Mr Benjamin Hibberd

Profession: Practitioner psychologist

Registration Number: PYL32103

Hearing Type: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 19/10/2020 End: 17:00 21/10/2020

Location: This hearing will take place virtually

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Suspended

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Allegation

Allegation (as amended)

Whilst registered as a Practitioner Psychologist with the Health and Care Professions Council and during the course of your employment with Hertfordshire County Council, you;

1. Between 1 September 2017 and 1 March 2018, undertook consultancy work for Key Change Resources and you:

a. Undertook this work without informing Hertfordshire County Council
b. Undertook some of this work while you should have been working for Hertfordshire County Council

2. Having submitted a ‘Multiple Employment Declaration Form’ to Hertfordshire County Council dated 1 March 2018, you continued to undertake secondary paid employment on three occasions with Key Change Resources Limited without this application being approved and/or the form having been rejected.

3. Between January 2017 and January 2018, falsified travel expense claims which amounted to an overpayment of approximately £668.00.

4. The matters described in particulars 1b, 2 and 3 amount to dishonesty.

5. The matters described in particulars 1 - 4 constitute misconduct.

6. By reason of your misconduct your Fitness to Practise is impaired.

 

Finding

Preliminary Matters

Service of Notice of Hearing

1. This hearing has been conducted by video conference and the Registrant has participated in the hearing and has been represented by Ms Sleeman, of Counsel. There were no issues regarding service of the notice of hearing.

Amendments to the Allegation

2. On behalf of the HCPC, Ms Constantine applied for permission to make amendments to the Allegation. She submitted that the proposed amendments did not change the substance of the Allegation but simply ensured that the Allegation more correctly reflected the supporting evidence. There was no objection on the part of the Registrant. The Panel took into account that the Registrant had been on notice since December 2019 that such an application would be made and was satisfied that the proposed amendments were corrections to minor typographical errors in the Allegation as originally drafted. To allow the proposed amendment would cause no prejudice to the Registrant and was fair. The application to amend was granted and the Allegation in its amended form is shown above.

Background

3. Dr Benjamin Hibberd (“the Registrant“) is registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (“HCPC”) as a Practitioner Psychologist. At the times referred to in the Allegation he was employed as an Educational Psychologist by Hertfordshire County Council (“the Council“). The HCPC case is that whilst in that employment the Registrant undertook work for a company called Key Change Resources Ltd (“the Company”) and he did so (i) without informing the Council, (ii) undertook some of that work at times when he should have been working for the Council, and (iii) that the Registrant later applied to the Council for permission to undertake work for the Company and, even though the application had not been approved and / or had been rejected, he continued to undertake that work on three subsequent occasions. Further, the HCPC maintains that between January 2017 and January 2018 the Registrant falsified travel expense claims which led to an overpayment to him of about £668. The HCPC case is that the actions of the Registrant at points (ii) and (iii) above and the falsification of travel claims were acts of dishonesty.

4. During the hearing, the Panel heard evidence from three witnesses appearing in person by video conference in support of the HCPC case and also took into account the written statement of a fourth witness who did not attend. Those witnesses were:

Witness 1 -  County Fraud Officer with the Council
Witness 2 -  Principal Educational Psychologist previously employed by the Council
Witness 3  -  Educational Psychologist with the Council and the Registrant’s line manager at the material time
Witness 4 -  a Director of the Company.
The Registrant also gave evidence.

Decision on facts

5. The Panel made the findings of fact below on the balance of probabilities.

6. The Panel has considered the reliability of the evidence given by the various witnesses. There have been 3 witnesses who have given evidence in person in support of the HCPC case. The Panel finds in respect of each of them that they have been credible and honest and have not shown any partiality. Witness 3 was able to remember much of the supporting detail regarding the events in question and was balanced and fair when giving her impression of the Registrant’s demeanour and cooperation during the investigation process.

7. The evidence set out in the witness statement of Witness 4 was not in dispute and the Panel has borne in mind that the evidence given has not been provided under oath or affirmation. However, that evidence has been treated as reliable.

8. The Panel’s impression of the evidence given by the Registrant is that he was honest and he answered questions in a thoughtful manner.

9. In a statement dated 18 September 2020 the Registrant admitted particulars 1 to 5 of the Allegation and, within the hearing, he took a neutral stance on whether the Panel should find impairment. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the Panel to determine whether or not the particulars of the Allegation are made out but the Panel has taken into account those admissions when making its findings.

Particular 1
Whilst registered as a Practitioner Psychologist with the Health and Care Professions Council and during the course of your employment with Hertfordshire County Council, you;
1. Between 1 September 2017 and 1 March 2018, undertook consultancy work for Key Change Resources, and you:
a)  Undertook this work without informing Hertfordshire County Council;
b)  Undertook some of this work while you should have been working for Hertfordshire County Council.

10. In considering sub-particular 1a) the Panel has noted that the Registrant’s role with the Council as an Educational Psychologist started in September 2015. He had previous employment with the Council as a Trainee Educational Psychologist from 2013. His contract of employment had the following provision “You must obtain prior written approval to engage in any paid work or business other than that which you agree to undertake pursuant in this agreement”.

11.     The Registrant began to carry out part-time work for the Company as an Educational Psychologist in September 2017. That work continued up to 26 March 2018. There is no evidence to show that the Registrant sought permission from the Council to carry out that work. The Registrant, in general terms, worked about a half day a week for the Company.
12.    The Panel is satisfied that Registrant’s contract of employment barred him from undertaking the above work for the Company unless he had the approval of the Council. It is clear from the evidence that the Registrant failed to inform the Council that he was undertaking the work.

13.    On 28 February 2018 Witness 3 asked the Registrant, by email, to clarify the situation regarding any work undertaken by the Registrant for an outside body. In an email of the same date the Registrant said “I just wanted to drop you a note to apologise for not being honest and upfront about my (new) endeavours into independent work. To be honest I was worried Herts would be restrictive or preventative to this side of my practice developing, so decided not to mention it for the time being, but it seems it (sic) word spreads incredibly quickly regardless and unfortunately you’ve been informed through “Chinese whispers“ as opposed to hearing from me. It certainly wasn’t an attempt to hoodwink or create a false impression, I’d just not wanted all and sundry knowing until such time as it became regular and consistent (if it did / does continue, I was actually planning to inform both [Witness 2] and yourself just after the Easter break, but I guess that just looks like convenient hindsight now ......)”.

14.     In considering sub-particular 1 b) the Panel has taken into account the evidence of Witness 1 who examined all relevant information provided by the Company as to the Registrant’s hours of work both with the Council and the Company and who interviewed the Registrant. Witness 1 concluded that the Registrant had carried out some of his work for the Company during hours when he should have been carrying out work for the Council. The Panel accepts the evidence from Witness 1 as reliable.  
15.    Regarding both sub-particular 1 a) and 1 b) above, the Registrant has admitted these matters. It is clear to the Panel that particular 1 is proved in full.
Particular 1 is proved

Particular 2
2.     Having submitted a 'Multiple Employment Declaration Form' to Hertfordshire County Council dated 1 March 2018, you continued to undertake secondary paid employment on three occasions with Key Change Resources Limited without this application being approved and/or the form having been rejected.

16. The Council had a Multiple Employment Policy. An employee could ask for permission to undertake employment for another body whilst in the employment of the Council.  The Registrant submitted a Multiple Employment Declaration Form dated 1 March 2018 seeking permission to carry out work for the Company.  It is relevant to note that, by that time, the Registrant had already worked for the Company from 1 September 2017. In other words, the Registrant started the relevant work 6 months before seeking permission from the Council to do so.

17. The evidence from Witness 3, which has not been disputed by the Registrant, has been that the request made by the Registrant was rejected.

18. Despite the application having been rejected the Registrant continued to provide work for the Company on 2nd, 13th and 26th March 2018.

19. On 16 March 2018 the Registrant submitted a request to be permitted to work on a flexible basis. He sought “Compressed hours” on the basis of working a 9 day fortnight which included not working every other Wednesday. The application was refused by Witness 3 on 23 March 2018. Witness 3 did not accept that the Registrant could carry out the duties of a full-time post on a proper basis if he took on additional employment as an Educational Psychologist working for an outside company.

20. In refusing the flexible hours request, Witness 3 took the view that at that time the Registrant had not been able to keep up with statutory deadlines for his work with the County Council “and that several of his EHC needs assessments reports had been submitted late, one or two of these significantly late”.

21. The Registrant has admitted this Particular.  The Panel is satisfied that from 1 March 2018 the Registrant continued to undertake secondary paid employment on three occasions with the Company without his application to do so being approved and / or having been rejected. On the basis of the evidence provided the Panel finds that the three occasions were on 2nd, 13th and 26th March 2018.   
Particular 2 is proved

Particular 3

3.    Between January 2017 and January 2018, falsified travel expense claims which amounted to an overpayment of approximately £668.

22. The Panel has taken into account the considerable supporting detail in the Investigation Report prepared by Witness 1. This particular has been admitted by the Registrant and his admission is wholly consistent with the evidence.

23. During the course of making enquiries about the Registrant working elsewhere, Council officers became concerned about claims for travel expenses submitted by the Registrant.

24. The practice of the Council regarding travel expenses was that an employee such as the Registrant could claim travel from home to a place of work that was not the usual place of work, provided that the usual home to usual place of work mileage was subtracted from the mileage incurred in travelling to the non-usual place of work. In an investigation meeting, Witness 3 explained those provisions to the Registrant.  He had been submitting travel claims without deducting an accurate home to work mileage. The claims submitted by the Registrant had led to overpayments of monies due to him. Witness 3 asked him to correct his practice but he did not do so in a subsequent travel claim.

25. The calculations made by Witness 1 as to the value of the overpayments have been taken into account by the Panel. The Registrant has admitted this Particular, including the value of the overpayment. He has said in his witness statement: “I am deeply ashamed that I over-claimed on my expenses as I did. This was totally unacceptable behaviour and not something that I am proud of”.

26. The Panel is satisfied that the Registrant did falsify travel expense claims in the manner described in this particular.
Particular 3 is proved

Particular 4

4. The matters described in particulars 1 b), 2 and 3 amount to dishonesty.

27. On the advice of the Legal Assessor the Panel has taken into account the guidance given by the Supreme Court in the case of Ivey v Genting [2017] UKSC 67 at paragraph 74 of the judgment:

“When dishonesty is in question the fact-finding tribunal must first ascertain (subjectively) the actual state of the individual’s knowledge or belief as to the facts. The reasonableness or otherwise of his belief is a matter of evidence (often in practice determinative) going to whether he held the belief, but it is not an additional requirement that his belief must be reasonable; the question is whether it is genuinely held. When once his actual state of mind as to knowledge or belief as to facts is established, the question whether his conduct was honest or dishonest is to be determined by the fact-finder by applying the (objective) standards of ordinary decent people. There is no requirement that the defendant must appreciate that what he has done is, by those standards, dishonest”.

28. Whilst giving evidence the Registrant accepted that he had known what he was doing was dishonest from the start of each of the actions said to be dishonest.

29. The Panel is satisfied that at all relevant times the Registrant knew that what he was doing, in respect of the actions referred to in particulars 1 b), 2 and 3, was dishonest.  It is clear to the Panel that the Registrant’s conduct in these respects would be regarded by ordinary decent people as dishonest.

30. The Panel finds that particular 4 is proved.
Particular 4 is proved

Decision on Statutory Ground - Misconduct

31. The Panel has taken into account the definition of misconduct as that is given in Roylance v GMC (No 2) [1999] UKPC 16  

‘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.’

32. The Panel is satisfied that the particulars that assert dishonesty shows conduct that falls seriously short of the proper standards to be expected of a Practitioner Psychologist. The actions of the Registrant amount to an abuse of the trust of his employer.  He took personal advantage of public money and certainly brought the reputation of his profession into disrepute. Colleague Practitioner Psychologists would have reported the Registrant’s actions to managers had they been aware of them. His acts of dishonesty were deplorable. Of particular concern is that the Registrant was aware for some months of his own dishonesty but he failed to follow the professional obligation on him which was to declare his own misconduct to managers.

33. The Panel is clear that the actions of the Registrant, as set out in each of the particulars within the Allegation, were serious and, in the case of the matters of dishonesty, would be regarded as deplorable by both colleagues and members of the public. The Panel finds that the actions of the Registrant amounted to breaches of the following Standards of Conduct Performance and Ethics and Standards of Proficiency:

Standards of Conduct Performance and Ethics - Be honest and trustworthy
9.1  You must make sure that your conduct justifies the public’s trust and confidence in you and your profession.
Standards of Proficiency for Practitioner Psychologists – Standard 10 – be able to maintain records appropriately

34. It is clear to the Panel that the actions and failings of the Registrant amount to misconduct.

Decision on Impairment

35. The Panel has considered the guidance in the HCPTS Practice Note on Fitness to Practise Impairment. The Panel’s task is to assess current fitness to practise.

36. The Panel has taken into account in this respect the references, all of which were positive, provided by the Registrant.

37. In determining fitness to practise allegations, Panels must take account of two broad components: the ‘personal’ component and the ‘public’ component:

38. The personal component is the current competence, behaviour etc. of the registrant concerned. The public component refers to protecting service users; declaring and upholding proper standards of behaviour; and maintaining public confidence in the profession concerned.

39. The key questions which need to be answered are:

• are the acts or omissions which led to the allegation remediable?
• has the Registrant taken remedial action?
• are those acts or omissions likely to be repeated?

40. The Panel considered all four limbs of the test set out by Dame Janet Smith in the fifth Shipman Report which were re-stated in Grant (CHRE v NMC (1) and Grant (2) (2011) EWHC 927 (Admin)), namely:- 

“Do our findings of fact in respect of the doctor's misconduct, deficient professional performance, adverse health, conviction, caution or determination show that his/her fitness to practise is impaired in the sense that s/he:
1.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
2.has in the past brought and/or is liable in the future to bring the medical profession into disrepute; and/or
3.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
4.has in the past acted dishonestly and/or is liable to act dishonestly in the future.”

41. The Panel has taken into account the evidence from the Registrant regarding his assessment of what caused him to carry out the actions and failings that are now being examined. He spoke of his workload and of background family problems. The Panel has also taken into account that the Registrant cooperated with the Council officers carrying out the investigation. He accepted his culpability at an early stage in that process and apologised for his actions. He entered admissions to the particulars of the Allegation in these proceedings in a statement submitted prior to this hearing.

42. The Panel’s assessment is that the Registrant has shown good insight into the nature of, and reasons for, his misconduct and he has identified some strategies he will continue to pursue to avoid him committing similar failings again. Those strategies include spending time being clearer about contractual requirements and the detail of any expense claim processes that he may have to follow in the future. Nonetheless, the Panel considers the risk of repetition to be low.

43. The Panel takes the view that the Registrant has good insight into his wrongdoing but that insight is not yet complete. For example, he has not yet fully reflected on how he would develop and implement coping strategies  to avoid future dishonest actions. The Panel also noted that in his oral evidence the Registrant described his actions as “naïve and reckless” which the Panel saw as an attempt to diminish the dishonesty that he had acknowledged in his prepared written statement. The strategies to achieve full insight still need clearer definition on the part of the Registrant. For example, exactly what steps he has in mind to gain better awareness of contractual requirements and claims processes and the way he will pursue and obtain advice and assistance from colleagues and managers in the future.

44. The Panel is satisfied that the Registrant has in the past:

• brought his profession into disrepute
• been dishonest, and
• breached a fundamental tenet of his profession which is to act honestly.

45. The Panel takes into account the difficulty in assessing the likelihood that a person who has committed dishonesty in the past will not do so in the future. In that respect, the Panel notes that the acts of dishonesty that are referred to in the Allegation ceased in March 2018. The considerable reference material provided to the Panel speaks of the Registrant’s good professional competence, his recognition of the seriousness of his past actions and his attempts to demonstrate to others that he can be trusted in future. Those references come from a number of psychologists including a recent employer. There is one from Witness 4, who speaks of the Registrant’s commitment to his profession.

46. The view of the Panel is that the Registrant has learnt a lot from the internal investigation process that was followed in the workplace and from this regulatory process. However, the prospect of the Registrant not committing acts of dishonesty in the future is not yet fully demonstrated. That is because, as is expressed above, the level of insight shown by the Registrant, which although good, is not yet fully developed. He still needs to more clearly define the steps that he will take and the training he might follow to ensure there is no repetition of his past misconduct.

47. In this case the concern is with the public component factors rather than the personal component. Members of the public would expect a Practitioner Psychologist not to commit dishonest actions. The Panel has concluded, bearing in mind the seriousness of the Registrant’s misconduct and his still to be fully developed insight, that a finding of no impairment would undermine public confidence in the profession of Practising Psychologist and this regulatory process. Moreover, a finding of current impairment is required in order to uphold proper standards of conduct and professionalism.

48. The Panel finds that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired.

Decision on Sanction

49. On behalf of the HCPC Ms Constantine said that the HCPC was neutral on the question of sanction and wished simply to make observations and mention of case law. She continued by saying that the purpose of sanctions was not to punish but to protect members of the public. She referred to the question of testimonials and case law indicating that a Panel should be cautious when considering such material in cases concerning dishonesty. It should not readily be accepted on the basis of testimonials that a registrant would not repeat past misconduct. The reputation of the profession was more important than the interests of an individual. However, references may be useful in allowing a Panel to measure matters such as insight, apology and remorse.

50. Her submission continued by her saying that the Panel should be clear about the purpose of the available sanctions and should approach consideration of those by using a step-by-step approach ensuring the chosen sanction was proportionate and adequately upheld professional standards and the interests of members of the public.

51. Ms Constantine suggested that the Panel may find that the Registrant’s breach of trust and his repeated misconduct, committed during a period when he knew he had contradicted the requirement not to work elsewhere without the employer’s permission, were serious features of the misconduct and amounted to aggravating circumstances.

52. On behalf of the Registrant, Ms Sleeman accepted much of what had been said by Ms Constantine and recognised that all sanctions would be available to the Panel. The Panel should ensure that any chosen sanction was proportionate and adequately protected the public interest matters. However, the chosen sanction should recognise that any interference in a practitioner’s ability to carry on his profession was a grave matter. The Panel should choose the sanction that provided adequate recognition of public interest factors but, at the same time, created only a proportionate restriction on a registrant’s ability to practise.

53. She further submitted that the evidence showed the Registrant to be otherwise a good practitioner and it would be in the public interest to allow him to continue to practice.

54. Ms Sleeman asked the Panel to accept that the mitigating factors were the Registrant’s co-operation in the workplace investigation process and in the proceedings before this Panel. The Registrant had admitted the particulars of the Allegation from the outset of these proceedings. That included the matters of dishonesty and misconduct and he did not dispute his impairment. Practitioners often found it difficult to admit dishonesty but the Registrant in this case had apologised for his conduct at an early stage within the workplace investigation conducted by his employer. He had reiterated those apologies within these proceedings. The Panel was asked to accept that his apologies were genuine and heartfelt and he had recognised the effect on others of his actions. Those features showed him to be a responsible practitioner.


55. Ms Sleeman asked the Panel to take into account the testimonials which were in both the HCPC bundle and the Registrant’s bundle. It was clear that the Registrant was very highly regarded by the writers of those testimonials who had described the Registrant as being honest. One of those references had come from the Registrant’s current employer.

56. Ms Sleeman accepted that dishonesty was treated as a very serious matter by this Panel and in this case the events of dishonesty were not isolated. However, within the category of dishonesty there were differing levels of seriousness. The Panel was asked to accept that in the matter of making travel claims, a part of the process was that information held on the computer system was automatically re-populated onto the claim form. The Panel was asked to accept that this was a case where there had been less than active involvement on the
 part of the Registrant in the actions of dishonesty.

57. Ms Sleeman continued by asking the Panel to accept that the evidence and the references showed the Registrant to have acted wholly out of character and when he was subject to both internal and external pressures. The Registrant had sought to remediate his actions and in doing so he had demonstrated significant insight. He had identified the surroundings which had, he believed, led to his misconduct and he had identified methods of avoiding such circumstances in the future. The Panel had accepted that the Registrant had good insight into his past misconduct and since his employment with Hertfordshire County Council had ended he had sought professional help in dealing with the surrounding circumstances that had led to his misconduct.

58. Ms Sleeman urged the Panel to accept that the Registrant has held genuine insight over a period of time. He had made a donation to Victim Support above the value of the excess travel expenses he had claimed and had done so in August 2019, well in advance of this hearing.

59. Ms Sleeman asked the Panel to accept that the workplace investigation and these Panel proceedings had caused significant shock to the Registrant. He had been the subject of these Panel proceedings since February 2018 and he had learnt a very considerable lesson.

60. Ms Sleeman recognised that, given the circumstances of this case, both to take no further action or to make an order for mediation would not be appropriate given the seriousness of the misconduct. Ms Sleeman asked the Panel to consider the sanction of Caution. Such a sanction could run for up to 5 years. It was not an easy option. It served as a continuing reminder to a Registrant to adhere to proper standards. It was a sanction that would serve to maintain public confidence in the regulatory process and in the reputation of the profession given the potential duration of such as order.

61. Ms Sleeman continued by saying that if the Panel felt unable to make a Caution Order then the request was that the Panel should consider a Conditions of Practice Order. Such an order could require the Registrant to enter into a cycle of reflection and that may be suitable given that it had been accepted by the Panel that the Registrant had already made good progress with regard to insight.

62. Ms Sleeman concluded by submitting that both a sanction of Suspension and Striking-off were not necessary given the other available sanctions and either of them would be a disproportionate outcome.

63. The Panel took into account the HCPC Sanctions Policy. The purpose of sanctions is not to be punitive, although they may have that effect. The primary purpose of a sanction is to ensure public safety. However, a Panel must also give appropriate weight to wider public interest factors which include: the deterrent effect for other registrants, the reputation of the profession concerned, and public confidence in the regulatory process. Further, a Panel must act proportionately in striking the proper balance between the interests of the public and those of a registrant.

64. In considering an appropriate sanction a Panel should impose the sanction that provides an adequate and proportionate balance between (i) public safety and the other public interest factors referred to above and (ii) the Registrant’s ability to practise his or her profession.
Mitigating and aggravating features

65. The mitigating features are:

• the Registrant’s good level of insight
• the co-operation on the part of the Registrant in the workplace investigation and with these proceedings
• the Registrant’s admissions and apologies at an early stage of these proceedings
• the positive testimonials provided from persons of professional standing who have known both the Registrant and the circumstances of the misconduct well and who, nevertheless, have commented favourably on the Registrant’s honesty and integrity.

66. The aggravating features are:

• the serious breach of trust committed by the Registrant
• the repetition of those breaches for personal gain which was sustained over a period of time.

67. The Panel first considered an outcome of No Further Action. Such an outcome was not appropriate. The matter was too serious to be resolved in this way.

68. The Panel next considered a Caution Order, which is deemed to be appropriate where:
“the issue is isolated, limited, or relatively minor in nature; there is a low risk of repetition; the registrant has shown good insight; and the registrant has undertaken appropriate remediation…A caution order should be considered in cases where the nature of the allegations mean that meaningful practice restrictions cannot be imposed, but a suspension of practice order would be disproportionate.”

69. The Panel recognised that the Registrant had shown good insight, a low risk of repetition and elements of remediation. The Panel also recognised it would be in the public interest, in some respects, to allow the Registrant to continue in practice because his competence is not in question. However, the misconduct of the Registrant was clearly not minor, limited or isolated. Further, given the deplorable and serious nature of the misconduct a Caution Order would not serve to maintain confidence in the Practitioner Psychologist profession or this regulatory process. A Caution Order would not, in that sense, be a proportionate reflection of the gravity of the misconduct.

70. The Panel considered a Conditions of Practice Order. The Panel noted, in particular,  paragraphs 107 to 109 of the Sanctions Policy:
“107. Conditions will only be effective in cases where the registrant is genuinely committed to resolving the concerns raised and the panel is confident they will do so. Therefore, conditions of practice are unlikely to be suitable in cases in which the registrant has failed to engage with the fitness to practise process or where there are serious or persistent failings.
108. Conditions are also less likely to be appropriate in more serious cases, for example those involving:
• dishonesty…;

109. There may be circumstances in which a panel considers it appropriate to impose a conditions of practice order in the above cases. However, it should only do so when it is satisfied that the registrant’s conduct was minor, out of character, capable of remediation and unlikely to be repeated. The panel should take care to provide robust reasoning in these cases.” 

71. There have been serious and persistent failings in this case. This is a case of serious dishonesty. The prime concern is the feature of dishonesty. There are no conditions that would be workable and enforceable and which would provide a sufficient level of public confidence in the Practitioner Psychologist profession and this regulatory process, or to uphold proper standards of conduct and professionalism. Therefore, a Conditions of Practice Order is not an appropriate or proportionate sanction.

72. The Panel next considered a Suspension Order and noted paragraph 121 of the Sanctions Policy:
“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.”

73.  All of the above factors apply in this case.

74. The Panel determined that the appropriate and proportionate sanction in all the circumstances was one of Suspension.

75. Such an Order may run for any period up to a year. The period of the sanction should itself be proportionate. The Panel has taken into account the good insight on the part of the Registrant. There is clear potential for the Registrant, after suitable further reflection, to achieve full insight into his past misconduct and how he can prevent any repetition. The Panel is satisfied that such a stage may be reached within the period of a 3 month Suspension Order and therefore the Panel has decided that that is the suitable and proportionate period for the Order. The Panel is satisfied that members of the public who know all the circumstances of this case, including the good insight, the low risk of repetition of the part of the Registrant and the general professional competence of the Registrant would see that as a suitable and proportionate term for such an Order and public confidence would thereby be maintained in the profession and in this regulatory process.  

76. As a step in checking that a Suspension Order was a proportionate and suitable sanction the Panel consider a Striking-off Order. However, this is not a case where the Registrant lacks insight and is unwilling to resolve matters and on that basis the Panel is satisfied that a Striking-off Order is not suitable and would be disproportionate.

77.  This Order will be reviewed prior to its expiry. The Panel conducting that review may be assisted by a reflective piece written by the Registrant illustrating further development of his insight and addressing the issues identified by this Panel in this Decision.

Order

That the Registrar is directed to suspend the registration of Dr Benjamin Hibberd for a period of 3  months from the date this order comes into effect.

Notes

Right of Appeal

You may appeal to the High Court in England and Wales against the Panel’s decision and the order it has made against you.
Under Article 29(10) of the Health Professions Order 2001, any appeal must be made within 28 days of the date when this notice is served on you.  The Panel’s order will not take effect until the appeal period has expired or, if you appeal, until that appeal is disposed of or withdrawn.

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Mr Benjamin Hibberd

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
19/10/2020 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended