Mr Michael C Penney

Profession: Paramedic

Registration Number: PA15773

Interim Order: Imposed on 28 May 2019

Hearing Type: Review Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 26/11/2019 End: 12:00 26/11/2019

Location: Jurys Inn Belfast, Great Victoria St, Belfast BT1 6DY

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Suspended

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Allegation

The allegation against you is as follows:

1. On 24 March 2016 at Belfast Magistrates Court you received a Police

Caution for Theft

2. By reason of your caution as set out at paragraph 1 your fitness to practise as a Paramedic

is impaired.

Finding

Preliminary Matters
Service of notice of hearing
1. The Panel heard that notice of this review hearing was sent to the Registrant at his registered address on 25 October 2019 and was also sent to him by email on the same date. Accordingly, the Panel was satisfied that notice had been served in accordance with the rules.

Application to proceed in the Registrant’s absence
2. Ms Lyon applied for the hearing to proceed in the Registrant’s absence. Ms Lyon informed the Panel that she had been in verbal communication with the Registrant’s solicitor as a result of which she had expected that the Registrant would be attending this review hearing. Ms Lyon informed the Panel that on the morning of this hearing, the Registrant’s representative had telephoned the HCPC stating that the Registrant would not be attending in person and was happy for the hearing to proceed in his absence. The Registrant’s representative confirmed that he would not be represented in order to save costs. Ms Lyon was also informed that the Registrant’s representative, but not the Registrant, could be contacted by telephone if required.

3. Ms Lyon referred the Panel to an email from the Case Manager to the Hearings Officer and Case Presenter dated 26 November 2019 at 09.41 which confirmed the telephone call between the Registrant’s representative and the HCPC. Ms Lyon also referred to documents which had been emailed to the Hearings Officer by the Registrant for consideration by the Panel were it to proceed with the hearing.

4. The Panel received and accepted advice from the Legal Assessor. The Panel was mindful that its discretion to proceed in absence is one that should be exercised with utmost care and caution. Further, the Registrant had not applied for an adjournment or had indicated that he wished to attend the hearing. The Panel weighed the Registrant’s interests with the public interest in the review hearing taking place expeditiously given that the Order is due to expire on 27 December 2019. The Panel considered that the Registrant was aware of today’s review hearing and had voluntarily absented himself. The Panel determined, in the interests of justice, to proceed in the Registrant’s absence.

Hearing in Private
5. Ms Lyon applied for parts of the hearing to be heard in private where matters relating to the Registrant’s health were discussed. The Panel heard that health and personal matters may arise in the course of the hearing. The Panel decided, having considered the HCPTS Practice Note on Conducting Hearings in Private that if and when any such matters arise it will hold that part of the hearing in private to protect the private life of the Registrant.

6. As such, this is the redacted version of the decision.

Background

7. Ms Lyon summarised the background. In short, the Registrant is employed by the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) as a Paramedic. On 5 December 2015, he commenced a day shift as a Paramedic in a Rapid Response Vehicle (RRV) in Belfast.

8. Whilst on duty, the Registrant entered a Boots store in Belfast (Boots) and left the premises without paying for goods with the total approximate value of £160. A person matching his description, a tall male with a shaven head and wearing an NIAS uniform, had been filmed on CCTV leaving a Boots store with the items in a bag without having paid for them. Ambulance Control was duly notified and the Registrant received a request to contact Ambulance Control. He spoke to the Duty Control Manager who asked if the Registrant had been in Boots. The Manager informed the Registrant that a male matching his description had been seen removing items from Boots without paying for them. The Registrant denied having been in Boots that day.

9. The Registrant stated that he has no recollection of being in Boots, but later found the relevant items on the back seat of his RRV. He stated that he had no understanding of how the items got there and, in fear and confusion, he put the items in the sluice room at the ambulance station, for safekeeping, prior to attending an interview with the Police Service Northern Ireland (PSNI) about the matter. He later identified the whereabouts of the items to the PSNI officer and volunteered to get them and hand them over. The Registrant maintained that he still did not understand what had happened and that he had no recollection of being in Boots or taking the items.

10. On 24 March 2016, the Registrant accepted a Police Caution for theft on 5 December 2015. He accepted that it must have been him on the CCTV footage and that it must have been him who had removed the items without paying. His explanation of the events was that he had no recollection of taking the items and that this was due to his health condition.

Decision
11. The Panel has been provided with an HCPC substantive hearing bundle numbered pages 1 – 32. The Panel also had documents emailed to the HCPC by the Registrant which consisted of (i) written submissions / reflective piece dated 26 November 2019 and numbered pages 1 – 8; (ii) Letter from the Registrant’s General Practitioner dated 21 November 2019; (iii) Testimonial from the Managing Director of Harberry First Aid Training undated; (iv) Testimonial from a fellow Paramedic dated 21 November 2019 and (iv) Letter dated 26 November 2019 from Mr John Finucane, Solicitor and Lord Mayor of Belfast.

12. The Panel heard submissions from Ms Lyon who referred the Panel to the decision of the substantive hearing panel and to the documents provided by the Registrant. Ms Lyon submitted that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remained impaired. She submitted that whilst the Registrant had provided written submissions and testimonial evidence, he had failed to address the concerns raised by the substantive hearing panel. She submitted that, in the absence of any evidence that the Registrant had taken ownership of and remedied his dishonest conduct, there remained a risk of repetition.

13. The Panel received and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel carefully considered all of the documentary material adduced before it. The Panel would have been greatly assisted had the Registrant attended this review hearing.
 
14. The Panel reminded itself that whether the Registrant is impaired is a matter for it exercising its own independent judgement.

15. The Panel first considered whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired.

16.  In reaching a decision, the Panel has put out of its mind the separate HCPC investigation into allegations of misconduct against the Registrant. The Panel has borne in mind that an admission of guilt is not a condition of sufficient insight into the consequences of the Registrant’s prior misconduct. The Panel was conscious of the substantive hearing panel’s concerns as to the Registrant’s lack of insight and remediation. Whilst the Registrant had provided written submissions and testimonial evidence, this Panel remained concerned that the Registrant has demonstrated a lack of meaningful insight or remediation. Whilst the testimonials referred to the Registrant’s honesty and integrity, this Panel considered that these aspects had not been sufficiently addressed by the Registrant. In this regard, whilst the Registrant has undertaken courses since the substantive hearing, these primarily relate to first aid training and do not address the findings of the substantive panel.

17. In his written submissions, the Registrant has expressed regret that he had accepted the Police Caution, where he describes himself as a ‘sacrificial lamb’ rather than having fully reflected as to the damaging impact of his actions on the public trust in the paramedic profession. The Panel considered that the overriding concerns in this case are openness and candour and that the key issue is one of integrity. The Panel was not satisfied that the Registrant had demonstrated sufficient insight. His regret is equivocal, rooted in the fact that he accepted the Police Caution rather than the impact on his profession. The Registrant’s written submissions are inconsistent throughout and weighted more towards the effect on him rather than the public and his profession. In doing so, he has not sufficiently addressed the key point of integrity in his submissions or his testimonials.

18. For these reasons, the Panel concluded that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired by reason of his Police Caution.

19. The Panel next considered what, if any, sanction was appropriate and proportionate. It had regard to the Sanctions Policy and to the general purpose of sanctions which is not to punish the Registrant but to protect the public and uphold proper standards of conduct and behaviour.

20. The Panel considered each available sanction in ascending order of seriousness. Taking no action or imposing a Caution Order would be wholly inappropriate and would not protect the public. The Panel was unable to formulate appropriate conditions of practice, given that the nature of the case involves a Police Caution for theft; does not involve any clinical concerns and there remains a risk of repetition. Further, conditions of practice would not be workable, appropriate or proportionate in this case.

21. The Registrant has developed some insight into his past failings, albeit this is incomplete. The Panel considered that a further period of suspension could provide the Registrant time for further reflection and to demonstrate meaningful insight and remediation. It would also mark the seriousness of the Police Caution while protecting the public and upholding public confidence in the profession.

22. Accordingly, the Panel determined to impose a Suspension Order for a further period of 6 months from the expiry of the current order, so as to enable a period of further reflection to provide further evidence to enable him to demonstrate that the further suspended period has been effective.

23.  The Panel considered striking off would be disproportionate at this stage given the Registrant’s developing insight and engagement with the regulatory process.

24.  The reviewing panel would be assisted by the following:

•   The Registrant’s attendance at the review hearing;
• Evidence that the Registrant has completed a face to face course which encompasses honesty, ethics and professionalism;
• Evidence that the Registrant has worked with a personal mentor/coach with whom he has established and maintained a developmental log/record which should cover his Continuing Professional and Personal Development and comment on the impact of the Police Caution on the public and his profession.
• Evidence that the Registrant has specifically addressed the relevant Standards in particular, Standard 9 of the HCPC Standards of conduct, performance and ethics which requires all registrants to be honest and trustworthy, and Standard 9.1 which requires all registrants to justify the public’s trust in them and not to do anything which diminishes that trust or public confidence in their profession.

Order

That the Registrar is directed to suspend the name of Mr Michael C Penney from the Register for a further period of 6 months from the date that the current order expires.

Notes

This order will be reviewed again before its expiry on 27 June 2020.

 

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Mr Michael C Penney

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
28/05/2020 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Suspended
26/11/2019 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Suspended
28/05/2019 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended
23/10/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Adjourned