1. The Registrant was sent a Notice of Hearing on 8 April 2020 by email.
2. In line with the Government’s recommendations in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic, the HCPC made the decision to use email to serve its’ Notices of Hearing, as their offices are currently closed.
3. The email dated 8 April 2020 informed the Registrant that this hearing would be “on the papers” due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, due to developments at the HCPC the Registrant was sent a further email on 24 April 2020 offering him the option to attend the hearing by video link.
4. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.
5. The Panel determined that the emails dated 8 and 24 April 2020 were delivered to the Registrant by email to his registered email address. The address is the Registrant’s registered address and was used during the last review hearing. The emails notification shows that the emails were delivered. The Panel therefore finds that there has been good service.
Proceeding on the papers in the Registrant’s absence
6. The HCPC applied to have this application heard in the Registrant’s absence under Rule 11 of the Health Professions Council (Conduct and Competence Committee) Rules 2003.
7. Given the government recommendations on containing the current COVID-19 pandemic, the HCPC initially decided to suspend all public hearings to protect the health and safety of its registrants and stakeholders. In order to perform its statutory duties of protecting the public and maintaining the integrity of the register, hearings were to be considered ‘on the papers’. This position is reflected on the Notice of Hearing dated 08 April 2020. On 24 April 2020 the Registrant was sent an email advising him that due to developments at the HCPC, provision had been made for him to attend by video link. The Registrant was asked to contact the HCPC by 01 May 2020 if he wished his hearing to be converted to an oral hearing, so that the necessary arrangements could be made. The Registrant did not contact the HCPC.
8. The HCPC submitted that the Registrant had had notice of the proceedings. The Registrant had not made any application to adjourn, nor for the hearing to be held ‘virtually’. The Registrant had therefore voluntarily absented himself from attending. This is a mandatory review of the current Order and there was therefore a need for the hearing to proceed as scheduled.
9. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.
10. The Panel determined that the Registrant had had notice of the intention to proceed to hear this application. Although the Registrant was initially only offered a paper hearing, he was later offered the opportunity to attend by video link. The Registrant has not made contact with the HCPC since 6 June 2019. This contact post-dated the last substantive review hearing and was to inform the HCPC of a change in address.
11. The Registrant has not responded to the emails dated 8 and 24 April 2020. These emails were sent in good time and delivered to the Registrant’s email address. The Registrant has not applied for an adjournment, nor has he put in written submissions or indicated a wish to attend this hearing. This is a mandatory review hearing and if no review takes place the order will lapse without an assessment of the risk factors. The Panel finds that it is in the interests of justice and in the public interest for the review to take place as scheduled, so that a proportionate decision can be made, as to whether a further order is necessary. In reaching this decision, the Panel have taken into account the fact that the Registrant appears to have voluntarily absented himself and will have the opportunity to apply for a further hearing at a future date.
Application for private hearing
12. The HCPC in its written submissions applied for the entire hearing to be held in private.
13. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and had regard to the HCPTS Practice Note on “Conducting Hearings in Private”.
14. The Panel agreed to grant the application to hold the hearing in private as the factual background includes information relating to the Registrant’s private life.