Against this, however, there were a number of aggravating factors, namely

• There has been no admission of wrongdoing, no recognition of failings and no remediation.  These factors mean that there is a risk of repetition.

• Not only was the Registrant’s behaviour dishonest, but the dishonesty was repeated in relation to three separate instances and extended over a period of approximately six weeks.

• The Registrant’s actions were not victimless.  Person A’s financial resources may well mean that for him the purely financial consequences of the Registrant’s actions were not severe.  However, having had the opportunity to hear and observe Person A, the Panel is satisfied that the Registrant’s actions took an emotional toll upon him.

51. The Panel then turned to consider the available sanctions. It concluded that the findings clearly required the imposition of a sanction.  A caution order would neither reflect the seriousness of the findings made, nor would it provide any protection against the risk of repetition.  A conditions of practice order would not be appropriate not only because there would be no conditions that could protect against the risk of repetition arising from the Registrant’s demonstrated attitudinal deficit, but also because her representations suggest that she is not practising as a Social Worker and has no intention of doing so in the future.

52. The Panel therefore considered making a suspension order.  The Panel noted paragraph 39 of the Indicative Sanctions Policy which states, “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”.  As has already been stated, the Panel believes there to be a real risk of repetition for the reasons already explained.  Accordingly, the Panel rejected the making of a suspension order.

53. It follows from the rejection of a suspension order as an appropriate sanction that a striking-off order is required.  It should not be thought, however, that this is a conclusion to which the Panel has arrived only as a result of the rejection of all other options.  The Panel considers that any lesser sanction than striking off would not reflect the very serious findings made in the present case. Similarly, any lesser sanction would not serve to declare proper professional standards and would not operate as a sufficient deterrent. The Panel considers that the Registrant’s behaviour was fundamentally incompatible with continued registration as a Social Worker.  For these reasons the Panel is satisfied that the making of a striking off order is a proportionate response.

 

Order

ORDER: The Registrar is directed to strike the name of Mrs Anne Ripley from the Register on the day this Order comes into effect.

 

Notes

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 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.

Interim Order

The Panel makes an Interim Suspension Order under Article 31(2) of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001, the same being necessary to protect members of the public and being otherwise in the public interest. 
This order will expire: (if no appeal is made against the Panel’s decision and Order) upon the expiry of the period during which such an appeal could be made; (if an appeal is made against the Panel’s decision and Order) the final determination of that appeal, subject to a maximum period of 18 months.

Reasons for making an interim order:

1. Before making the interim order set out above, the Panel first considered whether it was appropriate to consider the HCPC’s application for such an order in the absence of the Registrant.  The Panel concluded that it was appropriate to consider the application because the Registrant was informed by the notice of hearing letter and email sent on 11 March 2019, that, in the event of a striking off order being made, the Panel might impose an interim order.

2. In relation to the substance of the application for an interim order, the Panel accepted that the default position established by the legislation is that when a striking off order is imposed, the registrant’s ability to practise will not be restricted while his or her appeal rights remain outstanding.  It follows that for an interim order to be made, the Panel must be satisfied that such an order is (i) necessary for protection of members of the public, (ii) otherwise in the public interest or (iii) in the registrant’s own interests.  If one or more of those grounds is made out, then the Panel is required to consider whether there are appropriate conditions of practice that can be imposed on an interim basis.  An interim suspension order should only to be made if an interim order is required, but the reasons why it is required cannot be addressed by the imposition of interim conditions of practice.

3. The Panel considers that its findings (i) that there is a real risk of repetition, and (ii) that the Registrant’s actions were fundamentally incompatible with continued registration, have the consequence that an interim order is necessary for protection of members of the public and it is otherwise in the public interest.  Furthermore, the Panel is also satisfied that, for the reasons already explained in relation to substantive conditions of practice, that interim conditions would not address the reasons why an interim order is required.  It followed that an interim suspension order is necessary. A period of 18 months is required because of the possible length of time that any appeal might take to be finally determined.

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Mrs Anne Ripley

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
24/06/2019 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Struck off