Ms Ceri L Bolton

Profession: Paramedic

Registration Number: PA32374

Hearing Type: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 11/11/2019 End: 17:00 11/11/2019

Location: Park Plaza Cardiff Greyfriars Road, Cardiff, South Glamorgan, CF10 3AL, United Kingdom

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Caution

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Allegation

On 31 July 2017 at Caernarfon Magistrates’ Court you were convicted of:

1. On 17 July 2017, assaulted Person A thereby occasioning her actual bodily harm, contrary to section 47 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861.

2. By reason of your conviction as set out in particular 1, your fitness to practise is impaired.

Finding

Background

1. The Registrant is a registered Paramedic who qualified in 2010. She was employed by the Welsh Ambulance Service NHS Trust (WAST) from 2010 until November 2017.

2. On 17 July 2017, the police were called to an altercation between the Registrant and Person A at Person A’s home. The Registrant was arrested on suspicion of causing injury to Person A. The Registrant entered a guilty plea at the Magistrates’ Court on 31 July 2017 to the offence of assault of Person A occasioning actual bodily harm.

3. The Registrant was sentenced to a Community Order and required to undertake a Rehabilitation Activity Requirement, both within one year, and an Unpaid Work Requirement. A Restraining Order was imposed preventing the Registrant approaching Person A for a period of 12 months. The Registrant was also ordered to pay £85 costs, an £85 victim surcharge, and £300 compensation.

4. The Registrant self-referred the matter to the HCPC in an email dated 21 July 2017. The Registrant completed her 100 hours of Unpaid Work Requirement in August 2017. The Rehabilitation Activity Requirement consisted of eight group sessions which discussed the offending behaviour and these were successfully completed as required. The Restraining Order was revoked following the application of Person A on 31 August 2017.

Decision on Facts and Ground

Particular 1 – Proved

5. The Panel has seen the certified copy of the Memorandum of Entry in the Register of the Gwynedd Magistrates’ Court Register for Caernarfon Magistrates’ Court dated 31 July 2017, which it has taken as conclusive proof of facts and grounds.

Decision on Impairment

6. The Panel then had to consider whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired in light of the Registrant’s conviction, having regard to the HCPTS Practice Note “Finding that Fitness to Practise is ‘Impaired’” and the Practice Note on “Conviction and Caution Allegations”. The Panel’s task is to determine whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired, based upon the nature, circumstances and gravity of the offence.

7. The Panel is mindful of the forward-looking test for impairment and the need to take account of public protection in its broadest sense, including whether the Registrant’s actions bring the professional concerned into disrepute or may undermine public confidence in the profession.

8. The Panel heard submissions on the issue of impairment from the HCPC and the Registrant’s representative. The Panel also had the benefit of hearing oral evidence from the Registrant.

9. The Panel reviewed all the evidence in this case and accepted the advice from the Legal Assessor.

10. In reaching its decision:

• The Panel took account of the fact that the offence occurred outside work and was related to the Registrant’s personal life. Person A and the Registrant had drunk a couple of bottles of wine. The Panel noted the very difficult circumstances the Registrant was dealing with at the time.

• The Registrant pleaded guilty to the offence at the first opportunity and referred the matter to the HCPC promptly. The Panel noted that the Registrant has fully complied with the requirements of her sentence.

• The Registrant has apologised and expressed remorse for her actions. She accepted that she broke Person A’s toe during the altercation, which the Panel accepted was an isolated incident. The Panel has heard detailed evidence about the steps the Registrant has taken to address the circumstances that led to the offence. The Registrant accepted that she should not have drunk alcohol at the time. The Panel noted that in her oral evidence the Registrant fully appreciated the significance of her conduct on the wider public.

• The Registrant has fully engaged in these proceedings and has placed evidence before the Panel of insight and remediation. The Panel noted the positive testimonials that spoke highly of the Registrant’s conduct in both a clinical and personal setting. The Panel considered the reflective statement of the Registrant and her oral evidence about the lessons she has learned from this incident. The Panel concluded that the risk of repetition was low.

