Miss Kara Crowther

Profession: Social worker

Registration Number: SW105259

Hearing Type: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 11/09/2019 End: 17:00 13/09/2019

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

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Suspended

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Allegation

Whilst registered as a social worker you:

1) On 30 January 2018 at West Yorkshire Magistrates’ Court you were convicted of:

(a) On 24 December 2017 drove a motor vehicle, on a road, after consuming so much alcohol that the proportion of it in your breath, namely 63 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath, exceeded the prescribed limit. Contrary to section 5(1)(a) of the Road Traffic Act 1988 and Schedule 2 to the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1998.

2) You failed to disclose that you had been charged in December 2017 with driving over the prescribed limit to:

(a) Your employer

(b) The HCPC

3) Your conduct as outlined in paragraphs 2a and/ or 2b was dishonest.

4) The matters set out at paragraphs 2 to 3 amounts to misconduct.

5) By reason of your misconduct as set out at paragraph 4, your fitness to practise is impaired.

6) By reason of your conviction as set out at paragraph 1, your fitness to practise is impaired.

Finding

Preliminary Matters

1. Miss Kara Crowther (“the Registrant”) is registered with the HCPC as a Social Worker. The Registrant did not attend the hearing and was not represented.

Service

2. The Panel was satisfied that Notice of the hearing was sent to the Registrant at her address as it appeared on the HCPC Register on 21 June 2019. The Notice contained the date, time, and venue of today’s hearing. The Panel was satisfied that Notice of today’s hearing had been served in accordance with Rule 6(1) of The Health and Care Professions Council (Conduct and Competence Committee) Rules 2003.

Proceeding in the absence of the Registrant

3. On behalf of the HCPC, Ms Luscombe asked the Panel to proceed in the absence of the Registrant. The Registrant had sent emails to the HCPC on 14 March 2018 and 28 May 2019 in relation to the proceedings. There had been no further contact from the Registrant. Ms Luscombe submitted that the Registrant was clearly aware of the hearing but she had not requested an adjournment or continuation. In these circumstances, she had voluntarily decided not to attend. No useful purpose would be served by any continuation or adjournment.

4. The Legal Assessor drew the Panel’s attention to the guidance provided in the HCPTS Practice Note “Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant”. The Panel was advised that it was competent to proceed in the absence of a Registrant. However, the decision on whether that was appropriate in any individual case was a matter of discretionary judgment for the Panel.

5. The Panel recognised that the discretion to proceed in the absence of a registrant is one which must be exercised with the utmost care and caution and that its decision should be guided by the overarching objective to protect the public. It noted that it would run counter to that objective if a registrant could effectively frustrate the process by deliberately failing to engage.

6. In reaching its decision, the Panel had regard to the nature and circumstances of the Registrant’s behaviour in absenting herself; in particular, whether the behaviour was voluntary and so waived her right to be present. The Panel balanced the public interest in the timely disposal of the allegation with the disadvantage to the Registrant should the hearing proceed in her absence. The Panel took note of the fact that there had been no response from the Registrant to the Notice. It therefore had no reason to believe that, if it were to adjourn the hearing, the Registrant would attend on the next occasion.

7. On the basis of the information before it, the Panel concluded that the Registrant had voluntarily absented herself and waived her right to be present. It determined that it would be fair and in the interests of justice to proceed in her absence.
Application for parts of the hearing to proceed in private

8. Ms Luscombe made an application for parts of the hearing to take place in private. Having considered the HCPTS Practice Note on “Conducting Hearings in Private”, and the advice of the Legal Assessor, the Panel decided that the case should be heard in public but that any submissions and evidence relating to the Registrant’s private life should be heard in private.

