Mr Kolos Csontos

Profession: Operating department practitioner

Registration Number: ODP35005

Interim Order: Imposed on 15 May 2019

Hearing Type: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 05/03/2020 End: 17:00 06/03/2020

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

While registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) as an Operating Department Practitioner:

1. On 05 January 2018 at Woolwich Crown Court you were convicted of:

a. 2 x knowingly concerned in fraudulent evasion of prohibition/restriction on a weapon/ammunition

2. You did not report your conviction described in paragraph 1 to the HCPC until April 2019.

3. You did not declare your conviction described in paragraph 1 when you renewed your registration with the HCPC on 29 November 2018.

4. Your actions described in paragraphs 2 and/or 3 were dishonest.

5. The matters described in paragraphs 2, 3 and/or 4 amount to misconduct.

6. By reason of your conviction described in paragraph 1, your fitness to practise is impaired.

7. By reason of your misconduct, your fitness to practise is impaired.

Finding

Preliminary Matters:

Service of Notice

1. The Panel found that there had been good service of the Notice of Hearing by a letter sent to the Registrant’s registered address dated 11 December 2019 which informed him of the date, time, and venue of the hearing.

Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant

2. Mr Lloyd made an application for the hearing to proceed in the absence of the Registrant. He referred the Panel to the Registrant’s submissions in the bundle and to e-mail correspondence dated 5 December 2019. The Registrant was advised by a Scheduling Officer that the hearing would take place 5 - 6 March 2020… and if he would be attending the hearing. The Registrant responded one hour later with one word to this email stating “noted”. Mr Lloyd also informed the Panel that in September 2020 the Registrant confirmed his postal address to Kingsley Napley and agreed the bundle of documents for the hearing could be sent to him electronically.

3. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and had regard to the HCPTS Practice Note “Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant”.

4. The Panel concluded from the Registrant’s e-mail dated 5 December 2019 that he is aware of the date of this hearing and has voluntarily absented himself and has waived his right to attend. The HCPC has taken all reasonable steps to inform him of the hearing. There was nothing to indicate that the Registrant would attend a hearing at a later date if this hearing was adjourned. The Panel considered possible prejudice to the Registrant if the hearing proceeded in his absence, but decided that it was outweighed by the public interest. A witness was available to give evidence to the Panel and there is a public interest in the expeditious disposal of the matter.

Background:

5. The Registrant is an Operating Department Practitioner (ODP). He first registered with the HCPC as an ODP on 1 October 2013. At the time of his first registration, and in subsequent renewal applications, he did not make a declaration regarding any caution or conviction. This included an online renewal application made to the HCPC on 29 November 2018.

6. On 10 April 2019 the HCPC received a self-referral e-mail from the Registrant advising, that in January 2018 he was convicted of two offences relating to a prohibited item. The authorities in the USA reported the seizure of a package containing a Glock handgun and 250 rounds of ammunition suitable for use with that firearm. This package was ordered to the Registrant’s home address using a false name. As part of the police operation, an equivalent package was delivered to the Registrant’s address by an undercover operator. The Registrant was arrested in the police search that followed.

7. The Panel has had sight of the certificate of conviction from Woolwich Crown Court dated 1 May 2019. This confirmed that the Registrant pleaded guilty to two criminal offences, of being knowingly concerned in the fraudulent evasion of prohibition/restriction on a weapon/ammunition. On 5 January 2018 the Registrant was sentenced to thirty months imprisonment for each offense to run concurrently.

8. In his sentencing remarks HH Judge Downing accepted that the Registrant was of good character and that he did not import the gun for a criminal purpose. The Registrant had a collection of lawful weapons and had an interest in the gun as part of his hobby. 

9. In the Registrant’s self-declaration e-mail the Registrant advised the HCPC that he had received a 15 month custodial sentence. Upon receipt of the Registrant’s e-mail an investigation was opened into these matters.

Decision on facts:

10. The Panel heard evidence from NB, a Registrations Manager with the HCPC. The Panel found that she was a credible, clear, and knowledgeable witness.

11.  The Panel read the witness statement of NAB, legal assistant at Kingsley Napley solicitors. This statement exhibited documentation and correspondence between the HCPC and the Metropolitan Police.

12. The Panel carefully read the HCPC bundle of exhibits.

Particular 1

13. The Panel found particular 1 proved by the Certificate of Conviction from Woolwich Crown Court dated 5 January 2018. It is further confirmed by the Registrant’s self-declaration to the HCPC dated 10 April 2019.

Particular 2

14. The Panel found particular 2 proved by the evidence of NB and the supporting documentary evidence.

15. The Registrant’s first report to the HCPC of his conviction was in an e-mail dated 10 April 2019. He states: “I would like to make a statement about my criminal record in relation to my HCPC registration…in January 2018 I was convicted of importation of prohibited items and given a 15 month custodial sentence.”

Particular 3

16. The Panel found particular 3 proved by the evidence of NB and the documentary evidence.

17. NB explained the process for Registrants to renew their registration on-line. There is a security process for logging onto the Registrations system which requires the Registrant to provide an authorisation code and an activation code. The communications log shows that on 29 November 2018, immediately prior to the Registrant’s renewal application, a “lost password” e-mail was sent to the Registrant. This enabled the Registrant to complete the registrations process on-line the same day.

18. NB also explained that in the on-line renewal process Registrants must either select a tick box with a declaration “There have been no changes to my health or relating to my good character which I have not advised the HCPC about and which would affect my safe and effective practice of my profession. You must provide us with information about any health issues, convictions, police cautions and convictions for which you have received a conditional discharge before you renew” or they may leave this box blank. If a Registrant leaves the box blank they are unable to renew online and they receive a very clear message informing them that they need to renew by completing a paper renewal form.

19. If the Registrant had not completed the on-line renewal form within the window for renewals his registration would have lapsed and he would have had the option of making an application for readmission to the register. The Panel noted that the screenshots of the Registration system accorded with the evidence of NB, in that the Registrant had not declared changes to his good character.

Particular 4

20. In considering particular 4 the Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. Applying the guidance from the Supreme Court decision in Ivey v Genting Casinos it first considered the Registrant’s state of mind at the time of the events. Having considered the Registrant’s understanding and beliefs, it applied an objective test, and considered whether the Registrant’s conduct was honest or dishonest by the standards of ordinary decent people.

21. When the Registrant declared his conviction he was asked by the HCPC for his explanation regarding why he did not inform the HCPC of his conviction when it occurred or when he renewed his registration in December 2018.

22. The Registrant’s response was: “I had no access to efficient ways of communication, which way I could express myself and it was the most stressful time in my life. I did not feel safe and did not know how to deal with my situation due to lack of support. I had the intention to self- declare my conviction upon my release, which I did, and deal with the circumstances then when I am less mentally and emotionally stressed”.

23. The Panel was satisfied that throughout the time from January 2018 to April 2019 the Registrant knew that he had been convicted and knew that he was under an obligation to declare that conviction to the HCPC. He made a choice not to declare his conviction until his release. He acknowledges this by stating that he had the intention to declare. The Registrant was released from prison on 6 March 2019, but did not declare his conviction to the HCPC until 10 April 2019.

24. The Registrant made an active choice to renew his registration with the HCPC while he was in prison. This required the positive steps of obtaining a password, entering personal security details, and making a declaration that there had been no changes relating to his good character. It is also clear that the Registrant had access to communication.

25. The Panel considered the Registrant’s assertions of emotional stress as an explanation for his failure to declare, but it did not accept that this explained his failure to declare his conviction. The Panel noted that the Registrant has a tendency to minimise the seriousness of his criminal conviction. For example, in his self-declaration to the HCPC he stated that he was “given 15 months of custodial sentence”. This is incorrect; the sentence was thirty months and the period of licence under the sentence will not be completed until May 2020. The Registrant stated that he had demonstrated at court that it had been a single incident, an “impulse decision”. However, the evidence clearly showed it involved planning by researching the availability of the firearm, and deception by completing the order using a false name, together with the use of latex gloves when handling the items.

26. The Panel also noted that the Registrant’s application to the HCPC for renewal included statements which are not true. He declared that he had “continued to practise my profession since my last registration”. This was untrue because the Registrant was in prison and unable to practise as an ODP.

27. In the Panel’s judgment the Registrant knew that he should have declared his conviction to the HCPC at the earliest opportunity and knew that he should not have failed to declare his conviction when he renewed his registration on 29 November 2019.

28. Given the Registrant’s state of mind the Panel found that the Registrant’s conduct in particulars 2 and 3 was dishonest by the standards of ordinary decent people.

Decision on grounds:

29. The Registrant’s conviction amounts to a statutory ground under Article 22(1)(a)(ii) of the Health Professions Order 2001.

30. The question of whether the facts constitute misconduct is for the judgment of the Panel and there is no burden or standard of proof.

31. There is no statutory definition of misconduct, but the Panel had regard to the guidance of Lord Clyde in Roylance v GMC (No 2) 1 AC 311: “Misconduct is 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 practitioner in the particular circumstances…”. The conduct must be serious in that it falls well below the standards.

32. The Panel considered the HCPC Standards of Conduct Performance and Ethics (2016). The Panel considered that the Registrant’s actions amounted to a breach of standard 9, particularly 9.1, 9.4, and 9.5. The requirement to declare convictions as soon as possible is clear and unambiguous.

33. The Registrant’s departure from the standards took place over a significant period of time from January 2018 to April 2019. It involved dishonesty over that lengthy period and active dishonesty in the decision to apply for renewal of registration in November 2018.

34. The potential consequences of the Registrant’s dishonesty were serious. The HCPC was unable to commence a fitness to practise investigation. There was also the potential for public confidence in the profession and the integrity of the register to be undermined.

35. In the Panel’s judgment the Registrant’s conduct in particulars 2, 3 and 4 fell well below the required standards and was sufficiently serious to constitute misconduct.

Decision on Impairment:

36. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and had regard to the HCPTS Practice Notes “Conviction and Caution Allegations” and “Finding that Fitness to Practice is Impaired”. The Panel considered the Registrant’s fitness to practise at today’s date.

37. The Panel first considered the personal component which is the Registrant’s current behaviour.

38. In his self-declaration the Registrant stated: “I took full responsibility for my actions and admitted the offence at the earliest opportunity. The judge gave me full credit for that and further deducted my sentence to note of my good character, which I presented via statements of family and friends. I deeply regret what I did. I’ve seen the impact that my conviction has had on my family and my life I know I am in a very difficult position…Since my conviction I have given up my hobby that led to my offence and me and my partner discussed preventative strategies”.

39. Although the Registrant did plead guilty to the offence and has expressed his regret, the Panel considered that his insight was limited. In the Panel’s judgment the Registrant’s regret was focussed on the impact of his behaviour on himself and his family. In his explanations addressed to the HCPC the Registrant has tended to minimise the seriousness of his conviction rather than being self-critical.

40. The Registrant has demonstrated little insight in relation to his failure to declare his conviction to the HCPC and his serious departure from the required standards. In the Panel’s judgment there has been little genuine reflection in the Registrant’s submissions, and that the overall tenor of his responses appeared to the Panel to be evasive, seeking to minimise the impact of his actions.

41. Dishonesty is not easy to remedy and there is a thread of repetition of dishonesty within the Registrant’s conviction, failure to declare his conviction to the HCPC, and the untrue statement made on renewal of registration on 29 November 2018. The Panel was not able to exclude the risk that the Registrant will repeat dishonest conduct.

42. The Panel therefore decided that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired on the basis of the personal component.

43. The Panel next considered the wider public interest considerations including the need to maintain public confidence in the profession and uphold standards of conduct and behaviour. In his sentencing remarks HH Judge Downing took a balanced view, but highlighted the public interest concerns that arose from the Registrant’s conduct.

 “I accept all that is said as to your character. I accept everything that is said about your background and the fact that you plainly have worked your way to an important and trustworthy position of some technical ability so far as healthcare is concerned, which is to your great benefit and I complement you upon that. And, of course, you have done it in a language which is not your own.
 What I am not so happy about, in accepting that you did not import these guns for any overtly criminal process or purpose, is that I am concerned at the idea of a man in his late thirties who collects so assiduously a considerable quantity of bladed articles and is keen to make bladed articles and has gone on to collect, in addition, apparently, I have no greater detail than this, a quantity of air rifles and air pistols, all perfectly legitimate weapons, has gone out of his way, not only to obtain a gun which, yes, you might, as it were deconstruct, to admire the mechanics of, but you also order 250 rounds of live ammunition and I hear what is said, that apparently if you use that at target practice, it lasts no time at all.
 My concern is that, if somebody else had that gun, that is 250 potential dead people in this country, caused by the possession of that gun. And I am concerned also as to this slightly, I hesitate to say Walter Mitty view of you, because that, in a sense, makes it sound less serious than I think it is and I hope it is a cultural allusion that you get, in the sense that it is an American film of some antiquity. But, this idea that you would find a club to take up target practice or, if not, because there would be no clubs as far as I understand it that exist to allow you to do that, that you would in some way find yourself into the woods of England and there use it for target practice. That I find deeply, deeply worrying”….
 “You went out of your way to obtain it ant to obtain the ammunition that went with it because you wanted to use it and quite plainly had intended to do so had it arrived”

44. These remarks highlight the gravity of the Registrant’s conviction and the wider public interest concerns relating to it. The Panel noted the similarity in the Registrant’s explanation to the sentencing Judge and his communication to the HCPC that this had been an impulsive, spur of the moment purchase. The Panel noted this was not accepted by the Judge. Furthermore, HH Judge Downing did not accept that the Registrant’s case was an exceptional one in which a no custodial sentence was appropriate. In the Panel’s judgment members of the public who understood all the circumstances relating to the conviction would expect the Panel to take action and to mark the serious departure of the Registrant from the required standards, particularly standard 9.1 which requires Registrants to ensure that their conduct justifies the public’s trust and confidence in the profession.

45. Members of the public would also be very concerned about the Registrant’s dishonest conduct in failing to declare his conviction to the HCPC. While the Registrant was still in prison completing the custodial part of his sentence he took the active steps of renewing his application and dishonestly completing the form without declaring his conviction. This behaviour is patently such a departure from the required standards that it should be marked by a finding that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired.

46. The Panel therefore concluded that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired on the basis of the public component in addition to the personal component.

Decision on Sanction:

47. In considering which, if any, sanction to impose the Panel had regard to the HCPC Sanctions Policy (SP) and the advice of the Legal Assessor.

48. The Panel reminded itself that the purpose of imposing a sanction is not to punish the Registrant, but to protect the public and the wider public interest. The Panel ensured that it acted proportionately, and in particular it sought to balance the interests of the public with those of the Registrant, and imposed the sanction which was the least restrictive in the circumstances commensurate with its duty of protection.

49. The Panel considered that the aggravating features included:

• the gravity of the offence, which was highlighted by the Judge in his sentencing remarks as: “It is an offence which calls out, and will continue to call out, for a sentence which sends out the clearest possible message that the possession of guns illegally in this country is simply not acceptable to us for all the reasons which I have summarised, for the danger that it presents and matters of that sort”;

• the dishonesty in the criminal offence connected with the sourcing of the firearm and ammunition;

• the Registrant’s dishonesty in failing to disclose his conviction in November 2018 was an active form of dishonesty involving a deliberate decision not to disclose the information;

• dishonesty in the Registrant’s communication with his Regulator;

• the persistence of the Registrant’s dishonesty over a long period of time while in prison and on his release from prison.

50. The Panel decided that the mitigating features were:

• the Registrant’s early guilty plea for the criminal offence;

• the Registrant’s self-referral to the HCPC and his engagement, albeit limited, with the HCPC in answering questions;

• a supportive report from the Registrant’s probation officer;

• the absence of any other concerns relating to fitness to practise.

51. A further matter that was important in the Panel’s deliberations is that the Registrant has not attended the hearing to demonstrate any remorse or insight or to give the Panel a reassurance that the matters will not be repeated. The Registrant’s response to the e-mail notifying him of the hearing was the one word “noted”. While the Registrant is not required to attend the hearing, the Panel has not had an opportunity to explore the Registrant’s view of his past conduct. It had no information before it as to the Registrant’s current level of insight into either the conviction or the dishonesty found proved, other than the Registrant’s written responses. The Panel’s assessment of those responses was that he appeared to be evasive and seeking to minimise the impact of his actions. The Panel concluded that the Registrant has demonstrated little insight into either the gravity of the conviction or his dishonesty.

52. The Panel also had little information about the Registrant’s circumstances to enable it to assess the impact of any restriction on his practice. The Panel noted that there were references in the documentation to the involvement of immigration services in connection with his conviction, but there was no detail and no information about the Registrant’s current position. The Panel had in mind that any restriction on the Registrant’s practice which limited or prevented him from working as an ODP had the potential to have a significant negative impact on the Registrant financially and on the Registrant’s family.

53. The Panel considered the option of taking no action, but decided that the conviction and misconduct were too serious and that this option would not address the risk of repetition the Panel has identified and it would not be sufficient to maintain public confidence in the profession.

54. The Panel next considered a Caution Order. The Panel did not consider that the guidance in the SP for Caution Orders applied. The conduct was not isolated or minor and there was a risk of repetition. A Caution Order would also not be sufficient to address the wider public interest considerations because of the gravity of the conviction and the misconduct, involving a breach of a fundamental tenet of the profession.

55. The Panel next considered a Conditions of Practice Order. The Panel considered that conditions could not be formulated to address the Registrant’s dishonesty. Further, the Registrant has not attended the hearing, the Panel has no information about his circumstances, and the Panel cannot have confidence that he would comply with conditions of practice. A Conditions of Practice Order would also be insufficient to mark the gravity of the Registrant’s conviction and misconduct.

56. The Panel next considered the option of a Suspension Order. The Panel considered that the guidance in the SP for a Suspension Order did not apply to the circumstances of these matters. The Registrant has not demonstrated insight into either the criminal offence or the dishonesty; the dishonesty has been repeated and the Panel were not reassured that there was no risk of repetition; and there was no evidence that the Registrant was likely to be able to resolve or remedy the matters.

57. The Panel also considered whether a Suspension Order was a sufficiently severe sanction to act as a deterrent effect to other Registrants and to maintain public confidence in the profession and the regulatory process. The Panel reviewed the aggravating features. This case involves a serious criminal offence together with dishonesty to the Registrant’s regulatory body which was repeated and persistent. In these circumstances the Panel considered that a Suspension Order would not be a sufficient sanction to maintain public confidence in the profession and to uphold the required standards of conduct.

58. Before it discounted the option of a Suspension Order the Panel carefully evaluated the mitigating circumstances. The absence of fitness to practice history was a minor factor, when weighed against the seriousness of the Registrant’s conviction and misconduct. The Panel recognised that the Registrant referred himself to the Regulator, but this was after a long period, and in the Registrant’s communication with the HCPC he sought to minimise the seriousness of his actions. The Panel noted that the Registrant engaged with his probation officer appropriately as he was required to do. However, it also noted that the Registrant’s remorse as described by his probation officer was expressed in relation to the impact of his actions on his family and personal life, rather than in relation to the impact of his actions on the public and the reputation of the profession. The probation officer repeats the mitigation put forward by the Registrant to the sentencing judge. There is also no specific information regarding
the degree of any financial impact on his family nor any information on his immigration status. Notwithstanding that there is some mitigation, the Panel decided that the mitigating factors carried little weight when they were balanced against the aggravating factors. They did not indicate that a Suspension Order was appropriate or proportionate.

59. The Panel considered the more restrictive sanction of a Striking Off Order. The Panel noted that the criteria in the SP for a Striking Off Order applied; in particular this case involved dishonesty and a conviction for a serious criminal offence. The Registrant has not attended the hearing to give reassurances to the Panel that the dishonesty will not be repeated. A Striking Off Order is also in accordance with the guidance that normally a Registrant convicted of a serious criminal offence should not be permitted to resume practice until their sentence has been completed. The Registrant remains subject to a criminal sentence until May 2020.

60. In these circumstances the Panel decided that a Striking Off Order was the appropriate and proportionate order. A Striking-Off Order would mark the seriousness of the Registrant’s conviction and misconduct, act as a deterrent to other Registrants, and maintain the reputation of the profession.

61. In reaching its decision the Panel took into account the Registrant’s financial and reputational interests, but decided that they were outweighed by the need to protect the public and by the wider public interest considerations. The Panel decided that the appropriate and proportionate Order was a Striking Off Order.

 

Order

Order: The Registrar is directed to strike the name of Kolos Csontos from the Register from the date this Order takes effect.

Notes

Interim Order:

1. Mr Lloyd invited the Panel to consider an application for an Interim Order in the absence of the Registrant. The Registrant was advised that an application might be made at the conclusion of the case in the Notice of Hearing dated 11 December 2019.

2. The Panel agreed that it was appropriate to proceed in the absence of the Registrant. The Registrant is aware of this hearing and the possibility of an application was explained in the Notice of Hearing. The Registrant has waived his right to attend the hearing and it is in the public interest for this matter to be concluded expeditiously.

3. Mr Lloyd made an application for an Interim Suspension Order for a maximum period of eighteen months on the ground that it was necessary for the protection of the public and it was otherwise in the public interest.

4. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

5. The Panel decided that an Interim Order was necessary for the protection of the public. The Panel has identified a risk of repetition and there is therefore a potential risk to the public which is ongoing. The Panel also considered that an Interim Order was otherwise in the public interest to maintain public confidence in the profession and the regulatory process. Given the conclusions of the Panel, an informed member of the public would be shocked and troubled if no restriction was in place.

6. The Panel considered whether an Interim Conditions of Practice Order would be sufficient, but decided that it would not. Conditions cannot be formulated to address the issues of dishonesty and are not realistic.

7. The Panel decided to make an Interim Suspension Order for a period of eighteen months, the maximum duration, to allow sufficient time for any appeal to be concluded.

The Panel makes an Interim Suspension Order under Article 31(2) of the Health 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 Kolos Csontos

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
05/03/2020 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Struck off
25/02/2020 Investigating Committee Interim Order Review Interim Suspension
31/01/2020 Conduct and Competence Committee Interim Order Review Adjourned
01/11/2019 Conduct and Competence Committee Interim Order Review Interim Suspension
15/05/2019 Investigating Committee Interim Order Application Interim Suspension