Mr David La Roche

Profession: Paramedic

Registration Number: PA38216

Hearing Type: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 30/09/2019 End: 17:00 03/10/2019

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

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Struck off

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Allegation

Prior to your registration as a HCPC registered Paramedic:

1) You engaged in inappropriate sexual activity with Person A, as set out in Schedule A

2) Your actions as described in paragraph 1 were sexually motivated.

3) The matters set out in paragraphs 1 - 2 amount to misconduct.

4) By reason of your misconduct your fitness to practise as a Paramedic is impaired.

Schedule A

Between 1983 and 1984, you engaged in sexual activity with a child.

Finding

Preliminary Matters

Service

1. The Panel was informed that the most recent communication to the HCPC from the Registrant was an application for voluntary deregistration from the HCPC Register, dated 30 August 2017. In this application, the Registrant stated his address to be that which was then on the HCPC Register. He had not notified the HCPC of any change to his registered address.

2. In the course of the HCPC’s investigation, attempts to serve the Registrant with documentation revealed that he was no longer residing at the registered address. Furthermore, the email address previously provided to the HCPC was no longer in use by the Registrant. In response to an email sent on 29 November 2018 to that address, the HCPC was informed by the Registrant’s former partner that the Registrant no longer had access to that email address. No new email address for the Registrant was made available to the HCPC.

3. Investigations revealed that on 25 August 2017, the Registrant left the United Kingdom and has, apparently, not returned.

4. Despite the Registrant’s duty as a registered professional to notify the HCPC of any change in his registered address, he has not done so.

5. Ms Luscombe, on behalf of the HCPC, submitted that although service could have been effected on the Registrant’s address as it then appeared on the Register, this would be unrealistic. Furthermore, the documents to be served contained personal information relating to sensitive and confidential matters regarding both other people and the Registrant. They also referred to criminal proceedings against the Registrant.

6. In the light of these matters, the HCPC concluded that documents should not be served on the Registrant at the address then on the Register, given that the HCPC was aware that the Registrant no longer resided there. In order to effect service, having taken legal advice, the HCPC decided to amend his registered address to that of the HCPC’s offices.

7. The documentation before the Panel indicated that the Registrant’s address in the Register is now that of the HCPC and that the Notice of Hearing and accompanying documents were served on him at that address.

8. The Panel gave thorough and careful consideration to all the information before it before reaching its decision on service. It accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

9. The Panel decided that the Registrant should have notified the HCPC of his current address, as per his duty to do so. The Panel had regard to the sensitive nature of the material in the documents and the request of the Registrant’s ex-partner to refrain from sending any further correspondence to the last known email address.

10. The Panel accepted that the purpose of serving notice of proceedings is to inform a registrant of the time, date, and venue of those proceedings and to provide other necessary information. However, in these particular circumstances, where it was not appropriate to send confidential information to the then-registered address, the Panel considered that the HCPC should not be prevented from carrying out its regulatory functions by the failure of the Registrant to update his address.

11. The Panel was satisfied that it would be difficult to serve the Registrant at the address formerly on the Register, or indeed to make contact with him by any other means, given that the Registrant had not made any contact with the HCPC since 30 August 2017. The Panel therefore accepted that the course of action taken by the HCPC, to re-register his address as that of the HCPC and to effect service at that address, was appropriate. The Panel determined that to do so was in the public interest, in order that this matter could proceed to a hearing. The Panel recognised that there may be some disadvantage to the Registrant by serving notice in this way, but concluded that the public interest outweighed that of the Registrant.

12. The Panel was therefore satisfied that service was effected in accordance with the Health and Care Professions Council (Conduct and Competence Committee) (Procedure) Rules 2003.

Proceeding in absence

13. Ms Luscombe applied, under Rule 11, for the hearing to proceed in the Registrant’s absence.

14. The Panel took into account the relevant HCPTS Practice Note and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

15. The Panel determined that it was reasonable and in the public interest to proceed with the hearing in the absence of the Registrant for the following reasons:

• the concerns regarding the Registrant were referred to the HCPC on 30 August 2017;

• on 30 August 2017, the Registrant made an application for voluntary deregistration;

• the Registrant has not engaged with the regulatory process or otherwise with the HCPC since 30 August 2017;

• the Registrant has apparently been beyond United Kingdom jurisdiction since 25 August 2017 and failed to answer to his bail at a criminal trial related to these allegations on 12 September 2017;

• in the absence of any engagement by the Registrant, or any application for an adjournment, there was nothing to indicate that he would attend on any future date were this hearing to be adjourned. In these circumstances, the Panel was satisfied that the Registrant has voluntarily absented himself and deliberately waived his right to attend. Re-listing the case would therefore serve no useful purpose;

• the allegation is serious;

• some two years have elapsed since the referral to the HCPC;

• the HCPC is ready to proceed and its witness is in attendance;

• although there is a potential disadvantage to the Registrant in being unable to give evidence or to make submissions, this was outweighed by the strong public interest in ensuring that this substantive hearing should proceed expeditiously. 

16. The Panel therefore concluded that the hearing should proceed despite the absence of the Registrant.

Background

17. The Registrant is a registered Paramedic. The allegations against him are of sexual activity with a child on various occasions between 1983 and 1984, prior to the Registrant becoming a registered Paramedic.

18. The matter was reported to the police in May 2016. The Registrant was interviewed by police on 12 October 2016, but, as was his right, he made ‘no comment’ replies. He was subsequently summonsed to appear at court in relation to three offences of buggery and three offences of indecent assault. He was bailed to appear at court on 12 September 2017, but he failed to do so.

19. A warrant for his arrest was subsequently issued. However, enquiries revealed that he had left the United Kingdom on 25 August 2017 and has not returned. He is believed to now be residing in the United Arab Emirates.

Decision on Facts

20. There was before the Panel a bundle of documents prepared by the HCPC containing witness statements and exhibits. This included a witness statement made to police by Person A, who was the alleged victim of the Registrant’s sexual abuse.

Evidence

21. One witness, Person A, was called on behalf of the HCPC. He had reported the alleged sexual abuse to police in May 2016, following which he was interviewed on 17 May 2016. He made a witness statement to the police dated 5 September 2016, which he referred to in his evidence to the Panel.

22. The Panel found the substance of Person A’s evidence to be consistent with his witness statement. It found Person A to be believable. The Panel gave credence to the detailed way in which Person A described the events to which he was allegedly subject. He said that he could recall various memories as if they were “film clips”.

23. The Panel gave particular regard to his description of the physical and sensory impact upon him. He described specific details; for example, an occasion when he was lying on his side facing a bedroom wall whilst raped by the Registrant; the aroma of a certain type of deodorant used by the Registrant when Person A was asked to perform oral sex on him, and which was identical to the deodorant then bought by Person A’s mother and sister a short time later; and Person A’s feelings of disgust over what had happened.

24. The Panel found Person A to be honest and balanced in his evidence. He did not demonstrate any adverse motivation or negative attitude towards the Registrant. He stated when he could not recall specific details, such as the chronology of events, which he attributed to the passage of time. The alleged events occurred over 35 years ago. The Panel found him to be a credible and consistent witness.

Panel’s Findings

25. In reaching its decisions, the Panel disregarded the fact that criminal proceedings have been commenced against the Registrant and that he has failed to answer to his bail. It considered the factual allegations only on the evidence before it, both oral and documentary. It also took into account the submissions of Ms Luscombe. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

Particular 1

26. The Panel accepted the evidence of Person A that the matters alleged occurred over a period of about six months when he, Person A, was approximately 10 or 11 years of age and attending primary school, and that the Registrant was then at secondary school. The Panel concluded that it was more likely than not, from Person A’s recall of events, that these occurred between 1983 and 1984. The Panel was therefore satisfied that the alleged matters occurred prior to the Registrant’s registration as a Paramedic. Further, that Person A was then a child.

27. The Panel accepted Person A’s description of the acts carried out against him by the Registrant. These included:

• showing to Person A pornographic material;

• teaching Person A to play strip poker;

• the Registrant exposing himself to Person A whilst urinating;

• wrestling when Person A was unclothed;

• requiring Person A to give the Registrant oral sex and a ‘hand job’; and

• several incidents of anal rape.

28. The Panel therefore concluded that, in doing so, the Registrant engaged in inappropriate sexual activity with Person A.

29. The Panel found this particular proved on the basis of the reasons given above.

Particular 2

30. Ms Luscombe submitted that the Registrant’s actions were sexually motivated. She referred the Panel, as an analogy, to section 78 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003, which states:

“… penetration, touching or any other activity is sexual if a reasonable person would consider that—

(a) whatever its circumstances or any person’s purpose in relation to it, it is because of its nature sexual, or

(b) because of its nature it may be sexual and because of its circumstances or the purpose of any person in relation to it (or both) it is sexual.”

31. Ms Luscombe submitted that the behaviour of the Registrant would now be within this definition.

32. The Panel considered the factual particulars in the light of this, and accepted Person A’s evidence that he felt he had been groomed by the Registrant, who had sexual intentions towards him. Person A described a pattern of behaviour which began with the Registrant befriending him, which moved to being invited to the Registrant’s home to read comics and play computer games. This was then followed by ‘play fighting’, which then developed into various forms of sexual activity.

33. The Panel accepted that, in the course of anal rape upon Person A, the Registrant groaned and ejaculated, and that this was indicative of sexual gratification. The Panel found this to be a clear demonstration of sexual motivation on the part of the Registrant. Furthermore, it was satisfied that the earlier activity described by Person A, as outlined above, amounted to the grooming of a child, who at that time had no knowledge of sexual matters and who was subjected to an age and power imbalance. The Panel therefore concluded that these matters, together with oral sex and anal rape, were, of their very nature, sexually motivated. The Panel therefore found this particular proved.

Decision on Grounds and Impairment

34. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor that, in accordance with Article 22(3) of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001, it had jurisdiction to consider whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired by reason of misconduct arising from matters which occurred prior to the Registrant’s registration with the HCPC.

Grounds

35. Ms Luscombe submitted that whilst misconduct is a matter of judgement for the Panel, the behaviour of the Registrant prior to becoming a Paramedic could shed light on his behaviour within the profession. She said that the Registrant’s past conduct would be a particular concern to service users.

36. The matters found proved are clearly unworthy of a registered Paramedic. They are so serious as to amount to misconduct, including, as they do, sexually motivated activity with a child who was groomed by the Registrant.

37. Even though these matters occurred before the Registrant was registered as a Paramedic, his actions were such that they give rise to concerns as to how he would deliver services to vulnerable service users when in a position of trust.

38. The Panel found that the facts proved amounted to the ground of misconduct.

Impairment

39. These were serious acts of sexual misconduct in circumstances where there was a power imbalance between the Registrant and Person A, who has for many years since suffered harmful effects as a result. The impact, as described by Person A, has been significant.

40. The Registrant has not engaged with the HCPC and, in his police interview, he offered no explanation when asked about the allegations. He left the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom on 25 August 2017 whilst awaiting a court appearance and failed to answer to his bail. Moreover, in his voluntary deregistration form, he declared that he was “unaware of any current allegation, investigation, proceedings or order which may result in action being taken against me”. This was at a time when criminal proceedings had already been commenced against him.

41. The Panel did consider whether the misconduct found proved is capable of remediation. It concluded, however, that the pattern of behaviour displayed by the Registrant is difficult to remedy. Furthermore, the Registrant’s lack of engagement has meant that the Panel cannot be satisfied that he will not repeat the misconduct, there being no evidence of insight or remorse. In these circumstances, in regard to the personal component, the Panel has determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired.

42. Furthermore, it has determined that a finding of current impairment is also required in the wider public interest. Public confidence in the profession and in the HCPC as regulator would be undermined if a finding of impairment were not made, given the very serious nature of the misconduct found proved.

Decision on Sanction

43. In reaching its decision, the Panel considered all the information before it, together with the submissions of Ms Luscombe. It had regard to the HCPC Sanctions Policy (2019) (the Policy). It accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

44. Ms Luscombe made no submissions in regard to particular sanctions. She referred the Panel to the Policy and emphasised that the purpose of a sanction is not to punish a registrant but rather to protect the public.

45. The Panel found these to be aggravating factors:

• the very serious nature of the misconduct;

• this was a pattern of deliberate behaviour over a period of some six months;

• the Registrant, who was several years older than Person A, abused his position of trust, there being an age and power imbalance;

• the lack of any demonstration of insight into the seriousness of conduct of this nature and the immediate effect and continuing impact that it would have on a child and on the reputation of the profession;

• by failing to answer to his bail, the Registrant has evaded criminal proceedings related to his misconduct;

• the Registrant, in his voluntary deregistration form, failed to disclose that he was subject to criminal proceedings;

• the Registrant failed to inform the HCPC, as he was required to do so by the Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics, that he had been summonsed in regard to criminal offences;

• there has been a total lack of engagement with the regulatory process.

46. The Panel found these to be mitigating factors:

• the Registrant was a teenager at the relevant time;

• there have been no previous findings against him before the HCPC proceedings.

47. The Panel first considered whether to take no action, but determined that the serious nature of the misconduct demands a sanction.

48. The Panel then considered Mediation or a Caution Order. However, the misconduct is so serious that neither would be sufficient to protect the public or to address public interest concerns.

49. The Panel next considered a Conditions of Practice Order. In the light of the Registrant’s lack of engagement with the HCPC, there is no information before the Panel about his current employment. Further, there are no conditions which would be workable, appropriate, or sufficient to address the continuing risk of harm posed to the public in the light of the very serious nature of the misconduct.

50. The Panel then considered a Suspension Order, but again, such an Order would be insufficient to address the very serious nature of the misconduct. Further, as the Registrant has not demonstrated any insight, remorse, or remedial action, in addition to all the aggravating factors listed in paragraph 45, the Panel could not be confident that the Registrant would use a period of suspension to reflect on and address his misconduct.

51. The Panel therefore considered a Striking Off Order. It is aware that this is a sanction of last resort for serious misconduct, including those involving abuse of trust or sexual abuse.

52. The Panel referred to the Policy, which states that such an Order should be used where there is no other way to protect the public, in circumstances where there is a lack of insight and where the nature of the offence is such that any lesser sanction would undermine confidence in the profession or in the regulatory process.

53. In this case the Registrant has not acknowledged the misconduct or demonstrated any understanding of the harm and continuing impact that a child would face from misconduct of this nature.

54. The Panel considered the gravity of the misconduct, including the predatory nature of the Registrant’s actions, the sexual abuse of a child, and the significant impact this has had on Person A. It concluded that the Registrant’s conduct is incompatible with remaining on the Register and that a right-thinking member of the public would be horrified if the Registrant were allowed to remain in practice even with any restriction.

55. In these circumstances, the Panel concluded that the only sufficient and appropriate sanction is that of a Striking Off Order.

Order

That the Registrar is directed to strike the name of Mr David La Roche from the Register on the date this order comes into effect.

Notes

Interim Order

1. Ms Luscombe applied for an Interim Suspension Order on the grounds of the public interest and for the protection of the public. She requested the maximum period of 18 months so as to cover the 28-day appeal period and the time which might be required for an appeal if one is sought.

Proceeding in absence

2. She submitted that the Panel should proceed with this application despite the absence of the Registrant.

3. The Panel decided that it was appropriate to consider the application in the Registrant’s absence because he had been informed in the Notice of Hearing that such an application might be made. Furthermore, there are no additional factors which would justify deviating from the Panel’s decision, made at the outset of this hearing, to proceed in the Registrant’s absence. In these circumstances, the Panel was satisfied that the Registrant had chosen not to participate and that no useful purpose would be served by adjourning this application. Moreover, a substantive order has been imposed, and there is a public interest in ensuring that an Interim Order application is considered with due expedition. The Panel therefore decided to proceed with the application in the absence of the Registrant.

Decision

4. In reaching its decision, the Panel considered all the information before it, together with its findings on impairment and the submissions of Ms Luscombe. It took into account the HCPTS Practice Note on “Interim Orders” and the relevant paragraphs of the Policy. It accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

5. The Panel was satisfied that, as it has found the Registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired by reason of his very serious misconduct, and that a risk of repetition cannot be excluded, an Interim Order is necessary for the protection of the public. Furthermore, an Order is also in the public interest as a right-thinking member of the public would be concerned if the Registrant were allowed to practise unrestricted until the substantive Order comes into effect. It therefore determined that an Interim Order is necessary for the protection of the public and is otherwise in the public interest.

6. The Panel was satisfied that, during the appeal period, there are no workable or appropriate conditions which would be sufficient to protect the public. It therefore concluded that an Interim Suspension Order is necessary to protect the public. Such an order is also in the public interest, to maintain public confidence in the profession and in the regulatory process. Although the Registrant will be unable to practise during the currency of this Interim Order, his interests are outweighed by those of the public. The Interim Suspension Order will be for a period of 18 months in order to cover any appeal period.

7. The Panel makes an Interim Suspension Order under Article 31(2) of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001, the same being necessary to protect members of the public and being otherwise in the public interest.  This order will expire: (if no appeal is made against the Panel’s decision and Order) upon the expiry of the period during which such an appeal could be made; (if an appeal is made against the Panel’s decision and Order) the final determination of that appeal, subject to a maximum period of 18 months.

 

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Mr David La Roche

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
30/09/2019 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Struck off