Documents available to the Panel

9. The HCPC produced a bundle of documents entitled “Final Hearing” in advance of the hearing (the “FH Bundle”). This included the Memorandum of an Entry in the Register of Bradford and Keighley Magistrates’ Court, the Registrant’s employment contract, and notes of two meetings between the Registrant and her managers. In addition to the FH Bundle, a separate “Impairment Bundle” was provided to the Panel. In advance of the hearing, the HCPC wrote to the Panel and asked that they did not read the “Impairment Bundle” before the hearing.

10. Mr Thorpe and Mrs Clarke confirmed at the start of the hearing that they had not read the “Impairment Bundle”. Mr Aitken confirmed that he had read the bundle before he received contact from the HCPC.

11. Advice was sought from the Legal Assessor in relation to when a panel member is required to consider recusing themselves. The Legal Assessor advised that the overriding requirement is that hearings are conducted in a fair manner in accordance with the rules of natural justice. A panel member would be required to consider recusal if an issue arose which potentially impacted on their ability to conduct their role in a fair and impartial manner. The key issue is whether a fair minded and informed observer could reasonably consider that there was a real possibility of the panel member being biased or unable to discharge their role independently and impartially (Porter v Magill 2002 AC 357; Helow v Secretary of State for the Home Department 2008 1 WLR 2416).

12. The Panel accepted this advice. Mr Aitken had not discussed the content of the “Impairment Bundle” with the other panel members. Accordingly, the Panel concluded that was no reason for the other panel members to consider recusal as they were ignorant of the contents of the bundle. Mr Aitken concluded that reading the “Impairment Bundle” did not require him to recuse himself. As an experienced Panel Chair, Mr Aitken was well aware of the task of the Panel at the fact-finding stage and at the stage of considering the statutory grounds. The “Impairment Bundle” was not relevant to those stages. He was able to exclude the content of the bundle from his consideration of those matters. The Panel concluded, taking into account the advice received, that the hearing could be conducted in a fair and impartial manner and no panel member was required to recuse themselves.

13. At the hearing, the HCPC provided redacted copies of emails dated 14 March 2018 and 28 May 2018 (the “Emails”). The Emails contained some information in relation to the Registrant’s position.

Background

14. The Registrant was employed at Parallel Parents as a Foster Development Worker. The Allegation relates to events in late 2017 and early 2018.

15. In addition to the Bundle and the Emails, the HCPC relied on the witness statements of JL, AJ, and SJ.

16. JL, the Registrant’s Supervisor, attended the hearing in person and provided live oral evidence.

Hearsay evidence

17. Some of the evidence adduced from JL was hearsay evidence regarding statements the Registrant made to a colleague. Ms Luscombe sought to rely on this hearsay evidence. The Panel sought and received advice from the Legal Assessor. The Legal Assessor advised that it was competent for the Panel to admit such evidence. If the Panel determined to admit such evidence, the weight (if any) to be accorded to such hearsay evidence would be a matter for the judgment of the Panel. The Panel decided to admit the hearsay evidence as it was relevant to the issues which the Panel was required to determine.

Decision on Facts

18. The Panel considered with care all the evidence presented, together with the submissions made by Ms Luscombe on behalf of the HCPC. The Panel heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and bore in mind that it was for the HCPC to prove its case and to do so on the balance of probabilities.

Credibility and Reliability of the Witnesses

19. The Panel found JL to be a credible and reliable witness. She gave her evidence in a clear and measured way. She only spoke to matters within her knowledge.

Particular 1 – Proved

20. The Panel took into account the Memorandum of an Entry in the Register of Bradford and Keighley Magistrates’ Court (the “Memorandum”), which confirmed that on 30 January 2018 the Registrant pleaded Guilty to the offence as set out in Particular 1 of the Allegation.

21. The Panel bore in mind Rule 10(1)(d) of the Rules, which states:

“where the registrant has been convicted of a criminal offence, a certified copy of the certificate of conviction … shall be admissible as proof of that conviction and of the findings of fact upon which it was based.”

22. The Panel accepted the Memorandum as evidence of the Registrant’s conviction and the facts upon which it was based. As a result, the Panel was satisfied, on the balance of probabilities, that Particular 1 of the Allegation is found proved.

