Mr Timothy J Ross

Profession: Paramedic

Registration Number: PA10452

Interim Order: Imposed on 16 Jul 2019

Hearing Type: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 07/07/2020 End: 17:00 07/07/2020

Location: Virtual - Video Conference

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Struck off

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Allegation

As a registered paramedic (PA10452) your fitness to practise is impaired by reason of your conviction. In that

  1. On 8 August 2019 at Bournemouth Crown Court you were convicted of:

  (a) 3 x Make an indecent photograph / pseudo-photograph of a child.

 (b) 1 x Possess extreme pornographic images - act of intercourse/oral sex with a dead/alive animal.

  1. By reason of your conviction, your fitness to practise is impaired.

Finding

Preliminary Matters

Proof of Service

1. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel had sight of an email dated 20 May 2020, sent to the Registrant at his registered email address, giving notice of today’s hearing. Proof of service was provided by an HCPC Hearings Officer and there was notification that the email had been delivered. The Panel was thus satisfied that service had been complied with in accordance with the Health and Care Professions Council (Conduct and Competence Panel) (Procedure) Rules 2003 (as amended due to the Covid-19 Pandemic).

Proceeding in absence

2. The Registrant did not attend the hearing and Ms Sheridan made an application to proceed in his absence.

3. The Panel heard and accepted the legal advice from the Legal Assessor, who referred it to the case of the GMC v Adeogba [2016] EWCA Civ 162, and the principles to be considered when deciding whether or not to proceed in the absence of the Registrant. The Panel had in mind the need to exercise its discretion to proceed with the utmost care and caution, particularly because the Registrant was not represented.

4. The Panel noted that the Registrant informed the HCPC in an email dated 30 June 2020, that he would not be attending this hearing. He did not request an adjournment, but provided some written representations which he wished the Panel to take into account.

5. The Panel was thus satisfied that the Registrant had deliberately and voluntarily waived his right to be present and his right to be represented at this hearing. The Panel noted that the Registrant faced serious allegations and there was a clear public interest in the matter being dealt with expeditiously. The Panel considered an adjournment would serve no useful purpose and the Registrant had not requested one. The Panel concluded that it was in the interests of justice that the matter should proceed notwithstanding the absence of the Registrant. The Panel would draw no adverse inference from the Registrant’s non-attendance.

Application to amend the Allegation

6. At the outset of the hearing, Ms Sheridan made an application to amend the Allegation in one small detail. The date in the Allegation was the date of sentence rather than conviction. She therefore applied to amend the date from 13 September 2019 to 8 August 2019. The Registrant had been informed on 26 June 2020, by email, that such an application would be made and had not raised any objection.

7. The Panel heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor that it could amend the Allegation at any stage prior to the findings of fact provided it was fair to do so and the amendment could be made without injustice. It was clear that the proposed amendment was necessary in order to reflect the date of conviction rather than sentence and that such an amendment would not in any way prejudice the Registrant. Accordingly, the Panel allowed the requested amendment.
 
Background

8. The Registrant is, and was at all material times, registered as a Paramedic with the HCPC.

9. The Registrant was employed at South Central Ambulance Service. On 14 February 2018 a referral was made to the HCPC by the Hampshire Constabulary. This followed the discovery of indecent images on an electronic device belonging to the Registrant.

10. The police had received information that the Registrant was showing a keen interest in young males. Based on this information, the Registrant was visited at his home and all of his electronic devices were seized. The examination of these devices highlighted searches that were indicative of Indecent Images of Children (“IIOC”) material. In addition there were IIOC found on his Apple Mac Book Pro, Apple iPad and an extreme pornographic image on his iPhone.

11. On 13 February 2018, the Registrant was interviewed by the police about the images discovered on his device. He chose to make no comment to the questions asked of him and instead read out the following prepared statement:

“I, TIMOTHY ROSS, will say as follows:-
I understand that IIOC (boys age 6 - 10 years old) have been found on a device seized from my address. I do not know where these images came from. I have not seen them before.
My mac book pro, ipad and iphone did not have a pin code or password on them and it is possible that other people have had access to them.
Having taken legal advice there is nothing further I wish to say at this stage.”
 
12. On 25 April 2018, the Registrant informed the HCPC that he was retiring on 7 May 2018 and had no intention of working as a Paramedic again.

13. On 14 June 2019, the Registrant was charged with making indecent photographs of a child and possession of extreme pornographic images.

14. Notwithstanding his earlier stance taken at interview, he subsequently entered guilty pleas on 8 August 2020 and was sentenced at the Bournemouth Crown Court on 13 September 2019. His sentence was a two-year Community Order with a 25 day Rehabilitation Activity. He was also made subject to a Sexual Harm Prevention Order for a period of 5 years and required to register with the police in accordance with the Sexual Offences Act 2003, for a period of five years.

15. In his sentencing remarks, the Judge said:

“… you appear before the Court for the first time, in your mid-50s, having served the public in a significant capacity. I say no more about it than that. It is a shame someone with that background, who no doubt would otherwise be commended for their life in work, finds themselves before the Court for a matter which effectively amounts to child sex abuse. Because that is what these offences amount to. Without those wishing to or choosing to download and view the imagery, there is no market for the abuse in the first instance, save for those who made the particularly app by virtue of predilection in terms of their sexual gratification to engage in the abuse of young children.
I am satisfied from everything I have read about you that this was an isolated episode, largely driven by curiosity rather than sexual gratification. And as a consequence, despite the fact the Sentencing Council considers 12 months imprisonment to be a potentially appropriate sentence for these offences, or certainly the Category A offences, they also accept and appreciate there may well be cases where that is not a necessary course and a more appropriate course would be an alternative to custody.
That alternative has been proposed by the probation officer, Mr Johnson, who is well known to this Court and highly regarded. And I know that he would not make such a proposal without a good reason. In the circumstances, there will be a 2 year Community Order. Attached to it, up to 25 days of rehabilitation activity requirement. That will then offer you the opportunity to explore still further the background to these offences, the prospects, and hopefully the certainty of no further offending in the future.”
 
16. On 24 January 2020, an Administrator at the Disclosure and Barring Service informed the HCPC that, as from 7 December 2019, the Registrant was barred from the Children’s List and the Adults’ List.

17. On 30 June 2020, the Registrant sent an email to the HCPC and asked that the following be read out:

“The conviction, which I pleaded guilty to, regarding the images I had on an electronic device were sent to me and not searched for and I had no control over that. Having said that I should have deleted them but I have no technical ability to do that due to poor understanding of technology.
 
I still believe the images were sent by an ex from a failed relationship who had an axe to grind but I cannot afford to prove this – this has cost me thousands of pounds already and I have lost everything including friends and family.
 
With regard to the viewing of images on line – any site I visited were readily available and all images were of legal age – I have never searched for images of minors.
I have decided to take early retirement from the ambulance service and do not intend to continue with my profession and no longer wish to be registered.
My apologies for any embarrassment I may have caused to the HCPC and the Ambulance Service.”

Decision on Facts:

18. In reaching its decisions on the facts the Panel took into account the memorandum of conviction which, the Legal Assessor advised, is conclusive proof of the conviction. Accordingly, the Panel found the facts as set out in Allegation 1(a) and (b) proved.

19. In reaching its decisions on the facts the Panel took into account the memorandum of conviction which, the Legal Assessor advised, is conclusive proof of the conviction. Accordingly, the Panel found the facts as set out in Allegation 1(a) and (b) proved.
 
Decision on Statutory Ground:

20. The Panel next considered the statutory ground. Because this is a conviction case, and the Panel had been provided with the memorandum of conviction, the Panel found the statutory ground to be made out.

Impairment:

21. Having found the statutory ground of conviction to be well founded, the Panel went on to consider whether the Registrant’s current fitness to practise was impaired as a result of that conviction. In doing so it took into account the submissions made by Ms Sheridan, the aforementioned email evidence provided by the Registrant and all the documents provided. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

22. The Panel had been advised by the Legal Assessor that an important factor when considering current impairment is whether the conduct which led to the allegation is remediable, that it has been remedied and that it is highly unlikely to be repeated. Although it could be said that the Registrant had shown some insight by his admissions at court, that insight was significantly diminished by his comments that he had not downloaded the images but rather they had been sent to him, possibly by a disgruntled ex-partner, or, as he said in his police interview, others may have had access to his devices. The Panel noted that there were indecent/extreme pornographic images on three separate devices. In such circumstances, the Panel could not be satisfied that his conduct was highly unlikely to be repeated. The Registrant had not attended nor had he provided any evidence of remediation or an understanding of what had motivated him to view such harmful images and how he might prevent such behaviour being repeated. The Panel therefore concluded that the Registrant’s fitness to practise as a Paramedic was at the time, and remained, impaired on public protection grounds, not least because in his work he would be expected to interact with the public, which would include children, but also because of the impact on patients of learning that a Paramedic had behaved in this way. The Panel noted the Registrant’s assertion that he had retired and no longer intended to work as a Paramedic, but was mindful, however, that it was always open to him to change his mind.

