Mrs Cheryl E Williams
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Whilst registered with the Health and Care Professionals Council as a Radiographer and whilst employed by Poole Hospital NHS Trust, you:
1. On 14 March 2018 at Poole Magistrates’ Court were convicted of:
a) Between 5 September 2016 and 22 March 2017, dishonestly failed to promptly notify the Department for Work and Pensions in the prescribed manner of a change of circumstances which you knew would affect your entitlement to Widow’s Pension, namely that you were living together and maintaining a common household with Person A who was working in remunerated employment. Contrary to section 111A (1A) and (3) of the Social Security Administration Act 1992.
b) Between 1 June 2015 and 4 September 2016, dishonestly failed to promptly notify the Department for Work and Pensions in the prescribed manner of a change of circumstances which you knew would affect your entitlement to Widow’s Parent’s Allowance, namely that you were living together and maintaining a common household with Person A who was working in remunerated employment. Contrary to section 111A (1A) and (3) of the Social Security Administration Act 1992.
2. Failed to notify the Health and Care Professions Council of the convictions set out in paragraph 1 until October 2018.
3. The matter described at paragraph 2 constitutes dishonesty.
4. The matters described at paragraphs 1 - 3 constitute misconduct.
5. By reason of your Conviction and/or your misconduct, your fitness to practise as a Radiographer is impaired.
1. At the commencement of the hearing the Presenting Officer applied to amend the terms of the formal allegation. In its original form, the convictions referred to at particular 1 were included in the allegation of misconduct in paragraph 4. The Registrant was informed of the proposed amendment to remove particular 1 from particular 4, by a letter dated 4 July 2019, and did not oppose the application. The Panel was satisfied that the error in the allegation as originally referred should be corrected and that there would be no prejudice to the Registrant by the amendment. Accordingly, the Panel acceded to the application.
2. When invited to respond to the allegation, Mr Lawrence, on behalf of the Registrant, stated that particulars 1(a), 1(b) and 2 were admitted. The remainder of the particulars were denied.
3. Before the case was opened by the Presenting Officer, the Panel was asked to consider whether it would be prepared to treat as given in a private section of the hearing any evidence relating to the private life of the Registrant and others. The Panel decided that such evidence would be taken in private.
4. On 14 March 2018, the Registrant appeared at the Poole Magistrates’ Court and pleaded guilty to the two offences identified in particular 1. The offences concerned, respectively, Widow’s Pension and Widowed Parent’s Allowance, the Registrant’s entitlement to which had been changed by the fact that she was cohabiting with a partner who was in remunerated employment. Apart from some consequential orders of a financial nature, the Registrant was sentenced to a Community Order requiring her to undertake 120 hours of unpaid work within 12 months.
5. The Registrant was and is employed by Poole Hospital NHS Trust as a Radiographer in the Dorset Breast Screening Service. Following her appearance in the Magistrates’ Court the Registrant did not report the conviction to the Trust. Rather, it came to light on 21 September 2018 when an unnamed member of staff informed the Registrant’s Manager that they had seen a newspaper report. A copy of the newspaper report was shown to the Manager. On 25 September 2018 the Manager met the Registrant, and amongst other matters advised that the HCPC should be informed. The Registrant wrote a letter to the HCPC which was received on 8 October 2018.
Decision on Facts
Particular 1 – Found Proved
6. The HCPC did not call any witnesses to give live evidence before the Panel. It did, however, rely upon a witness statement made by AM, Registration Manager employed by the HCPC. Included in the exhibits produced by AM was a screen shot of computerised registration details concerning the Registrant.
7. The Registrant introduced a bundle of documents for the consideration of the Panel and also gave evidence before the Panel. She was cross-examined by the Presenting Officer and answered questions asked by the Panel. Included in the evidence of the Panel was the information referred to in the third bullet point under paragraph 11 of the Private determination relating to the distressing events that occurred in the Registrant’s life that, in the judgement of the Panel, are relevant to the decision on dishonesty.
8. The Panel accepted the Registrant’s admissions that the convictions were recorded against her, finding that her admission accorded with the Memorandum of Entry from the Court Register included in the HCPC’s exhibits bundle. It follows that particular 1 is proven in its entirety.
Particular 2 – Found Proved
9. The Panel also accepted the Registrant’s admission that it she did not report the fact of the convictions to the HCPC until October 2018. Her admission in this respect accords with the records relating to the Registrant’s HCPC registration produced by AM. Particular 2 is proven.
Particular 3 – Not Found Proved
10. When the Panel made its decision on the contention that the Registrant’s late disclosure of the convictions to the HCPC was dishonest, it accepted the advice it received from the Legal Assessor as to the proper approach to that decision. As an allegation of fact it was to be proved by the HCPC on the balance of probabilities. It was necessary to decide what was the Registrant’s actual knowledge and belief as to the relevant matters at the material time, and then decide if, by the standards of ordinary decent people, her actions were dishonest. In the present case the Panel concluded that it was necessary to decide if the Registrant had actual knowledge of the requirement to disclose a conviction to the HCPC, and, if she did, whether she deliberately failed to do so. A positive answer to those questions would inevitably be viewed by ordinary decent people as dishonest. If, on the other hand, the Registrant did not know of the obligation to disclose to the HCPC, she might be open to significant criticism for that ignorance, but the Panel did not consider that her actions would be thought to be dishonest.
11. There can be no question but that the Registrant should have known of the requirement to make disclosure to the HCPC, but having very carefully considered the matter, the conclusion of the Panel was that the HCPC had not discharged the burden of proving that she did in fact know of it. The reasons for this finding were as follows:
• The Panel found the Registrant to be a credible witness, and was thus able to attach weight to her evidence that, at the relevant time, she was unaware of the obligation to disclose convictions to the HCPC.
• The Registrant was first registered as a Radiographer in the early 1980s, and the strong impression formed by the Panel was that although the Registrant was well aware of the requirements of her profession from the point of view of the technical knowledge and skills she was required to demonstrate, she had a deficient understanding of the wider obligations of a registrant.
• Immediately following the hearing at the Magistrates’ Court on 14 March 2018, the Registrant asked the Solicitor who had represented her what she then needed to do and was told that she did not need to do anything, but that she should get on with the rest of her life
• In the interview between the Manager and the Registrant on 25 September 2018 to which reference has already been made, the former told the HCPC that the Registrant expressed surprise that she needed to inform the HCPC.
12. For these reasons the Panel finds particular 3 to be not proven.
Decision on Grounds
13. The finding that the convictions were recorded also amounts to a finding that the ground is established in relation to the conviction allegation.
14. So far as the issue of misconduct is concerned, it follows from the Panel’s decision that dishonesty has not been proved, that the issue is to be decided on the basis of particular 2 in isolation.
15. The Panel is of the view that the obligation to inform the HCPC of convictions is very important. It is only by the HCPC having knowledge of convictions that there can be confidence that the public will be protected against the risk of harm. So important is this requirement that it is necessary to find that the failure to do so, even in the circumstances that have been described by the Panel in its decision on dishonesty, amounts to misconduct. A failure to categorise it as misconduct would send the wrong message to other registrants.
16. Accordingly, the Panel finds that particular 2 amounts to misconduct.
Decision on Impairment
17. It follows from the decisions already described that it is necessary for the Panel to consider impairment of fitness to practise in relation to the convictions and also in relation to the misconduct arising from particular 2. The Panel heeded the advice it received that it is necessary to consider both personal components of impairment of fitness to practise.
18. So far as the personal component is concerned, the Panel found that although the Registrant expressed remorse and demonstrated insight in relation to her actions, that insight was of fairly recent origin. In the judgement of the Panel there is not an appreciable risk of recurrence. Having carefully considered the totality of the Registrant’s evidence, the Panel concluded that her understanding of the wider, non-clinical elements of a practitioner’s responsibilities is now greater than it was before she made disclosure to the HCPC. However, as the Registrant’s understanding is of recent origin it is important that the Panel should be satisfied that she continues to understand those wider responsibilities. In the judgement of the Panel this factor means that there is impairment of current fitness to practise in relation to the personal component.
19. The Panel also considers that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired upon consideration of the public component. Although the Registrant has completed the requirement imposed under the Community Order, the fact remains that in the recent past she was convicted of serious offences. That would necessarily raise public concerns. Furthermore, the importance of ensuring that registrants self-report convictions is so great, it is necessary to declare that the failure to do so is a serious matter to declare and uphold proper professional standards and to reassure members of the public.