Particular 2(a) – Proved

23. JL explained that she was the Registrant’s Supervisor. She had had a supervision meeting with the Registrant on 10 January 2018. The Registrant did not inform her that she had been charged on 24 December 2017 with driving over the prescribed limit. JL first became aware of this issue on 12 January 2018 when a colleague support worker, AM, told JL about a conversation she had had with the Registrant. The Registrant had told AM about the fact she had been arrested for drink driving. The Registrant asked AM keep this secret. AM did not have a management role with the Registrant’s employer.

24. Following the conversation between JL and AM, JL arranged a formal meeting with the Registrant. This took place on 15 January 2018. JL and AM were present at this meeting, together with other members of staff. At this meeting, JL stated that the Registrant had been charged with driving with more than the prescribed limit of alcohol in her system. This was the first time the Registrant had disclosed this information to her employer.

25. At the meeting on 15 January 2018, the Registrant stated that she knew she should have told her immediately upon being charged with a criminal offence. She stated that she did not do so because she was trying to figure out what to do. She stated that she knew “her job will go” and she had been looking for jobs where she did not need to drive.

26. JL’s evidence was supported by the contemporaneous documents made available to the Panel. The Panel found that the Registrant failed to disclose to her employer that she had been charged on 24 December 2017 with driving over the prescribed limit. This disclosure was not made until the formal meeting on 15 January 2018.

27. As a result, the Panel was satisfied, on the balance of probabilities, that Particular 2(a) of the Allegation is found proved.

Particular 2(b) – Proved

28. The statement of AJ, a member of staff at the HCPC, narrated that the Registrant did not inform HCPC that she had been charged on 24 December 2017 with driving over the prescribed limit.

29. JL confirmed that it was she who informed the HCPC that the Registrant had been charged with drink driving by a referral dated 24 January 2018.

30. The Panel found that the Registrant failed to disclose to HCPC that she had been charged on 24 December 2017 with driving over the prescribed limit.

Particular 3

31. The Legal Assessor advised the Panel that dishonesty was considered by the Supreme Court in Ivey v Genting Casinos [2018] AC 391. When dishonesty is in question, the fact-finding panel must first ascertain (subjectively) the actual state of the individual's knowledge or belief as to the facts. The reasonableness or otherwise of the belief is a matter of evidence going to whether the belief was held by the individual. However, it is not an additional requirement that the belief must be reasonable. The question is whether it is genuinely held. Once the individual’s actual state of mind as to knowledge or belief of the facts is established, the question of whether the conduct was honest or dishonest is to be determined by the fact-finder by applying the objective standards of ordinary decent people. There is no requirement that the individual must appreciate that what has been done is, by those standards, dishonest. The Panel accepted this advice.

32. JL explained that the Registrant had told a colleague, AM, that she had been charged with drink driving. JL told that Panel that AM informed her that the Registrant had asked AM to keep this a secret. The Registrant’s contract of employment clearly stated that:

“…you must inform your line manager/organisation immediately…of any involvement with the Police as this may affect your employment status. This includes any arrest for any reason (including driving offences)…” (clause 15 of the Registrant’s contract of employment)

33. This provision is entirely unsurprising given that driving was critical to the Social Work role the Registrant was employed to do.

34. At the meeting on 15 January 2018, the Registrant was told by the Chair of the meeting that she should have made her employer aware straight away of the fact she had been charged with a criminal offence. The Registrant’s reply was recorded as follows:

“[the Registrant] replied that she knew she should have but she was just trying to figure out what she was going to do as she is aware her job will go and she has been looking for jobs where she doesnt [sic] have to drive”

35. The notes of the meeting were entirely consistent with the evidence of JL in relation to this matter.

36. The Panel found that the Registrant knew that she should have informed her employer immediately upon being arrested and charged by the Police with a criminal offence.
She deliberately delayed in doing so. She deliberately set out to deceive her employer.