23. The Panel went on to consider 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 the Regulator and to uphold professional standards. The Panel was satisfied that a fully informed member of the public, who was aware of all the background to this case, would have their confidence in the profession and the Regulator undermined if a finding of impairment were not made. The Panel considered that a member of the public would be very concerned if the Regulator took no action in a case where a Paramedic had been convicted of serious offences relating to the downloading and viewing of indecent images of children and also extreme pornography. As the Judge acknowledged, such action perpetuates the ongoing harm and abuse of children since the creation of such images involving children arises from the desire of individuals to view them. There was clearly a need to send out the message to the profession that this sort of behaviour is wholly unacceptable and not to be tolerated.

24. The Panel also noted that the Registrant had yet to complete his sentence from the Crown Court and that, in accordance with the case of the Council of the Regulation of Healthcare Professionals v (1) General Dental Council (2) Alexander Fleischmann [2005] EWHC 87 (Admin), he should not be permitted to resume his practice until he had satisfactorily completed his sentence.

25. The Panel therefore determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired on public protection and public interest grounds and that the allegation of impairment is well founded.

Sanction:

26. In reaching its decision on sanction, the Panel took into account the submissions made by Ms Sheridan, together with all the written evidence and all matters of personal mitigation. The Panel also referred to the guidance issued by the Council in its Indicative Sanctions Policy (“ISP”). The Panel had in mind that the purpose of sanctions was not to punish the Registrant, but to protect the public, maintain public confidence in the profession and maintain proper standards of conduct and performance. The Panel was also cognisant of the need to ensure that any sanction is proportionate. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

27. The Registrant had provided little by way of mitigation to this Panel and had demonstrated minimal insight. He had made admissions at Court but, as stated above, the Panel considered these were diminished by his claim that he had been sent the material and simply not had the technical ability to delete them. The images were found on multiple devices. The Registrant had demonstrated some, albeit limited, remorse by his apology to the HCPC and the Ambulance Service. He had not provided any evidence of remediation. The Panel took into account the Registrant’s previous good character.

28. The Panel considered the aggravating factors in this case to be: very serious offences; the Registrant is subject to a live sentence; a complete lack of any meaningful insight or remediation; behaviour that actively undermined the profession.

29. In light of the serious nature of the conviction, the Panel did not consider this was an appropriate case in which to take no further action.

30. The Panel next considered whether a Caution Order would adequately reflect the seriousness of the conviction. The Panel’s role as indicated by the ISP was not to punish the Registrant twice for the same offence, but to protect the public and maintain high standards among registrants and public confidence in the profession. The Panel did not consider that such an Order would adequately mark the seriousness of the behaviour or protect the public.

31. This was not a case where conditions of practice would be appropriate because of the nature of the Registrant’s conduct. The Panel considered that conditions would not protect the public or the public interest and in any event the Panel considered a Conditions of Practice Order would not adequately reflect the seriousness of the Registrant’s offending behaviour.

32. The Panel next considered whether to make a Suspension Order. The ISP states that, “Suspension should be considered where the allegation is of a serious nature but unlikely to be repeated and, thus, striking off is not merited.”  The Panel reminded itself of the nature of the conviction, namely the downloading and viewing of indecent images of children. This also amounted to a gross breach of trust for a registered health care professional to behave in this harmful way and the Panel was concerned about the real risk of repetition. Although a Suspension Order would provide protection to the public for its duration, having identified a risk of repetition of this behaviour and, in the absence of any information from the Registrant about remediation, the Panel decided that suspension was not appropriate. In addition, the Panel was not satisfied that it would be sufficient to maintain public confidence in the profession or the regulatory process, or to send a clear message to the profession at large that such behaviour would not be tolerated. The Panel determined that a Suspension Order would not be a sufficient sanction in the circumstances of this case.

33. In reaching this decision the Panel took into account the case of Fleischmann referred to above, where the High Court stated that as a matter of general principle, where a registrant had been convicted of a serious criminal offence, he should not be permitted to resume his practice until he had satisfactorily completed his sentence. This had direct relevance to this case because the Registrant had been convicted of a serious criminal offence and his sentence remained to be completed.

34. The Panel therefore looked at the guidance in the ISP on making a Striking Off Order in order to decide whether such an Order would be appropriate. The guidance states that, “Striking off is a sanction of last resort for serious, deliberate or reckless acts involving abuse of trust such as, sexual abuse, dishonesty or persistent failure.”  The guidance also states that, “The HCPC considers that any offence relating to child [sexual abuse imagery] involves some degree of exploitation or abuse of a child and, therefore, that conviction for such an offence is a serious matter which undermines the public’s trust in registrants and public confidence in the profession concerned.”  It goes on to observe that “Striking off should be used where there is no other way to protect the public.” The Panel finds that this case is characterised by a gross abuse of trust involving the exploitation of children.The ISP goes on to suggest that a Striking Off Order may be appropriate where the nature and gravity of the allegation are such that any lesser sanction would lack deterrent effect or undermine confidence in the profession. The Panel’s earlier finding in relation to the consideration of a Suspension Order identified that a lesser sanction would indeed be insufficient to represent these wider public interest issues in the specific circumstances of this case.

35. The Panel concluded that, in light of the seriousness of the behaviour and the limited insight and remediation there is a real risk that the behaviour would be repeated. In all the circumstances, the only appropriate sanction in this case was to make a Striking Off Order. The Panel considered that downloading and viewing any images of child sexual abuse was fundamentally incompatible with being a registered Paramedic. The Panel took into account the impact this might have upon the Registrant, but concluded that the need to protect the public outweighed his interests and that no other sanction would adequately protect the public.

36. Accordingly, the Panel makes a Striking Off Order and directs the Registrar to erase Timothy Ross’s name from the Register.

Order

Order: The Registrar is directed to strike the name of Mr Timothy J Ross from the Register on the date this Order comes into effect.

 

 

Notes

Interim Order:

1. The Panel heard submissions from Ms Sheridan on proceeding to hear an application for an Interim Order in the absence of the Registrant and also on the need for an Interim Order to cover the period during which an appeal may be made and, if one is made, whilst that appeal is in progress. The Registrant was not present and therefore the Panel had first to decide whether to proceed to consider the Interim Order application in the absence of the Registrant. The Panel heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

2. The Panel decided that it was appropriate to consider the Interim Order application in the absence of the Registrant. In reaching this conclusion the Panel took into account the contents of the Notice of Hearing sent to the Registrant on 20 May 2020, where it is stated under the heading “Interim Orders”, “Please note that if the Panel finds the case against you is well founded and imposes a sanction which removes, suspends or restricts your right to practise, it may also impose an interim order on you (under Article 31 of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001). An interim order suspends or restricts a registrant’s right to practise with immediate effect.” The Panel was satisfied this meant the Registrant was on notice that this was a possible outcome at this hearing.

3. The Panel remained satisfied that the Registrant had waived his right to be present at the hearing by his clear statement that he would not be attending. The Panel could see no reason to adjourn the hearing in order to allow the Registrant to attend on a later date because there was no indication that he would attend on any other occasion. The Panel took into account the fact that it had identified there to be a continuing risk to the public if the Registrant were allowed to practise without restriction and decided it was clearly in the public interest to consider the Interim Order application today,  even if that meant it was conducted in the absence of the Registrant.

4. The Panel has found that the Registrant downloaded and viewed indecent images of children and extreme pornography. The Panel has already concluded that the Registrant represents a continuing risk to the public because there remains a concern that he would repeat the behaviour in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, particularly given his limited insight and lack of remediation. The Panel therefore concluded that an Interim Order was necessary to protect the public from the risks it had identified during the 28 day appeal period, or the time taken to conduct any appeal, in the event that one is made.

5. The Panel is also of the view that, given the nature and seriousness of the misconduct in this case, public confidence in the regulatory process would be undermined if the Registrant were allowed to remain in practice on an unrestricted basis during any appeal period. The Panel therefore determined that an Interim Order is otherwise in the public interest.

6. The Panel first considered whether a Conditions of Practice Order would be sufficient. However, for the same reasons as dealt with at the sanction stage, the Panel concluded that conditions would not be appropriate or proportionate in this case.

Interim Order

The Panel therefore decided to make 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 Timothy J Ross

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
07/07/2020 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Struck off