11. The Panel’s overall conclusion in relation to the personal component of impairment was that the Registrant’s current fitness to practise is not impaired.

12. In relation to the public component, it is clear that the public’s perceptions of the Registrant’s actions would have been negative, and they have harmed the reputation of both her employer and the profession as a whole.

13. The Panel regarded the offence as being serious. There was evidence that the Registrant, during a violent argument, caused injury to Person A. The police were contacted firstly by neighbours and then Person A and finally Person A’s ex-partner, who all reported concerns about the behaviour of the Registrant towards Person A. The Panel considered that this was behaviour which fell significantly short of that which the public is entitled to expect from a Paramedic.

14. The Panel concluded that the Registrant had breached a fundamental tenet of the profession of being a Paramedic and has brought the profession into dispute. In concluding that the public component of impairment is clearly established, the Panel also had regard to the need to uphold the proper standards of behaviour, notwithstanding the significant mitigation which is advanced. The Panel concluded that confidence in the profession and the regulatory process would be undermined if there was no finding of impairment, given the seriousness of the offence.

Decision on Sanction

15. The Panel has heard submissions on sanction on behalf of the HCPC and the Registrant. It has had regard to the HCPC’s Sanctions Policy and has accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel had particular regard to the principle of proportionality and the need to strike a careful balance between the protection of the public and the rights of the Registrant.

16. The Panel has also reminded itself that the purpose of fitness to practise proceedings is not to punish registrants but to protect the public. The primary function of any sanction is to address public safety. However, panels should also have regard to wider public interest and this includes the deterrent effect to other registrants, the reputation of the profession concerned, and public confidence in the regulatory process.

17. The Panel has had regard to the aggravating and mitigating circumstances in this case. It determined that there are no aggravating features beyond the circumstances of the conviction.

18. The Panel has concluded that the mitigating features are:
 
• This is an isolated incident, and the Registrant has had a previous unblemished employment record and there are no clinical concerns;

• The Registrant was dealing with difficult personal circumstances at the time of the incident;

• The Registrant has taken a proactive and responsible approach by her early guilty plea and reporting of the matter to the HCPC. The Registrant fully completed the requirements of her sentence within a short space of time;

• The Registrant has demonstrated insight and remorse and the risk of repetition is low.

19. The Panel determined that, given the nature of the Registrant’s conviction for assault, to take no action would not be in the public interest and would not retain public confidence in the regulatory process or have the necessary deterrent effect on other registrants. The Panel further concluded that public confidence in the profession would be undermined by taking no further action. The public would expect the regulator to take action in circumstances where a paramedic had been convicted of a domestic assault on a partner.

20. Taking all of the circumstances into account, the Panel considered that a Caution Order was the appropriate and proportionate outcome. The Panel noted the insight demonstrated by the Registrant and the steps she has taken to address the issues that led to the offending behaviour. The Panel had particular regard to paragraphs 101 to 103 of the Sanctions Policy.

21. The Panel considered that a Conditions of Practice Order in these circumstances would not be workable or appropriate given the nature of the conviction and the fact that the Registrant’s clinical skills are not in question. The Panel considered a Suspension Order would be disproportionate, as the conviction was not at the higher end of seriousness and was an isolated incident during difficult personal circumstances.

22. In light of the Registrant’s insight and the length of time these proceedings had been ongoing, the Panel considered that a Caution Order of 1 year was appropriate to mark the seriousness of the behaviour. The Panel considered that this was the proportionate balance to protect and uphold proper standards of conduct and behaviour and to enable the Registrant to return to practice.

Order

That the Registrar is directed to annotate the register entry of Ms Ceri L Bolton with a Caution which is to remain on the register for a period of 1 year from the date this order comes into effect.

Notes

No notes available

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Ms Ceri L Bolton

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
11/11/2019 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Caution