37. Standard 9.5 of the HCPC Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics (the “Standards”) states that a registrant must inform the HCPC “as soon as possible” if they “accept a caution from the police or [they] have been charged with, or found guilty, of a criminal offence”.

38. The Panel has already found that the Registrant was aware that she had been charged with a criminal offence on 24 December 2017. She did not inform the HCPC of this fact. The HCPC only became aware of this due to the report made by the Registrant’s employer. The Standards make it clear that this fact should have been notified to the HCPC immediately. The Panel found that the Registrant deliberately failed to inform the HCPC of the fact she had been charged with a criminal offence at the relevant time. She knew that this would have regulatory consequences. The Panel found that the failure to tell the HCPC amounted to deliberate deception on the part of the Registrant. This was not a matter on which the Registrant could have been confused.

39. The Panel found that, viewed objectively by the standards of ordinary decent people, the conduct of the Registrant (as set out in Particulars 2(a) and 2(b)) was dishonest.

Decision on Grounds

40. The Panel found Particular 1, concerning the Registrant’s conviction, proved. This in itself established the statutory ground of a conviction.

41. The Panel then considered whether the facts found proved in relation to Particulars 2 and 3 amount to misconduct.

42. The Panel took into account the submissions made by Ms Luscombe for the HCPC and the advice of the Legal Assessor.

43. The Panel was mindful that the question of misconduct is a matter for the Panel’s professional judgement, there being no standard or burden of proof. The Panel took into account that misconduct was defined in Roylance v General Medical Council (no 2) [2001] 1 AC 311 as:

“…a word of general effect, involving some act or omission which falls short of what would be proper in the circumstances. The standard of propriety may often be found by reference to the rules and standards ordinarily required to be followed by a medical practitioner in the particular circumstances”.

44. The Panel considered the Standards, particularly standard 9.5, which provides that a registrant must inform the HCPC “as soon as possible” if they “accept a caution from the police or [they] have been charged with, or found guilty, of a criminal offence”.

45. The Panel has already found that the Registrant failed to comply with Standard 9.5 of the Standards.

46. The Panel bore in mind that not every breach of the Standards and not every falling short of what would be proper in the circumstances will constitute misconduct; the breach must be serious.

47. The Panel considered that, on the facts found proved in relation to Particulars 2 and 3, the Registrant breached a fundamental tenet of the profession. Social Workers are expected to act with professionalism and integrity at all times. The Registrant’s conduct was dishonest. She deliberately failed to tell her employer and the HCPC that she had been charged with a criminal offence. She sought to do so as she was concerned that she would lose her job.

48. The Panel found that the Registrant’s actions were serious and can be properly described as misconduct going to fitness to practise. The Panel considered that fellow professionals would view the actions of the Registrant to be deplorable.

49. Therefore, the Panel found that the matters found proved in Particulars 2 and 3 amount to misconduct.

Decision on Impairment

50. Ms Luscombe addressed the Panel on the “Impairment Bundle”. The documentation in the bundle showed that the Registrant had a previous conviction for drink driving. The date of the sentence was 13 June 2014. At that time, the Registrant had undertaken a drink drive awareness course. There was a reflective piece from the Registrant, dated 3 July 2015, which was submitted in relation to her application for registration with the HCPC. In the reflective piece, the Registrant stated that she had learned from the experience and the drink driving awareness course had been a “massive eye opener”. Ms Luscombe submitted that in the present case there was a serious risk of repetition. She submitted that the Registrant’s fitness to practise should be found to be currently impaired on the basis of both the personal component and the public component.

51. The Panel took into account the submissions made by Ms Luscombe for the HCPC. The Panel also considered the HCPTS Practice Note “Finding that Fitness to Practise is Impaired”. It also heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

52. The Panel was required to determine whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired as at today’s date. The Panel’s task was not to punish the Registrant for past acts. However, the Panel may take into account past acts and omissions in order to make an informed assessment as to whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired.

53. The Panel took into account:

• the ‘personal’ component: the current competence, behaviour, etc of the Registrant, including any evidence of insight and efforts towards remediation; and

• the ‘public’ component: the need to protect service users, declare and uphold proper standards of behaviour and maintain public confidence in the profession.

Personal component

54. In respect of the personal component, the Panel applied the following test formulated by Dame Janet Smith in her “Fifth Shipman Report” and applied by the High Court in Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence v Nursing and Midwifery Council and Grant [2011] EWHC 927 (Admin), paragraph 76, to the extent relevant to the facts of the case:

“Do our findings of fact in respect of the [Registrant’s] misconduct, deficient professional performance, adverse health, conviction, caution or determination show that his/her fitness to practise is impaired in the sense that she/he:

a) has in the past acted and/or is liable to act in the future so as to put a patient or patients at unwarranted risk of harm; and/or

b) has in the past brought and/or is liable in the future to bring the medical profession into disrepute; and/or

c) has in the past breached and/or is liable in the future to breach one of the fundamental tenets of the medical profession; and/or

d) has in the past acted dishonestly and/or is liable to act dishonestly in the future?”

55. The Panel also took into account the guidance provided in Cohen v General Medical Council [2008] EWHC 581 (paragraph 65). The Panel considered: (i) whether the Registrant’s conduct was easily remediable; (ii) whether it had been remedied; and (iii) whether it was highly unlikely to be repeated.

56. With regard to the “personal” element of impairment, the Panel considered that the drink driving offence had no direct bearing on the Registrant’s competence as a Social Worker. However, although she was not working at the time of the offence, driving was a critical aspect of her Social Work role. The conviction brought the profession into disrepute. Moreover, the Registrant acted dishonestly in seeking to conceal the fact she had been charged with a criminal offence from her employer and regulator. Social Workers occupy a position of privilege and trust in society and are expected at all times to be professional. In the view of the Panel, the Registrant’s conduct fell well below the standards expected of members of the social work profession. The Registrant breached a fundamental tenet of the profession, namely that Social Workers are expected to act with honesty, professionalism, and integrity at all times.

57. The Panel recognised that the Registrant entered an early guilty plea to the most recent criminal charge. Moreover, at the meeting with her employer on 15 January 2018, the Registrant stated that she had been “really stupid”. This demonstrated a degree of insight on the part of the Registrant. However, this was the second time that the Registrant had been convicted of drink driving within a four-year period. She drove her car under the influence of alcohol notwithstanding that she had previously undertaken a drink drive awareness course. The Panel considered that the Registrant had not learned from her previous experiences. The Panel considered that there was a significant risk that the Registrant may breach fundamental tenets of the profession and bring the profession into disrepute in the future. The Panel also considered that there was a significant risk that the Registrant may act dishonestly in the future. The Panel considered that it would be difficult for the Registrant to remediate the finding of dishonesty. No evidence of remediation was available to the Panel. There was no evidence available to the Panel which suggested that the risk of repetition is low.

58. Accordingly, the Panel found that, on the basis of the personal component, the Registrant’s fitness to practice is currently impaired.

Public component

59. The Panel went on to consider the public component and whether this was the type of case that required a finding of impairment on public interest grounds in order to maintain public confidence in the profession and maintain proper standards of conduct.

60. In addressing this component of impairment, the Panel had regard to the observations of Silber J in Cohen v General Medical Council [2008] EWHC 581:

“Any approach to the issue of whether…fitness to practise should be regarded as ‘impaired’ must take account of…the collective need to maintain confidence in the profession as well as declaring and upholding proper standards of conduct and behaviour...” (paragraph 62)

61. Social Workers occupy a position of privilege and trust and are expected at all times to be professional. Service users must be able to trust them and, to justify that trust, Social Workers must act with integrity. The Panel considered that maintaining professionalism and proper standards of conduct are fundamental requirements of the profession and that the public would be extremely concerned to learn of the Registrant’s conviction and misconduct.

62. The Panel considered that the conviction and the misconduct were both of a serious nature. The Registrant was convicted, for the second time, of a serious criminal offence. She acted dishonestly in seeking to withhold the fact she had been arrested and charged with a criminal offence from her employer and her Regulator. The Panel was satisfied that the actions of the Registrant brought the reputation of the profession into disrepute and that she breached one of the fundamental tenets of the profession, which is to make sure that her conduct justifies the public’s trust and confidence in her and her profession.

63. The Panel took into account the responsibility of the HCPC to uphold proper standards of conduct on the part of members of the profession and to maintain public confidence in the profession. The Panel was satisfied that the wider public interest was engaged in this case.

64. The Panel considered that a fully informed member of the public who was aware of the circumstances of this case would have their confidence in the profession undermined if a finding of impairment was not made. This was because of the serious nature of the errors in judgment and the harm caused to the reputation of the profession by the Registrant’s conduct. The Panel was of the view that the need to uphold such standards and uphold public confidence would be undermined if a finding of impairment were not made in the circumstances of this case.

65. Due to the lack of up-to-date information and the lack of any evidence or information from the Registrant directly, the Panel was unable to conclude that the Registrant had taken any significant steps to address the conviction or her dishonesty, nor could it conclude that she had shown any meaningful insight. The Panel was therefore of the view that the Registrant is liable to bring the profession into disrepute and breach fundamental tenets of the profession in the future. For all the reasons set out above, the Panel determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired on the grounds of public protection and in the public interest.

66. Accordingly, the Panel found that the Registrant’s fitness to practise as a Social Worker is currently impaired on both the personal and public components by reason of both her conviction and her misconduct.

Decision on Sanction

67. Ms Luscombe, on behalf of the HCPC, addressed the Panel on the HCPC Sanctions Policy (“SP”). The decision as to which sanction, if any, to impose was a matter for the judgment of the Panel. The HCPC made no recommendation as to any particular sanction. However, Ms Luscombe highlighted that this was a case where the Panel had made a finding of dishonesty. Dishonesty is categorised as a “serious case” in the SP. Ms Luscombe acknowledged that there are degrees of dishonesty and each case must be considered on its individual merits.

68. The Panel received and accepted advice from the Legal Assessor. The Legal Assessor addressed the Panel on the SP and advised the Panel that in deciding what sanction, if any, to impose, the Panel should ensure that any sanction is proportionate and strikes a proper balance between the protection of the public and the rights of the Registrant.

69. The Panel took into account the SP. However, the Panel reached its own independent decision on the appropriate sanction based on the individual facts of the present case. The Panel applied the principle of proportionality by weighing the Registrant’s interests with the public interest.

70. The Panel proceeded on the basis that the purpose of any sanction is not to be punitive. The primary objective is public safety. However, other public interest objectives have a role to play. These include:

(i)  the deterrent effect to other registrants;

(ii)  the reputation of the profession concerned; and

(iii)  public confidence in the regulatory process.

71. The Panel first considered whether there were any aggravating and/or mitigating factors to be taken into account when deciding the appropriate sanction.

72. The Panel identified the following mitigating factors:

(i) there has been no criticism of the Registrant’s competence as a Social Worker;

(ii) there was no actual harm to service users or members of the public as a result of the Registrant’s behaviour which resulted in her most recent the conviction;

(iii) the Registrant demonstrated a degree of insight. At the meeting with her employer on 15 January 2018, the Registrant stated that she had been “really stupid”. The Registrant also pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity in the Magistrates’ Court;

(iv) the Registrant engaged, to a limit extent, with the HCPC in relation to the investigation by providing emails dated 14 March 2018 and 28 May 2018.

