Mrs Charlotte Lucy Blenkiron

Profession: Social worker

Registration Number: SW44090

Hearing Type: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 18/03/2019 End: 17:00 18/03/2019

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

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Caution

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Allegation

Allegation (As amended at Final Hearing):

While registered as a Social Worker with the Health and Care Professions Council:

1. On 29 November 2017 at North Tyneside Magistrates’ Court you were convicted of:

a) Driving a motor vehicle after consuming so much alcohol that the proportion of it in your breath, namely 96 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 mililitres of breath, exceeding the prescribed limit, contrary to section 5(1)(a) of the Road Traffic Act 1988 and Schedule 2 to the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988.

b) Not reporting an accident at a police station as soon as was reasonably practicable and not providing your name and address to a person having reasonable grounds for requiring you to do so, after being involved in an accident whereby damage was caused to another vehicle contrary to section 170(4) 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 is impaired.By reason of your conviction, your fitness to practise is impaired.

Finding

Preliminary matters

Amendment of the Allegation

1. Ms Mond-Wedd made an application to amend the Allegation, so that the wording of the Allegation reflected the memorandum of conviction. The Registrant was given notice of this application by a letter dated 7 November 2018. The Registrant had no comments to make on the application.

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

3. The Panel decided that the proposed amendment did not prejudice the Registrant and was appropriate. The Panel therefore agreed to the amendment.

Hearing in private

4. The Panel decided that it was appropriate to hear part of the hearing in private to protect the Registrant’s private life. This decision was limited to the parts of the hearing which involved details of the Registrant’s health and her family life.


Background

5. The Registrant is a registered Social Worker. On 30 October 2017 the Registrant notified the HCPC by email that she had been arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol and was waiting to attend Court on 29 November 2017.

6. On 29 November 2017, the Registrant was convicted of driving whilst under the influence of alcohol, namely 96 microgrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath, the legal limit in the UK being 35 microgrammes. In addition, the Registrant was also convicted of failing to report an accident. The Registrant was disqualified from driving for 23 months, fined £666, and ordered to pay a victim surcharge and costs.

7. On 30 November 2017 the Registrant informed the HCPC of the outcome of her court appearance.


Conviction

8. The Panel found the Registrant’s conviction proved by the memorandum of conviction from the North Northumbria Magistrates dated 29 November 2017 and by the Registrant’s admission.

9. The circumstances that led to the conviction were that on 28 October 2017 the Registrant attended a function where she consumed alcohol and subsequently drove to her home address. A member of the public made a report to the police that they suspected the driver of the vehicle was drunk due to the manner of driving which included swerving from side to side, narrowly missing collisions with other vehicles, mounting the kerb, and driving on the pavement and the grass.

10. The police attended and identified the Registrant’s vehicle which was parked close to her home address. The vehicle had substantial damage to the front driver’s quarter. The police did not identify that damage had been caused to any other vehicle. The police described the Registrant as being drunk, slurring her words and smelling heavily of alcohol. The Registrant had no recollection of her decision to drive or of the way in which she had driven.


Registrant’s evidence

11. The Panel heard evidence from the Registrant. The Panel found the Registrant to be a credible witness. She was open and honest when giving the Panel additional information about her circumstances, including details relating to her health and family life.

12. The Registrant has recently completed the drink-drive rehabilitation course. She told the Panel that she does not plan to return to driving when her license is returned to her in May. She is nervous and cautious in respect of returning to driving, given the past events.

13. The Registrant remains employed as a Consultant Social Worker managing a Looked After Children’s Team. The Registrant immediately reported her arrest to her line manager and has received ongoing support from her line manager and her employer. She is currently not working because she has identified the need to address a range of health issues.

14. The Registrant was frank in telling the Panel about the range of health issues she is currently addressing.


Decision on Impairment

15. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and had regard to the HCPTS Practice Note “Finding that Fitness to Practice is Impaired”. The Panel considered the Registrant’s fitness to practise at today’s date.

16. The Panel first considered the personal component which is the Registrant’s current conduct and behaviour.

17. The Panel considered that the Registrant demonstrated good insight. She made early reports to her employer and to the HCPC and at that time expressed her regret and remorse. She took full responsibility for her actions, describing her shame and embarrassment.

18. The Registrant has taken appropriate remedial action by completing the drink-drive rehabilitation course. She has also made a decision not to return to driving at the current time.

19. The Panel considered that the Registrant’s insight and her attitude towards driving were very relevant when considering the risk of repetition of drink-driving behaviour. The Registrant recognised the seriousness of her conviction and this was reflected in her decision not to return to driving in the immediate future. The Panel decided that the risk of repetition of drink-driving behaviour was low and that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is not impaired on the basis of the personal component.

20. The Panel next considered the wider public interest considerations including the need to maintain confidence in the profession and to uphold standards of conduct and behaviour. The Panel noted the facts underlying the Registrant’s conviction and considered that the description of the Registrant’s driving would be particularly concerning for members of the public. The Registrant’s driving not only involved a risk for herself, but also for other drivers and pedestrians. The Registrant was in such an intoxicated state that she was unable to make decisions, failed at the time to identify the cause of the extensive damage to her car, and had no recollection of the way in which she was driving as described by the member of the public who reported her. The conviction included not only driving with excess alcohol, but also failing to report an accident. This involved the police attending the Registrant’s house, having identified her because of the report by a member of the public and her damaged car.

21. The Panel considered that the Registrant’s behaviour brought the profession into disrepute. Members of the profession and the public would rightly be very concerned about the conviction and the extent to which the Registrant departed from the high standards that are expected of Social Workers. Indeed the Registrant herself acknowledged that the public would be incredibly angry and shocked by her actions.

22. The Panel therefore decided that a finding of current impairment was required to uphold standards of conduct and behaviour and to maintain confidence in the profession and the regulatory process.

23. Therefore, on the basis of the public component, the Panel decided that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired.


Decision on sanction

1. In considering which, if any, sanction to impose the Panel had regard to the HCPC Indicative Sanctions Policy (ISP) and the advice of the Legal Assessor.

2. The Panel reminded itself that the purpose of imposing a sanction is not to punish the practitioner, but to protect the public and the wider public interest. The Panel ensured that it acted proportionately, and in particular it sought to balance the interests of the public with those of the Registrant, and imposed the sanction which was the least restrictive in the circumstances commensurate with its duty of protection.

3. The Panel decided that the aggravating feature was:

• the facts underlying the conviction as highlighted earlier in this decision.

4. The Panel decided that the mitigating features were:

• the Registrant’s previously unblemished career;

• this was an isolated incident;

• the Registrant’s personal circumstances;

• the Registrant’s insight and efforts to limit the risk of recurrence.

5. The Panel recognised that the HCPC proceedings have had an impact on the Registrant and noted that she has expressed her remorse and regret. The Registrant also emphasised to the Panel her commitment to the social work profession and said that she was passionate about social work.

6. The Panel considered the option of taking no action. This is an exceptional outcome and the Panel did not consider that the circumstances of this case were exceptional. The Panel decided that the option of taking no action was not sufficient to uphold the public interest.

7. The Panel next considered the option of a Caution Order. The Panel considered the guidance in the ISP that “A caution order is an appropriate sanction for cases, where the lapse is isolated, limited, or relatively minor in nature, there is a low risk of recurrence, the registrant has shown insight and taken appropriate remedial action”. The Panel considered that this guidance applied and that a Caution Order would be sufficient to mark the gravity of the Registrant’s conviction. It would also be sufficient to maintain confidence in the profession and the regulatory process because a Caution Order would form part of the public record and would send a clear message that such behaviour is unacceptable for the profession and the Regulator.

8. The Panel considered the more serious sanction of a Conditions of Practice Order, but decided that it was not appropriate and not proportionate. The Registrant’s conviction was not linked to her professional work and the Panel has not found that her fitness to practise is impaired on the basis of the personal component.

9. The Panel next considered the appropriate length of time for the Caution Order. A Caution Order can be between one year and five years. As set out in the ISP the Panel considered one year as the starting point. Having carefully considered the gravity of the conviction and the aggravating and the mitigating factors the Panel decided that a one year Caution Order would not be sufficient. The Panel decided that a two year Caution Order was appropriate and proportionate. Although this is less than the benchmark of three years, the Panel decided that it was sufficient, taking into account the mitigating factors.

10. The Panel therefore decided that the appropriate and proportionate Order was a Caution Order for two years.

Order

Order: The Registrar is directed to annotate the register entry of Mrs Charlotte L Blenkiron with a caution which is to remain on the register for a period of two years from the date which this order comes into effect.

Notes

No notes available

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Mrs Charlotte Lucy Blenkiron

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
18/03/2019 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Caution