20. The result of these findings is that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired with the consequence that the Panel must go on to consider the issue of sanction.
Decision on Sanction
21. After the Panel announced its decisions on the allegations, the parties addressed the Panel on the issue of sanction.
22. On behalf of the HCPC, the Presenting Officer identified what she submitted were aggravating and mitigating factors. As the Panel agreed with these factors, the Panel will not identify them when it explains its reasons. The Presenting Officer also urged the Panel to have regard to the HCPC’s Sanctions Policy, and she identified various passages from that document which she submitted were of relevance. The Presenting Officer did not, however, submit that the Panel should adopt any particular sanction.
23. On behalf of the Registrant, Mr Lawrence submitted that the Panel should consider making no order, but he also stated that he doubted if that suggestion would accord with the Panel’s view. If he was correct in thinking that the Panel would consider a sanction to be required, then he asked that the sanction should be a caution order.
24. The Panel approached its decision on sanction by accepting that a sanction is not to be imposed in order to punish a registrant against whom findings have been made. Rather, a sanction must be the least restrictive outcome consistent with the need to protect the public, to maintain a proper degree of confidence in the registered profession and to declare and uphold proper professional standards. As the finding that an allegation is well founded does not of itself require the imposition of a sanction, the first question to be decided by the Panel is whether the findings require the imposition of any sanction. If they do, then the available sanctions must be considered in an ascending order of seriousness until one is reached that addresses the factors just identified. The Panel confirms that it has followed this approach. It has also paid close attention to the HCPC’s Sanctions Policy.
25. So far as the aggravating factors were concerned, the Panel considered that the most serious factor was the dishonesty underpinning the convictions. However, it is fair to recognise that they were offences of omission (rather than commission), albeit that the opportunity to make disclosure to the DWP extended over a reasonably lengthy period of time. The Panel also agreed with the Presenting Officer’s submission that the lack of understanding of a practitioner’s wider responsibilities was an aggravating factor.
26. So far as mitigating factors were concerned, the Panel accepted that the Registrant’s lengthy unblemished career was a factor to her credit, as were the positive testimonials submitted on her behalf. Furthermore, the early plea of guilty and acceptance of wrongdoing were also mitigating factors. However, by far the most important aspect of mitigation was the extremely difficult and stressful personal circumstances that have already been referred to in the Panel’s decision in relation to particular 3.
27. The Panel first decided whether the findings made required the imposition of a sanction. It concluded that they did. To pass from the case without imposing a sanction would not sufficiently maintain public confidence in the profession of Radiography, nor would it serve to declare and uphold proper professional standards.
28. The Panel then considered whether a caution order would be appropriate. Having carefully considered the matter, the Panel concluded that a caution order meets the circumstances of the case. Having considered paragraph 101 of the Sanctions Policy, the Panel concluded that although the convictions did not relate to insignificant matters, nevertheless they were limited in nature. There is also a low risk of repetition, and the Registrant has demonstrated genuine remorse and shown insight. The conclusion of the Panel was that the imposition of a caution order is a necessary but sufficient response to the findings it has made. It is necessary because it will serve to remind the Registrant of the importance of remaining alert to the wider responsibilities imposed on professionals. It will also serve to reassure the public and other professionals that matters of the sort found by the Panel will not be overlooked by the regulator. It is sufficient because the imposition of a more restrictive sanction is not required. Conditions of practice would serve no useful purpose and to prevent the Registrant from practising by suspending her registration would be wholly disproportionate.
29. In the judgement of the Panel the appropriate length of the caution order is 12 months. The Registrant has had this matter hanging over her for some considerable time and that is a relevant consideration in determining how much longer she should be subject to a process deriving from the same root cause.
ORDER: The Registrar is directed to annotate the register entry of Mrs Cheryl E Williams with a caution which is to remain on the register for a period of 12 months from the date this order comes into effect.
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.
History of Hearings for Mrs Cheryl E Williams
|Date||Panel||Hearing type||Outcomes / Status|
|04/11/2019||Conduct and Competence Committee||Final Hearing||Caution|