73. The Panel identified the following aggravating factors:

(i) this was the Registrant’s second conviction for drink driving within four years. The most recent offence was committed notwithstanding the fact that the Registrant previously undertook a drink driving awareness course and stated to the HCPC, in 2015, that she had learned from that experience;

(ii) driving was a critical part of the Registrant’s role as a Social Worker;

(iii) there was the potential for serious harm to other road users and members of the public;

(iv) the Registrant had declared her previous conviction to the HCPC at the time of her registration. She was aware that she would be required to disclose the fact that she had been charged with drink driving to her employer and the HCPC. She had opportunities to tell her employer and the HCPC, but failed to do so.

74. In order to ensure that it imposed a sanction that was no more restrictive than was necessary to protect the public and the public interest, the Panel considered the sanctions available to it in ascending order of severity.

75. The Panel first considered whether to take no further action, and decided that it would not be proportionate to do so. The conviction was for a serious matter which had the potential to cause significant harm to other road users and pedestrians. Further, the Panel made a finding of dishonesty. The Panel identified a real risk of repetition, and the Registrant has not engaged directly with the HCPC to demonstrate any meaningful insight or any efforts at remediation. In the Panel’s view, taking no further action would not address the need to uphold the public interest concerns in this case. The Panel also discounted a Caution Order for the same reasons. The Panel was also of the view that Mediation was not appropriate because it was dealing with a conviction case.

76. The Panel considered a Conditions of Practice Order. Such an order would be appropriate where a panel is confident that a Registrant will adhere to the conditions, is genuinely committed to resolving the issues they seek to address, and can be trusted to make a determined effort to do so.  The Panel had no evidence of any meaningful insight on the part of the Registrant regarding the serious nature of the failings identified above. At the moment, the Panel has no evidence that allows it to be confident that the Registrant is committed to resolving the issues or that she would make a determined effort to comply with conditions. Moreover, the Panel was not satisfied that it could formulate any Conditions of Practice that would address the concerns that arise, provide sufficient public protection, maintain confidence in the Social Work profession, and which would be workable and enforceable. The Panel concluded that such an order is not appropriate.

77. A Suspension Order may be appropriate where the allegation is serious and cannot be addressed by any of the lower sanctions, but there is the potential for the Registrant to remedy their failings. The Particulars that have been found to be proved are serious. They involve a conviction for drink driving and a finding of dishonesty. However, in relation to the issue of dishonesty, the Panel considered that there are different forms and degrees of dishonesty. The dishonesty in this case relates to one issue, namely the fact the Registrant had been charged with drink driving and failed to tell her employer or her regulator immediately. The Panel considered the duration of the dishonesty in this case to be relevant. The dishonest conduct lasted for a matter of weeks. When the issue was discovered by the Registrant’s employer and was put to the Registrant, she acknowledged the issue. She also accepted that she should have told her employer at the time she was charged with a criminal offence.

78. The Registrant has shown a limited degree of insight. At the meeting with her employer on 15 January 2018, the Registrant stated that she had been “really stupid”. The Registrant also pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity in the Magistrates’ Court

79. The Registrant has had a previously unblemished career as a Social Worker. No concerns have been raised with the Panel in relation to her competence.

80. In the particular circumstances of this case, the Panel did not consider that the Registrant’s actions are incapable of remediation. There is the potential for the Registrant to develop insight and remediate the concerns set out above.

81. The Panel concluded that a period of Suspension would provide the necessary level of public protection for its duration. It would mitigate the risk of repetition which the Panel addressed above and the wider public interest concerns that arise in this case. It would allow the Registrant an opportunity for reflection in which she may potentially develop fuller insight into her failings and make attempts to remediate her behaviour. The Panel found a Suspension Order to be the appropriate sanction in this case.

82. In order to test the proportionality of a Suspension Order, the Panel gave consideration to a Striking Off Order. The Panel concluded that such an order would be inappropriate. A Striking Off Order is a “…sanction of last resort for serious, persistent, deliberate or reckless acts…” (SP, paragraph 130). The Particulars that have been proved are of a serious nature. However, the conviction is the Registrant’s first conviction since she was registered with the HCPC. While the dishonesty is serious, as outlined above, it must be viewed in context. The failure to make appropriate disclosures to the Registrant’s employer and the HCPC took place over a relatively short period of time. The Panel did not consider that there has been a persistent course of dishonest conduct over a significant period of time such as to justify a Striking Off Order at this stage. In these circumstances, the Panel concluded that the lesser sanction of a Suspension Order would provide the correct level of public protection and maintain public confidence in the Social Work profession.

83. The Panel next considered the appropriate length of the Suspension Order, and concluded that 12 months was the necessary and appropriate period. Such a period would reflect the serious nature of the conviction and misconduct that has been found. The Panel considered that a period of 12 months was required given the ongoing risks outlined above. A 12-month suspension would reflect the public interest concerns that arise in this case. The Panel also considered that a period of 12 months would be required in order for the Registrant to develop appropriate insight and take appropriate steps in relation to remediation.

84. The Panel wishes to make clear to the Registrant that it would be in her interests to engage in future proceedings and, in particular, to attend future hearings. It may also be advantageous to future panels if the Registrant makes the following information available in advance of any future hearing:

a. a reflective piece concerning the circumstances leading to the Registrant’s conviction and addressing her failure to immediately inform her employer and the HCPC of the fact she had been arrested and charged. Any such reflective piece should address the impact of the Registrant’s action on her profession and the public;

b. an indication of the Registrant’s current employment status and her future intentions in respect of her profession;

c. details of steps taken to keep her knowledge and skills up-to-date;

d. testimonials and references from current and recent employers and/or voluntary organisations that she has worked for.

85. The Panel therefore imposes a Suspension Order for a period of 12 months.

Order

The Registrar is directed to suspend the registration of Miss Kara Crowther for a period of 12 months from the date this order comes into effect.

This Order will be reviewed before its expiry.

Notes

Interim Order

1. There was an application by the HCPC for an Interim Suspension Order.

Proceeding in absence

2. The Panel took into account that in the Notice of Hearing, the Registrant was put on specific notice of such a possibility and therefore Notice in that respect had been served. The Panel considered whether it was fair to proceed in the absence of the Registrant and took into account the reasons the Panel relied upon when deciding to proceed in the absence of the Registrant for the main part of the hearing. On that basis, the Panel decided that it was fair and appropriate to consider this application in the absence of the Registrant.

The application

3. The Panel heard submissions from Ms Luscombe on the need for an Interim Order to cover the period during which an appeal might be made and, if one was made, whilst that appeal was in progress. The Panel heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

4. The HCPC’s application was made on the two statutory grounds, as follows:

• it was necessary for the protection of members of the public;
• it was otherwise in the public interest.

4. The Panel found that the Registrant was convicted of a serious criminal offence and was dishonest in failing to tell her employer and regulator at the earliest opportunity about the fact she had been charged. The Registrant has not demonstrated significant insight into her failures. Consequently, there remains a real risk of repetition if the Registrant were to be allowed to practise without restriction. The Panel was also of the view that public confidence in the regulatory process would be undermined if the Registrant were allowed to remain in practice on an unrestricted basis. The Panel did not consider that interim conditions were appropriate or that they would provide the required degree of protection to the public. For these reasons, the Panel determined that an Interim Suspension Order, in the same terms as the substantive order, was necessary to protect the public and was otherwise in the public interest.

5. The Panel considered that the Interim Order should be in place for a maximum period of 18 months, as this period is required to ensure that the Interim Order would be in place during any appeal.

6. This Interim Order will expire: upon the expiry of the period during which such an appeal could be made (if no appeal is made against the Panel’s decision and Order); or the final determination of that appeal, subject to a maximum period of 18 months (if an appeal is made against the Panel’s decision and Order).

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Miss Kara Crowther

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
11/09/2019 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended