Mrs Deborah Gosling

Profession: Paramedic

Registration Number: PA24539

Hearing Type: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 27/02/2020 End: 17:00 27/02/2020

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

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Caution

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Allegation

While registered with the Health and Care Professions Council as a Paramedic:

  1. On 15 January 2019, at Sheffield Crown Court, you were convicted of assault occasioning actual bodily harm.
  2. By reason of your conviction, your fitness to practise as a Paramedic is impaired.

Finding

Background
1. The Registrant is a Paramedic registered with the HCPC. At all material times she was self-employed in that capacity for ambulance companies contracted to local Trusts.

2. On 21 January 2019, the HCPC received a self-referral form completed by the Registrant, by which she notified the HCPC that she had been convicted of an assault in January 2019.

3. The details of the conviction are that on 15 January 2019 at Sheffield Crown Court, the Registrant pleaded guilty to the offence of assaulting a person thereby occasioning actual bodily harm.

4. On 16 January 2019, the Registrant was sentenced to 9 months imprisonment suspended for 24 months. The Registrant was also ordered to carry out 100 hours of unpaid work before 15 January 2020 and to pay a victim surcharge of £140.

5. For the hearing today, the HCPC presented a bundle of documents including a copy of the Certificate of Conviction, a transcript of the proceedings at the Crown Court, including the Recorder’s sentencing remarks, the witness statement of the victim and the police record of an interview with the Registrant.

6. The Registrant also provided the Panel with a bundle of documents, including a reflective note, the Probation Service’s Pre-Sentence Report, a certificate of completion of a Conflict Resolution course and a number of supportive testimonials.

Decision on facts
7. The facts were proved by the Certificate of Conviction, which was admitted by the Registrant at the outset of the hearing.

Decision on Impairment
8. The Panel went on to consider whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise was currently impaired by reason of her conviction.

9. The Panel carefully considered the submissions of Mr Bridges on behalf of the HCPC and those of Mr Harries QC on behalf of the Registrant.

10. The Panel took into account the HCPTS Practice Note on Finding that Fitness to Practise is Impaired and the Practice Note on Conviction and Caution Allegations. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

11. The Panel considered that the Registrant’s conviction for the offence of assault occasioning actual bodily harm was a serious matter. The incident was described by the Recorder in his Sentencing Remarks as follows:

“On the 8th October 2016 you were involved in a violent incident outside Bentley West End Working Men’s Club which resulted in unpleasant injuries being caused to a victim …. You struck the victim in the face causing her to fall to the floor. You then punched her on approximately five further occasions. The victim sustained unpleasant injuries; however it seems these did not include any facial or hand fractures, as originally thought …. The victim has been left with ongoing damage and one of her eyelids now seems to droop; it did not droop in that way before you assaulted her.”

12. After noting that in his view “this was an isolated lapse in an otherwise law-abiding and admirable life, serving the community as a paramedic”, the Recorder continued by saying “… this remains a serious offence. Were it not for your good character … and your personal mitigation, an immediate custodial sentence would be inevitable.”

13. In determining whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired, the Panel took into account both the “personal” and “public” components of impairment. The “personal” component relates to the Registrant’s own practice as a Paramedic, including any evidence of insight and remorse and efforts towards remediation. The “public” component includes the need to protect service users, declare and uphold proper standards of behaviour and maintain public confidence in the profession and the Regulator.

14. With regard to the “personal” component of impairment, the Panel considered that this was an isolated incident arising from a serious error of judgment in an otherwise law-abiding life. The Panel noted the Pre-Sentence Report stated that “no rehabilitative needs have been identified which are sufficiently significant to currently require intervention.” Notwithstanding that no rehabilitative needs had been identified, the Registrant had voluntarily engaged in and completed a Conflict Resolution course. The Panel considered that the Registrant had shown remorse and a good level of insight. The Panel took into account the fact that there had been no previous or subsequent incidents in the Registrant’s life. The Panel also noted the testimonials provided as to the Registrant’s good character. In all the circumstances, the Panel concluded that the risk of repetition was very low.

15. With regard to the “public” component, the Panel did not consider that the Registrant presented any ongoing risk to the public. However, the Panel also took into account the need to declare and uphold proper standards of conduct and to maintain public confidence in the profession. In the Panel’s judgement the nature of the assault, to which the Registrant pleaded guilty, and which merited a sentence of 9 months imprisonment, suspended for 24 months which is not yet complete, was so serious as to damage the reputation of the profession. The Panel considered that public confidence in the profession and the Regulator would be undermined if there were no finding of impairment.

16. Accordingly, the Panel determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired by reason of her conviction.

Decision on Sanction

17. The Panel took into account the submissions of Mr Bridges on behalf of the HCPC and Mr Harries QC on behalf of the Registrant.

18. The Panel was guided by the HCPC’s Sanctions Policy and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel was mindful that the purpose of a sanction is not to punish the Registrant but to protect the public and the wider public interest in upholding proper standards and maintaining the reputation of the profession. The Panel applied the principle of proportionality, balancing the interests of the Registrant with those of the public, and considered the available sanctions in ascending order.

19. The mitigating factors in this case are that :
• There was some evidence of provocation on the part of the victim, albeit that the Registrant’s assault was completely unjustified;
• The Registrant has had a long and previously unblemished career as a Paramedic and her competence and dedication to her profession is not, and never has been, in issue;
• This was, to quote the Recorder, when sentencing the Registrant at the Crown Court, “an isolated lapse in an otherwise law-abiding and admirable life, serving the community as a paramedic”;
• The Registrant from an early stage demonstrated appropriate remorse and insight;
• She has provided a number of supportive testimonials as to her general good character;
• She has undertaken and completed a Conflict Resolution course;
• The risk of repetition is extremely low.

20. The Panel considered the representations made on behalf of the HCPC in respect of the case of Fleischmann. The Panel agreed with the submissions made on behalf of the Registrant that due to the considerable delay caused by the criminal proceedings, which is no fault of the Registrant, these principles ought not to be engaged. The criminal proceedings took some 21 months to conclude, with the result that the Registrant has been subject to the anxiety and stress of pending proceedings for a period in excess of 3 years before this matter could be concluded.

21. With regard to aggravating factors, the assault occasioning actual bodily harm to which the Registrant pleaded guilty was considered by the Recorder at the Crown Court to be at the top end of the range for a Category 2 offence on the Sentencing Council Guidelines due to its nature.

22. The Panel has fully taken into account the public interest in upholding proper standards of conduct on the part of members of the profession. However, the Panel has also taken account of the public interest in an experienced and competent Paramedic continuing in practice to serve the public.

23. The case is too serious for the Panel to take no further action.

24. Mediation is not relevant.

25. The Panel noted the following guidance in the HCPC’s Sanctions Policy in relation to Caution Orders:

101. A Caution Order is likely to be an appropriate sanction for cases where:
• The issue is isolated ….
• There is a low risk of repetition
• The Registrant has shown good insight; and
• The Registrant has undertaken appropriate remediation

102. A Caution Order should be considered in cases where the nature of the allegations means that meaningful practice restrictions cannot be imposed but a Suspension Order is disproportionate.

26. The Panel considered that all the above indicative factors for a Caution Order were present in this case.

27. Having regard to all the circumstances of the case, the Panel considered that a Suspension Order would be disproportionate, particularly having regard to the impact on the Registrant both professionally and financially if such an order were imposed.

28. The Panel determined that a Caution Order should be imposed for a period of 12 months to coincide approximately with the remaining period of the Registrant’s suspended sentence. In the Panel’s judgement this was the proportionate sanction in all the circumstances.

Order

The Registrar is directed to annotate the register entry of Deborah Gosling with a caution which is to remain on the register for a period of 12 months from the date when this order comes into effect.

Notes

No notes available

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Mrs Deborah Gosling

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
27/02/2020 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Caution