Dr Darren Adamson

Profession: Practitioner psychologist

Registration Number: PYL35470

Hearing Type: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 26/08/2020 End: 17:00 27/08/2020

Location: Virtual - Video Conference

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Suspended

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Allegation

As a registered Psychologist (PYL35470) your fitness to practise is impaired by reason of your a determination by another regulatory or licensing body and/or misconduct. In that:


1. On 3 November 2008 your registration with the General Teaching Council for England (GTC) was subjected to a Conditional Registration Order after a panel of the GTC’s Professional Conduct Committee found you guilty of unacceptable professional conduct.


2. On 24 October 2011 your registration with the GTC was subjected to a Prohibition Order after a panel of the GTC’s Professional Conduct Committee found you guilty of having been convicted of relevant offences.


3. You did not inform the HCPC when you applied to join the register on or around 7 December 2017 that findings had been made against you by the GTC, as set out in allegation 1 – 2 above.


4. Your conduct in relation to allegation 3 was dishonest.


5. The matters set out in allegation 3 - 4 constitute misconduct.


6. By reason of the determination by another regulatory or licensing body and/or misconduct your fitness to practise is impaired.

Finding

Preliminary Matters

Application to amend the Allegation
1. Mr Olphert, on behalf of the HCPC, applied to amend the Allegation in two respects. Firstly, to amend Particular 3 to add the date of the Registrant’s application to join the HCPC register and to add the word “above”, referring to Particulars 1 and 2 of the Allegation. Secondly, to discontinue the first part of Particular 6 so as to leave only the allegation of misconduct.

2. The Registrant did not oppose the application.

3. The Panel took into account the submissions and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

4. The Panel was satisfied that no prejudice would be caused to the Registrant. The Panel saw a letter from the HCPC to the Registrant dated 26 June 2020 in which the HCPC gave the Registrant notice of this application. The amendments to Particular 3 effectively clarify a date. The first clause of Particular 6 is incorrect in law, as made clear in  Article 22(i)(a)(v) of the Health Professions Order 2001 which refers, as a potential ground of impairment, to

“a determination by a body in the United Kingdom responsible under any enactment for the regulation of a health or social care profession...to the effect that his fitness to practise is impaired, or a determination by a licensing body elsewhere to the same effect”
5. The relevant body referred in Particulars 1 and 2 is the General Teaching Council for England (GTC) and therefore is not captured by Article 22(i)(a). The Panel therefore decided to remove this part of the allegation.

6. The Panel agreed to the HCPC’s application, and the finalised, amended Allegation is as follows:


As a registered Psychologist (PYL35470) your fitness to practise is impaired by reason of your a determination by another regulatory or licensing body and/or misconduct. In that:

1. On 3 November 2008 your registration with the General Teaching Council for England (GTC) was subjected to a Conditional Registration Order after a panel of the GTC’s Professional Conduct Committee found you guilty of unacceptable professional conduct.
2. On 24 October 2011 your registration with the GTC was subjected to a Prohibition Order after a panel of the GTC’s Professional Conduct Committee found you guilty of having been convicted of relevant offences.
3. You did not inform the HCPC when you applied to join the register on or around 7 December 2017 that findings had been made against you by the GTC, as set out in allegation 1 – 2 above.
4. Your conduct in relation to allegation 3 was dishonest.
5. The matters set out in allegation 3 - 4 constitute misconduct.
6. By reason of the determination by another regulatory or licensing body and/or misconduct your fitness to practise is impaired.

Application for part of the hearing in private
7. Mr Olphert applied for those parts of the hearing, which touched on confidential matters, to be in private, most likely to be the case when the Registrant gives evidence and makes submissions.

8. The Registrant agreed with the application.

9. The Panel took into account Rule 10(1)(a) of the Conduct and Competence Rules 2003, the HCPTS Practice Note on “Conducting Hearings in Private” and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel was satisfied that any reference to the Registrant’s health and any reference to members of his family should be heard in private, in order to protect his private life and in the interests of justice.

Background
10. The Registrant is a registered Practitioner Psychologist. The Registrant was previously employed as a teacher at Houghton Kepier School. The school referred him to the GTC, which imposed a Conditional Registration Order upon the Registrant’s registration as a teacher on 3 November 2008.

11. The Registrant was later employed at Berwick Community High School. Whilst employed at the school he was convicted of a number of criminal offences between March 2009 and July 2010. The GTC imposed a Prohibition Order upon the Registrant’s registration as a teacher on 24 October 2011.

12. The Registrant applied to the HCPC register as a Practitioner Psychologist on 7 December 2017. Particulars 3 and 4 of the HCPC Allegation allege that the Registrant did not inform the HCPC in his application that findings had been made against him by the GTC, and that he was dishonest in not doing so. The HCPC Allegation alleges that Particulars 3 and 4 constitute misconduct.

Decision on Facts
13. Mr Olphert informed the Panel that the HCPC’s case relied on the written witness statement and exhibits of W1 (Head of Operational Delivery, Teaching Regulation (TRA), W2 Registration Manager, HCPC) and W3 (Legal Assistant, Kingsley Napley).

14. The Registrant confirmed that he admitted all of the factual allegations. He had confirmed in his “Pre-Hearing Information Form” that he accepted the factual allegations in the Notice of Allegation dated 4 March 2020 in their entirety. The Registrant stated in the hearing that he admitted all the factual allegations of the Amended Allegation. The Panel also read the Registrant’s reflective statement dated 12 July 2020 as well as a number of references.

15. The Panel bore in mind that the HCPC alone bears the burden of proof and that the standard of proof is the balance of probabilities. The Panel took into account the Registrant’s full admissions of the facts, as well as assessed the evidence.

16. The Panel noted that the HCPC alleges, by virtue of the amended Allegation, that only the facts in Particulars 3 and 4 constitute misconduct.

Particulars 1 and 2
17. The Panel took into account the witness statement of W1, as well as the exhibits, which included the decision of the GTC on 3 November 2008, details of the Conditional Registration Order made on that date, and details of the Prohibition Order made on 24 October 2011.

18. The Panel also took into account the Registrant’s admissions and found Particulars 1 and 2 factually proved on the balance of probabilities.


Particular 3
19. The Panel took into account the witness statement of W2 which exhibited the Registrant’s application form to join the register dated 7 December 2017. In the application form, the Registrant was asked “Have you been disciplined by a professional or regulatory body or your employer?”. The Registrant did not tick the box. 

20. The Panel also took into account the Registrant’s admission.

21. The Panel found this Particular proved on the balance of probabilities.

Particular 4
22. The Panel took into account the witness statement of W2 and the Registrant’s application form to join the register. The Panel also noted the Registrant’s admission in his reflective statement dated 12 July 2020 that he avoided declaring the GTC’s findings, as well as his admission to the dishonesty allegation in Particular 4 at today’s hearing.

23. The Panel found this Particular proved on the balance of probabilities.

Decision on Grounds

24. The Panel took into account the oral submissions of Mr Olphert that misconduct should be found in this case, in respect of Particulars 3 and 4.

25. The Registrant accepted that those matters constitute misconduct.

26. In considering whether Particulars 3 and 4 constitute misconduct, the Panel was aware that there is no burden of proof at this stage and that misconduct is a matter for its own professional judgment. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor who referred to principles arising out of the case of Roylance v GMC (No. 2) [2001] AC 311.

27. The Panel was aware that a breach of professional standards such as those contained in the relevant Codes of Practice, was not necessarily in itself determinative of whether there was misconduct.

28. However, the Panel was of the view that as a registered Practitioner Psychologist, the Registrant required to be open and honest.

29. The Panel was satisfied that the omission in Particular 3 was serious in that it misled the HCPC which, as a regulatory body with important functions of protecting the public and the wider public interest, regulates the admission of professionals onto its register. In this case, the application was misleading, and on its basis, the Registrant was admitted to the register on 5 February 2018. It is a crucial requirement that professionals are open and honest with their regulator. The dishonesty was serious in that the omission to inform the HCPC of the GTC’s findings was deliberate and intended to conceal.

30. The Panel was satisfied that the conduct in Particulars 3 and 4 fell so far short of the standards expected of the Registrant as to constitute misconduct.

Decision on Impairment
31. The Panel considered Mr Olphert’s submissions that the Registrant is impaired on both the personal and public components.

32. The Registrant gave evidence regarding the journey he has taken since the events which led to the GTC findings against him, as well as giving context to the misconduct which the Panel has found proved. His evidence and his submissions were that he has now moved on in his life and that there are no concerns about his practice at present.

33. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor who referred to CHRE v (1) NMC (2) Grant [2011] EWHC 927. The Panel took into account the HCPTS Practice Note entitled “Fitness to Practise Impairment’”. The Panel was aware that impairment is a matter for its own independent judgment and that public protection and the wider public interest should be considered.

34. The Panel took into account the Registrant’s oral evidence, his reflective statement, and the testimonials which he submitted to the Panel.


35. The Registrant told the Panel that, as a result of these regulatory proceedings, he reduced his client base in order to practise self-care, and stated that he does not cause harm to his clients, the only person he harms is himself. At present he only has six clients in order for him to cope with the HCPC regulatory proceedings against him.


36. The Panel was of the view that the Registrant gave his evidence in an honest and frank manner. Having considered all the information before it, the Panel was of the view that the Registrant has shown a great deal of remorse as well as a degree of insight. He has clearly reflected upon his actions.

37. However, the Panel was of the view that the Registrant in his evidence focused on himself as an individual, rather than demonstrating, in his oral evidence or his written reflection, any real development of an understanding of the impact of his dishonesty on public confidence in him as a Practitioner Psychologist, or on the profession as a whole.


38. The Registrant himself described his psychological progress as a “journey” rather than a “destination”. He described the difficult feelings of inadequacy which he has felt as something which he continues to deal with and understand, albeit having made great progress.  


39. Dishonesty is difficult to remediate. However, the Panel was of the view that by means of the degree of insight shown, the Registrant has begun his remediation.

40. In the circumstances, the Panel was of the view that the Registrant’s insight and remediation are still developing.

41. The Panel had no objective or third-party evidence of the Registrant’s current practise, any up to date references, or any letter or reference from his current therapist or professional supervisor. The Panel also noted that the testimonials relied on by the Registrant date from the time he applied to the HCPC register.  The Panel therefore felt that it did not have enough evidence to assess how his work is progressing at present.

42. The Panel did not have any objective information about the extent to which he has addressed the psychological difficulties about which the Registrant told the Panel, and which he told the Panel were the cause of the dishonesty. 

43. The Panel took into account the questions formulated by Dame Janet Smith in the Fifth Shipman report, as set out in the case of CHRE v (1) NMC and (2) Grant  [2011] EWHC 927, which are presented in Grant  as a test of impairment and ask whether a practitioner:

“a. has in the past acted and/or is liable in the future to act 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."


44. The Panel decided that, in respect of the misconduct found proved and despite his entry onto the register being based on deliberately withheld information, there was no evidence that the Registrant had put clients at unwarranted risk of harm by his dishonesty, or that he was at a real risk of doing so in the future.

45. The Panel decided that the remaining limbs of the questions as set out in Grant were met with regard to the Registrant’s behaviour, in that he had brought the profession into disrepute, breached fundamental tenets, as set out in the Panel’s decision on misconduct, and acted dishonestly. 

46. The Panel considered the circumstances before it, including the degree of insight shown, the circumstances surrounding the dishonesty, and that the Registrant has moved forward in his family circumstances. The Panel also took into account that the Registrant has fully engaged in these proceedings, and noted that these proceedings have had an impact upon him personally, the Panel having assessed his demeanour.

47. However, in light of the incomplete insight and remediation, and the lack of objective evidence surrounding his journey in addressing the psychological issues which, on the basis of the Registrant’s case, led to the misconduct, the Panel was of the view that there is a real risk of the Registrant bringing the profession into disrepute, breaching fundamental tenets, and acting dishonestly in the future when triggered by difficult feelings or circumstances.

48. In addition, the Registrant’s misconduct was serious. His entry onto the HCPC register involved dishonestly withholding information which he was directly asked about on the application form. This struck at the heart of the fundamental value of honesty required of the Registrant. In such circumstances, the Panel was satisfied that a reasonable well-informed member of the public, with knowledge of all the facts and circumstances, would be gravely concerned if the Registrant were to be allowed to practice without restriction. The Panel was therefore satisfied that the need to uphold proper professional standards and to maintain public confidence in the profession would be undermined if a finding of impairment were not made. The Panel found the Registrant’s current fitness to practise to be impaired on the basis of the need to uphold the wider public interest.

49. The Panel therefore decided that the Registrant is currently impaired on the basis of the personal and public components as referred to in the HCPTS Practice Note on Impairment.

Decision on Sanction
52. The Panel heard the submissions of Mr Olphert, who referred to the HCPC’s Sanctions Policy (SP), and took the position that the kind of sanction to be imposed is a matter for the Panel.
53. The Panel took into account the submissions of the Registrant during which he asked the Panel to consider imposing a Conditions of Practice Order.

54. The Panel considered the SP and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel was aware that the aim of any sanction is not to be punitive. The Panel was aware that dishonesty exists on a spectrum of seriousness. Rather, the aim is to uphold the public interest. Sanction is a matter for the independent judgment of the Panel. The Panel took into account the principle of proportionality in coming to its decision on sanction.

55. The Panel identified the following mitigating factors:

i. the Registrant has shown considerable remorse;

ii. the Registrant has shown a degree of insight;

iii. positive references, although the Panel did not place significant weight on them at this stage as they were not written with the knowledge of the allegations made during the HCPC proceedings;

iv. a history of personal difficulties.

56. The Panel identified the following aggravating factors:


i. the dishonesty was made for personal gain;

ii. the Registrant made no attempt to admit his dishonesty until the HCPC proceedings were brought.

iii. Until then he continued to practice under the HCPC registration knowing that he had submitted a dishonest declaration as to his character to achieve that registration.

57. In light of the nature of the dishonesty, the Panel was of the view that it was serious and was towards the higher end of the spectrum, although it was not at the highest level. It was not a minor instance, and while dishonesty was not repeated, it  had a prolonged effect in that it led to the Registrant being accepted onto the HCPC register.

58. The Panel was of the view that mediation is not appropriate in respect of the misconduct in light of the seriousness.

59. The Panel discounted taking no further action because the misconduct was too serious for such an outcome, and the lack of a sanction would not satisfy the public interest in this case.


60. With regard to a caution, the Panel was of the view that a Caution Order is not appropriate or proportionate because the misconduct was not limited or relatively minor, there is a real risk of repetition, and the misconduct is too serious for the public interest to be satisfied by such a sanction.

61. The Panel next considered a Conditions of Practice Order but was satisfied that this would not be appropriate because there are no concerns about the Registrant’s clinical practice to which conditions could be attached. The Panel was unable to formulate workable and measurable conditions to address the risks associated with dishonesty. Further, no conditions could be formulated which could address public confidence in the profession and the regulatory process.


62. The Panel next considered a Suspension Order and considered para. 121 of the SP:
“A suspension order is likely to be appropriate where there are serious concerns which cannot be reasonably addressed by a conditions of practice order, but which do not require the registrant to be struck off the Register. These types of cases will typically exhibit the following factors:
• the concerns represent a serious breach of the Standards of conduct, performance and ethics;
• the registrant has insight;
• the issues are unlikely to be repeated; and
• there is evidence to suggest the registrant is likely to be able to resolve or remedy their failings. “

63. The Registrant has engaged with the regulatory process and has shown some insight and remediation. While the Panel has already determined there is a real risk of repetition, there is nothing at this stage to suggest to the Panel that the Registrant is unable to remedy his misconduct. Further, there are no public protection concerns which form a basis for the finding of impairment or the sanction which will be imposed.

64. In light of these factors, the Panel was satisfied that a Suspension Order is appropriate and proportionate. The Panel concluded that a duration of 6 months is appropriate and proportionate, because it reflects on the one hand, the mitigating factors in this case, but also sufficiently addresses the need to maintain public confidence in the profession and the regulatory process, uphold proper standards, and sends a clear message that such misconduct is unacceptable. The Panel was satisfied that such an outcome is a proportionate result when weighing these various factors in the balance.

65. The Panel  considered a Striking Off Order but in light of the factors referred to above, including the insight and remediation demonstrated, a Striking Off Order would be disproportionate.
 
66. In coming to its decision, the Panel took into account the principle of proportionality, and the impact that such a sanction will have on the Registrant’s right to practise his profession, as well as the reputational and the financial impact. However, the Panel decided that the need to uphold the public interest meant that a Suspension Order for 6 months is proportionate.

67. The Panel was of the view that a future Panel may be assisted by the following:
i. Up to date testimonials or references from individuals who are aware of the misconduct found proved during these regulatory proceedings;
ii. a report from the Registrant’s therapist demonstrating that he/ she is aware of the misconduct found proved during these regulatory proceedings;
iii. a report from the Registrant’s supervisor demonstrating that he/she is aware of the misconduct found proved during these regulatory proceedings
iv. a further reflective statement written by the Registrant demonstrating an understanding of the impact of the dishonesty upon the wider public interest, and the importance of honesty to a Practitioner Psychologist;
v. evidence that the Registrant has kept his professional knowledge and skills up to date;
vi. evidence of any training or a course on the subject of Ethics for Professionals.
68. The Panel therefore decided to impose a Suspension Order for a period of 6 months.

Order

The Registrar is directed to suspend the name of Dr Darren Adamson from the Register on the date this Order comes into effect.

Notes

Application for an interim order to cover the appeal period

1. The Panel heard an application from Mr Olphert for an 18 month Interim Suspension Order to cover the appeal period. He submitted that such an order is in the public interest.


2. The Registrant told the Panel that it would be difficult for his clients if he was suspended immediately without the chance to finalise matters with them beforehand.


3. The Panel considered the HCPTS Practice Note entitled “Interim Orders” as well as Paragraphs 133-5 of the SP. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.


4. The Panel took into account that an Interim Order cannot be said to be necessary for the protection of the public in this case, on the basis of its previous decisions on Impairment and Sanction. The only potentially relevant ground is that of the public interest.


5. The misconduct in this case has been found to be serious. However, the Panel was aware that the imposition of an interim order at this stage is a matter for its discretion. The Panel was also mindful of its obligation to apply the principle of proportionality. The Panel decided that, on balance, taking into account the fact that the Registrant has clients to who he is providing therapy, that it would not undermine the public interest if no interim order was imposed for the following reasons.


6. There are no public protection concerns in this case. Further, there are clients currently relying on the Registrant’s therapeutic interventions and they will benefit by the Registrant having the opportunity to deal with them and finalise arrangements with them before his suspension commences. Without such an opportunity there is a real risk that they will suffer adverse consequences. In addition, the Panel was of the view that the public interest will be served by the substantive sanction of a Suspension Order for six months. In these circumstances, the Panel did not consider that the misconduct in this case led to a conclusion that public confidence would be seriously harmed if no interim order were imposed.


7. The Panel therefore decided not to impose an interim order.

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Dr Darren Adamson

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
26/08/2020 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended