Richard Maxon

Profession: Paramedic

Registration Number: PA30653

Hearing Type: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 13/12/2021 End: 17:00 16/12/2021

Location: Virtual Via Video Conference

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Suspended

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Allegation

As a registered Paramedic (PA30653) your fitness to practise is impaired by reason of misconduct in that,

1. In the course of teaching a Paramedic Practice class, you:

a. On 26 June 2019, asked the class for details of their marital/relationship status and/or sexual orientation;

b. On 28 June 2019:

i. said “is that going to ruin your image of her Colleague D, later on tonight” or words to that effect; and

ii. rubbed your legs in a suggestive manner;

c. On 2 July 2019:

i. commented on whether Colleague A had shaved her legs;

ii. said “you must make your fella happy at home, oh wait you’re single aren’t you?” or words to that effect;

iii. said “while you’re down there love” or words to that effect;

iv. rubbed your hands on Colleague A’s leg and/or commented as to how soft they were;

v. commented on the pictures you found on Colleague A’s Facebook profile;

vi. displayed pictures from Colleague A’s Facebook profile on your mobile phone in view of the class of students.

2. Your conduct set out at paragraph1 was inappropriate and/or crossed professional boundaries.

3. The matters set out in paragraphs 1 and 2 above constitute misconduct.

4. By reason of your misconduct your fitness to practise is impaired.

Finding

Preliminary matters:

Amendment

1. At the outset of the hearing, Ms Reid, on behalf of the HCPC, made an application to amend the particulars of the allegation.

2. The Registrant was provided with notice of a proposed amended allegation in a letter dated 05 November 2020. However, the application to amend, made by the HCPC, went further than that previously outlined to the Registrant.

3. The Panel was provided with a skeleton argument in support of the proposed amendments by Ms Reid, dated 01 November 2021.

4. The purpose of the amendments is to clarify the misconduct alleged and to better reflect the evidence.

5. Ms Reid submitted that the effect of the additional amendments were minor, being intended to clarify the dates of two of the allegations and to ensure that the amendments were grammatically correct and could clearly be understood (the revised allegation 1(b) now pleaded as having taken place on 28 June 2019, was originally alleged to have taken place on 02 July 2019).

6. It was suggested that allowing the proposed amendments would not result in any prejudice to the Registrant and would not result in any under-prosecution and will therefore not cause any injustice.

7. Mr Lo, on behalf of the Registrant, did not raise any objection to the proposed amendments, noting that the timeline was not accurate in the originally drafted allegation.

8. The Panel concluded that there was no prejudice to the Registrant in allowing the proposed amendments. There was no substantive change to the factual allegations made against the Registrant. The amended allegation better reflects the evidence and corrects the chronology of events.

9. The final amended allegation is set out above.

Bundle

10. The Panel was provided with a substantive evidence bundle of documents which ran to 236 pages. In addition, there was a bundle of documents provided by the Registrant which ran to 172 pages.

11. The Panel has seen signed witness statements (and heard oral evidence from) the following witnesses on behalf of the HCPC from:
• Nick Lambert, South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS), Senior Education Manager,
• Colleague A,
• Colleague B,
• Colleague C.

12. The Panel was also provided with a witness statement on behalf of the Registrant, dated 31 October 2021 and a personal statement, dated 24 October 2021. The Registrant read out his personal statement in the hearing, at the conclusion of his evidence in chief.

13. The Panel has also seen signed witness statements (and heard oral evidence from) the following witnesses on behalf of the Registrant:
• Jane Louise Reid, Senior Paramedic Science Lecturer at the University of Cumbria, who had previously worked at the University of Cumbria.
• Daniel Morrison, Paramedic with the SCAS.

14. Prior to the resumed hearing on 13 December 2021, both Ms Reid on behalf of the HCPC and Mr Lo on behalf of the Registrant provided detailed written closing submissions. Ms Reid’s submissions ran to 42 pages and are dated 07 December 2021. Mr Lo’s submissions are dated 04 December 2021 and ran to 23 pages.

Background:

15. Richard Maxon (the Registrant) is a registered Paramedic, employed by the South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (“SCAS”) as a (Band 7, Education Manager). At the time of the alleged incidents, the Registrant was on secondment to Portsmouth University as a Senior Teaching Fellow on the Certificate of Higher Education Paramedic course. The Registrant was responsible for delivering education as a lecturer to students and guiding the students throughout the course.

16. In July 2019 Colleague A, a student on the Higher Education Paramedic course taught by the Registrant, submitted a complaint to her clinical mentor stating that the Registrant had made number of inappropriate comments towards her during classes. Colleague A submitted a formal complaint on 20 July 2019. A formal investigation was carried out by Nick Lambert, Senior Education Manager employed by SCAS.

17. The Registrant self-referred the matter to the HCPC on 16 January 2020.

18. The Panel has heard and accepted the Legal Assessor’s advice and exercised the principle of proportionality at all times. In approaching the task of deciding the facts, the Panel has kept at the forefront of its deliberations, the importance of requiring the HCPC to prove matters against the Registrant. The standard of proof to which the HCPC is required to prove matters is the civil standard – on the balance of probabilities.

Hearsay Application

19. The Registrant sought to rely on a witness statement from Mr Max Gibbins, which was dated 28 October 2021. This was only disclosed to the HCPC and the Panel on the first day of the hearing, 01 November 2021. It had been the Registrant’s intention to call Mr Gibbins to give oral evidence. However, on the fourth day of the hearing, it became clear that Mr Gibbins would not be available to give evidence. The Panel was told that Mr Gibbins was on holiday, and that he did not have a sufficiently good internet connection, to give oral evidence.

20. Mr Lo, on behalf of the Registrant, made an application to admit the statement as hearsay evidence, pursuant to (Rule 10 of the Health and Care Professions Council (Conduct & Competence Committee) (Procedure) Rules 2003. He submitted that its admission was a matter of fairness and the absence of cross-examination could be addressed by the Panel subsequently determining how much weight to place on his statement. He argued that Mr Gibbins’ statement was of significant probative value to the Registrant’s case, as he was one of the student Paramedics, along with Colleagues A, B and C, who could give direct evidence as to whether the Registrant had made the comments or taken the actions which were in dispute.

21. Ms Reid, on behalf of the HCPC, opposed the application. She submitted that Mr Gibbins’ evidence was unreliable and there was no way to test it. He would have been subject to extensive cross-examination, as there were, she asserted some material differences in the account provided in his witness statement and those provided to Mr Lambert in the internal investigation interview on 22 August 2019, in respect of the 02 July 2019 allegations. In addition, it was noted that Mr Gibbins, in his witness statement purports to give evidence in relation to the incident on 28 June 2019, whereas there was no reference to the allegations on this date in the internal interview. Ms Reid made it clear that the HCPC case was that Mr Gibbins was not in fact present in the room on 28 June 2019, and his evidence would have been subject to rigorous challenge on this basis.

22. Ms Reid further submitted, in addition, that no cogent reason had been advanced as to why Mr Gibbins could not be called to give evidence, noting the lack of detailed information pertaining to his non-attendance.

23. Both parties sought to rely on the guidance provided in the case of Thorneycroft v Nursing & Midwifery Council [2014] EWHC 1565 (Admin), the applicability of which was endorsed by the Legal Assessor, whose advice the Panel accepted. The relevant principles are:

a. The admission of the statement of an absent witness should not be regarded as a routine matter and the Fitness to Practise (FTP) rules require the Panel to consider the issue of fairness before admitting the evidence.

b. The fact that the absence of the witness can be reflected in the weight to be attached to their evidence is a factor to weigh in the balance but will not always be a sufficient answer to the objection to admissibility.

c. The existence or otherwise of a good and cogent reason for the non-attendance of the witness is an important factor. However, the absence of a good reason does not automatically result in the exclusion of the evidence.

d. Where such evidence is the sole or decisive evidence in relation to the charges, the decision whether or not to admit requires the Panel to make a careful assessment, weighing up the competing factors. The assessment should involve a consideration of the issues in the case, the other evidence to be called and the potential consequences of admitting the evidence and the Panel must be satisfied having undertaken this assessment that, either the evidence is demonstrably reliable or that there is some means of testing its reliability.

24. The Panel also had regard to the questions which in Thorneycroft were deemed relevant to ask, in considering whether to admit hearsay evidence:

a. Whether the statement was the sole and decisive evidence in support of the charges.

b. The nature and extent of the challenge to the contents of the statement.

c. Whether there was any suggestion that the witness had reasons to fabricate their allegations.

d. The seriousness of the charge, taking into account the impact which adverse findings might have on the Registrant’s career.

e. Whether there was a good reason for the non-attendance of the witnesses.

f. Whether the Registrant had taken reasonable steps to secure the attendance of the witness.

g. The fact that the HCPC did not have prior notice that the witness statements were to be read.

25. The Panel has undertaken a careful assessment of the competing factors in relation to this application.

26. The Panel first considered whether there was a cogent explanation for the non-attendance of Mr Gibbins and concluded that there was not. The Panel was provided with very limited information regarding attempts to contact Mr Gibbins and secure his attendance. The Panel was not told where Mr Gibbins was on holiday, other than it was within the UK. There was no evidence as to when he was warned that he would be required to give evidence this week, or when he booked his holiday. There had been no previous application made on the Registrant’s behalf to vacate and relist the final hearing on dates he was available. Mr Lo did not make any application for Mr Gibbins to provide evidence by telephone and there was no explanation as to why Mr Gibbins could not travel to a close by location to attend the hearing remotely. In short, the Panel concluded that there was a wholly inadequate explanation for Mr Gibbins’ non-attendance and was forced to conclude, on the limited evidence available that reasonable steps had not been taken to secure his attendance.

27. The Panel also had in mind that the witness statement had only been disclosed on the first day of the hearing, and this application was made only on the fourth day, relatively late in the proceedings.

28. The Panel noted, however, that the absence of a good or cogent reason for Mr Gibbins’ non-attendance did not automatically mean that his evidence should be excluded. The Panel went on to consider fairness to both parties.

29. On the one hand, the statement could be admitted, and the Panel could determine, what limited, if any weight, could be placed on it, for example, if its contents were corroborated from another source. However, the Panel was mindful of the potential consequences of admitting the evidence and in particular the guidance that the Panel must be satisfied either the evidence is demonstrably reliable or that there is some means of testing its reliability, where the evidence could be decisive.

30. In the context of this case, the Registrant faces serious allegations. There are very significant conflicts in evidence, between the Registrant’s account and those of Colleague A, B and C, and an accusation of malice made by the Registrant. In these circumstances, the Panel concluded that it would be wrong to admit the statement as hearsay evidence. The Panel could not be satisfied that Mr Gibbins’ statement was demonstrably reliable or that there was some means of testing its reliability.

31. The Panel reached this conclusion having regard to the material differences between Mr Gibbins’ internal investigatory interview and his witness statement, in relation to the 02 July 2019 allegations. In addition, Mr Gibbins purports to give evidence relating to 28 June 2019 incident in his witness statement but was not asked about this in the internal investigation, for which no explanation has been provided. The Panel has not made any findings of fact yet in this case. However, on the basis of the evidence it has heard, and as Ms Reid submitted, there is at least a plausible argument that Mr Gibbins was not one of the small group of student Paramedics in the cardiovascular assessment on 28 June 2019.

32. In reaching the conclusion to refuse the application to admit Mr Gibbins’ evidence as hearsay evidence, for the reasons set out above, the Panel was satisfied that in all the circumstances, this decision was fair to both the Registrant and the HCPC, noting that the record of Mr Gibbins’ internal investigatory interview, was admissible in evidence and the Registrant could make appropriate submissions in reliance upon it.

33. There was other hearsay evidence in this case, which was admissible, notably the internal interviews with witnesses who had not given evidence. The Panel was very conscious that when a witness has not given oral evidence, this is hearsay evidence. When considering hearsay evidence, the Panel has paid due regard to the weight which it can attach to it, bearing in mind that it has not been possible for that evidence to be challenged or probed.

Decision on Facts

Particular 1(a) Proved

34. The allegation is that on 26 June 2019, the Registrant, in the course of teaching a paramedic class, asked the class for details of their marital/relationship status and or sexual orientation.

35. The evidence in support of this allegation is set out below.

36. Colleague A’s witness statement says:

9. On the 26 June 2019 the cohort had been split in to two groups in order to demonstrate the recovery position. It was one of those demonstrations within the course that had to be completed in order to move on to the next part of the course. I cannot recall exactly how the conversation started, however during this session Richard Maxon asked a student that was sat towards the back of the class if they were married and asked about their sexual orientation. Richard Maxon proceeded to ask the same questions to the remainder of the class, including myself.

10. Richard Maxon asked these questions in a cheeky, arrogant way, almost like he knew he should not have been asking these types of questions, but proceeded to do it anyway. He projected himself as somebody in a position of power in that he could say what he wanted and nothing would happen to him.

11. Although Richard Maxon was always loud and obnoxious, I would say that this was the first time that he managed to involve everyone in an inappropriate conversation, normally he would have just made inappropriate comments. This made me feel uncomfortable and it felt like an intrusion into my private life.

37. In oral evidence Colleague A confirmed her previous account. A similar account was also provided in her internal investigatory interview.

38. Colleague B’s witness statements corroborates this:

9.On the 26 June 2019 I recall that we had finished a practical involving putting people in the recovery position, there were no chairs in the room therefore we were all standing. The class was split in to two therefore there must have been about 10 to 14 people in the room.

10. We were all waiting to go into a different room to participate in basic life support and Richard Maxon was leaning against some chairs, we were having general chit chat. We were all engaged in the conversation as Richard Maxon was talking about his relationship with his wife, he stated that the relationship was not going well for him and that his relationship was not in a good place. Richard Maxon then said “let’s go around the room and you can all tell me what your sexual preferences and marital statuses are”. As Richard Maxon is quite an aggressive and ‘shouty’ person and we were all keen and new to the course, we proceeded to answer his questions; however in hindsight I would not have answered his questions as they were completely irrelevant to the course.

11. I was happy to disclose my sexuality and I am in a relationship; however had I not been I would have felt a bit awkward. Richard Maxon was chatting to us like we were down the pub. I remember and [redacted] being there, as [redacted] made a joke about liking both boys and girls.

39. In oral evidence, Colleague B expressed the opinion that there was no teaching value in asking the questions, which she regarded as “random”. However, she could not recall the specific conversation before this question was asked. She was clear, however, that the issue of demographics was not being discussed.

40. Colleague B also commented in evidence that she would have felt uncomfortable if she had been single, bisexual or gay, in answering the question.

41. Colleague C’s witness statement says:
On the 26 June 2019 I was with half of the cohort, approximately 15-20 people, waiting in a room to participate in a basic life support practical. I recall that Richard Maxon saw a glimpse of CG’s tattoo on the side of her stomach, he then asked her if he could see her tattoo and she reluctantly showed him. Richard Maxon continued to ask CG if she was married or in a relationship and then proceeded to ask the same questions to the whole cohort.
It felt that Richard Maxon was attempting to break the ice by asking these questions, however, this made me feel extremely uncomfortable as I had received my divorce papers that month, it was unpleasant and messy divorce therefore I was worried that he would ask me any further questions…

42. Colleague C, in oral evidence, was unable to recall the conversation before the questions were asked and was unaware of any teaching based reason for doing so. In her view, the questions were being used as an ice-breaker. She agreed, when asked in cross-examination, there was no compulsion on her to reply to the Registrant’s question. She did not recall there being any explanation as to why the question was asked.

43. The above accounts are also corroborated by:

a. Colleague A’s original complaint dated 10 July 2019, where she states “RM randomly asked each class member, in turn, their marital/relationship status and sexual orientation. Everyone answered but were [sic] clearly uncomfortable. I felt uncomfortable as I thought it was an inappropriate intrusion into my private life.”

b. The internal investigation interview undertaken by Mr Lambert with Colleague A, on 02 August 2019. Her account is similar to that provided in her witness evidence.

c. The internal investigation interview undertaken by Mr Lambert with Colleague B. Her account corroborates that provided in her witness evidence.

d. There is further corroboration from other students present, who were interviewed by Mr Lambert, namely MG, MC, KC and CG.

44. The Registrant admitted this allegation but sought to place his comments in context.

45. The Registrant’s witness evidence for the internal investigation stated:
…I then said that I understand it can be difficult to ask but I generally read the situation and ask different patients in a number of different ways, for instance a younger person I would possibly ask "do you like boys, girls or both" elder people I would be more formal with, I also show the EPR and explain why we are asking the questions.
I then went through and asked all the students the question of their status etc, this was done as a demonstration to show how I ask, and all students were asked the same questions.
At no point during the session was it apparent that anyone felt uncomfortable asking, throughout the answers it was light hearted and joking and people were relaxed.

46. In the investigation interview, the Registrant admitted asking the question, but added:
I just don't understand how asking a generic question about someone can make them feel that it's an intrusion into their private life. It's no different when I interview for SCAS, the first question I ask is 'tell me about yourself so most people when you ask that question would normally say 'well I'm so and so, I am x years old, I married, 2 kids' that's a general response to a question. When I work on a truck, and I work with someone new, during a shift, I ask married with kids? That's not an unusual question to ask somebody, so I don't see how me asking somebody that question can be deemed to be sexually inappropriate. There is no sexual innuendo in there whatsoever at all, there's no, I'm not, I just don't get it.

47. The Registrant’s account in his witness statement for these proceedings was:

9. I accept whilst teaching a class I asked details of their marital/relationship status and sexual orientation. I have previously used the same teaching method on several previous cohorts without being made aware that this could cause offence or upset. I did this in the context of discussing the relevance of completing the demographic fields on electronic patient records (EPR)…

…11. Upon reflection I understand that in asking this open question in a group forum as I did, this has had the impact of making some people uncomfortable and the questions seem intrusive. Being made aware of this, I accept that this was not the correct way to go about explaining the importance of completion of these standard fields. I have already changed my way of explaining why we ask these questions and now utilise examples that do not include asking anybody about their personal information.

48. In oral evidence, the Registrant said that the context to asking the questions was his referral to filling out an EPR, which contains personal information which must be obtained, including ethnicity, religion/belief and sexual orientation. The Registrant stated that these are national demographics, and are relevant, to allow national resources to be directed to certain geographical areas, where for example, there might be higher rates of some diseases (i.e. diabetes) found in certain ethnic minority groups, or a higher rate of homosexuality, (leading to a higher rate of sexually transmitted diseases) and referred to Andover, Southall and Soho. He accepted that in hindsight asking students about their personal life might have caused upset and he has changed the way he teaches. This issue had never previously been raised with him. In answer to Panel questions, he confirmed this conversation would have about the same time it took to explain this in evidence, which was approximately 12 minutes.

49. In cross-examination, it was pointed out that the questions asked by the Registrant were not the same as the EPR questions, which do not require married status. The Registrant’s evidence was that this was akin to asking about next of kin.

50. The Registrant relied on 3 redacted (and hence anonymous) questionnaires from previous students (between September 2018-July 2019) in support of his assertion that he discussed demographical information in relation to electronic patient records. However, this evidence did not relate directly to the 26 June 2019.

51. In hindsight, the Registrant conceded that it would have been better to have simply asked students how they would feel about being asked the question, as opposed to asking the question directly to the students.

52. Ms Reid’s submission invited the Panel to reject the Registrant’s account, pointing out that not a single student who was interviewed recalled the explanation which the Registrant has advanced. She asserted that the Registrant did not make his “pedagogical purpose clear to any of the students present that day” and that even if he had “…in mind, he certainly did not communicate this purpose to the group of students present on that day in any way…”

53. Mr Lo’s submission was that the conversation had begun when one of the students had asked him about his marital status. He submitted that because none of the three witnesses were able to recall how the conversation started, that there was no “…evidence which decisively contradicts the Registrant’s averment that some other student first broached the topic of relationship status, or that the Registrant used this as an opportunity to explore with the class the issues arising from EPR questions.”

54. The Panel find this particular proved, based on the witness and interview evidence set out above and on the Registrant’s admission.

55. The Panel rejected the Registrant’s evidence regarding the context of the conversation. There was no corroborating evidence to support this assertion. The Panel concluded that had a 12-minute explanation been provided, then at least one of the witnesses or students interviewed would have recalled at least some aspect of the explanation. The absence of any such reference undermines the credibility of the Registrant’s evidence on this issue.

56. In evidence, the Registrant denied that the context of the questions was the explanation as advanced in Colleague C’s evidence, that he had asked to see a student’s tattoo. The Panel finds, on balance, that Colleague’s C’s recollection is more likely to be accurate.

Allegation 1(b)(i) & (ii) Proved

57. The allegation is that on 28 June 2019, the Registrant said (i) “is that going to ruin your image of her Colleague D, later on tonight” or words to that effect; and (ii). rubbed your legs in a suggestive manner.

58. The evidence in support of this allegation is set out below.

59. Colleague A’s witness evidence (paragraphs 12-16):

12.On the 28 June 2019 I recall that as a class we were practicing the cardiovascular assessment on each other. A cardiovascular assessment involves visual inspection of the upper body (face, neck, torso), auscultating with the use of a stethoscope and palpating different parts of the body in order to assess heart health and function. The cohort had split in to four or five smaller groups and each group went into a room with one of the lecturers. You could split the room into smaller rooms, and there was a hospital bed in each room.

13. I was in a group with Colleague D, Colleague B, Colleague C and three others (I cannot recall their names), and Richard Maxon was the lecturer.

14. I volunteered to do the cardiovascular assessment on one of the other students, I cannot recall his name. I was not feeling well on this day as I had a cold, I kept sneezing and sniffling and everyone was giggling. I apologised for my cold to the person that I was practicing the assessment on and everyone laughed. Richard Maxon then turned to Colleague D and said, C.D. “is this going to ruin your image of her tonight?” Richard Maxon then rubbed his hands up and down his legs suggestively.

15. I know Colleague D as we had previously worked in the same area. I was very embarrassed and Richard Maxon’s comment made me feel dirty, it was extremely unprofessional. Colleague D and I both blushed and Richard Maxon commented on how red we had both gone

16. I remember looking at Colleague B and she had her eyebrows raised, she was also very shocked by this comment.

60. In her internal investigation interview, Colleague A was very clear about how she regarded the Registrant’s comment: “I took it to mean, so that [redacted] could masturbate to me that night.” When asked how she felt about this comment, she replied: “Mortified, especially as [redacted] was in the room, he is an older gentleman like a dad figure and he was embarrassed, I felt humiliated and upset I was made to feel this way.”

61. Colleague A’s oral evidence was consistent with her written evidence. She was asked what she took Mr Maxon’s comment to mean and replied: “Well he was rubbing his thigh suggestively at the time so I took that to mean that it would ruin my colleague’s image of me later while he was pleasuring himself.”

62. The above evidence is also consistent with Colleague A’s original complaint dated 10 July 2019, (paragraph 2): “The second incident occurred on Friday 28/6/2019, between 1500 and 1700...I volunteered to do a cardiovascular assessment on one of the others (who had agreed to be the patient). RM said something to me, and I replied, ‘I am sorry I have a cold and am very snotty. Colleague D, who was standing to one side watching, laughed at what I had said. RM then said, ‘Is that going to ruin your image of her [redacted], later on tonight’ As he was saying this, he was rubbing both of his hands down the top part of his thighs, with a suggestive expression on his face. I was embarrassed and blushed.”

63. Colleague B’s witness evidence was (paragraph 13):
Colleague A doing the assessment on [redacted] and I remember her having a cold and a runny nose. Richard Maxon was making fun of as she was touching [redacted]’s chest, she then said “don’t pick on me, I am full of snot” Richard proceeded to bend down and rub his thighs and said “I am going to go home tonight and think about all that snot.” He said this in a jovial, jokey way. Although it was a leery comment, the tone was not leery; I think he was trying to act like one of the lads. I recall blushing badly at this point. Everyone felt very uncomfortable, it was extremely awkward.

64. In re-examination, Colleague B confirmed that the actual words used by the Registrant, were more likely to be the ones she had used the internal interview, which are: Richard was then rubbing his thighs saying something like “your gonna go home tonight and think oooh [redacted] snot…” It was put to Colleague B that the seriousness of the incident had been escalated in her witness statement – the reference to the Registrant thinking about Colleague A being more serious, than another student, to which she agreed.

65. Colleague B agreed there was a significant discrepancy between the words alleged to have been used by the Registrant, as recalled by Colleague A and Colleague B. Her explanation was that the conversation had gone on for a few minutes and that each had recalled different parts of the conversation.

66. In oral evidence, Colleague B’s evidence was that she thought that the Registrant’s comment/actions were “jokey” and were not intended to be sexual, despite the nature of the comment which she regarded him as alluding to be being “turned on” by snot. It was an uncomfortable situation as she felt that the professional relationship between a tutor and students was blurred, by the Registrant’s actions.

67. Colleague C’s witness evidence is (paragraph 14)
During the demonstration Richard Maxon was making fun of Colleague A he was jokingly saying that she fancied the student that was pretending to be the patient. He then commented on the fact that Colleague A was sniffing and she stated that she could not help it as she was full of snot. Richard Maxon replied in a jokingly was saying "that is going to ruin my image of you later" and then rubbed his legs by saying "phwooar''. I can't remember what tone he said this in.

68. When asked in oral evidence about whether the Registrant used the word “my” as opposed to “your” in the above comments, she replied that she could not be certain, but it was words along those lines. Colleague C accepted there was an inconsistency as between her account of what said and the other witnesses, and simply noted that she could not remember as it was two and a half years ago.

69. In Colleague C’s internal interview, she said: “[Redacted] offered to do the assessment, I don’t know whether it was said do you want to volunteer, but nobody was going to volunteer so I think she just did. She had a cold so was sniffling and sniffing, I think Richard made a comment about her sniffing and coughing, she said I can’t help it if I’m full of snot, and then Richard said something along the lines of ‘that’s going to ruin my image of you later’ and rubbed his hands up and down his legs and went ‘phwoar’ (noise)and everybody was pretty much silent after that… quite an uncomfortable atmosphere, I think everyone felt a bit uncomfortable about it.”

70. The Registrant has consistently denied this allegation:

(a) In his statement for the internal investigation, he states that he could not recall any comments on 28 June 2019 which were offensive.

(b) In the internal investigation interview, when the allegation was put to him, the Registrant replied:

• “I don’t remember that happening.”
• He later added: “…I don't recall saying that, if I had of said it, it would have been said in a joking way, but I don't remember saying it so (pause)-look I have been teaching there for 16 months and the way I am hasn't changed, so for 1 person out of over 200 to believe I have some sexual interest I think is rather sick…”
• When it was suggested to him that the individual had a pale complexion and had gone red; that another witness had blushed and that the Registrant had commented “how red have you too gone,” he replied that “again I don’t remember it.”

71. In his witness statement for these proceedings, the Registrant stated: “I absolutely refute making the comment,” (paragraph 17) and noting: I would not make this comment as I would perceive this to be wholly inappropriate, grossly offensive and demeaning. To place any person in the presence of this comment would be wrong and then coupled with that the additional stresses of starting a new extremely challenging course and being at a new place around people you do not know from different areas would compound this hugely” (paragraph 19).

72. He also denied rubbing his legs in a suggestive manner: “I absolutely refute this happening” (paragraph 21) and “I can whole heartedly state that this type of action would be shocking and offensive, it would not only be that but would also destroy boundaries and would in no doubt make any person feel vulnerable and in an unsafe environment. It would destroy confidence in my position as a lecturer and alienate the students” (paragraph 23).

73. This denial was maintained in the Registrant’s oral evidence, relating to both his alleged words and actions in rubbing his legs. There is no work context in which this behaviour would be acceptable. He described it as being “off the scale.” Although denying the incident took place, did say that if it did happen, the context was a jokey “Benny Hill” manner.

74. When the Registrant was asked by the Panel about the differences in his account, pointing out that there was a difference between not remembering it, and a clear denial that it did not happen, the Registrant’s account was that he had no recollection of this incident, and therefore he refuted it had happened. He did not think there was any difference in his accounts, and to suggest anything else was a “play on words.”

75. In oral evidence, the Registrant pointed out that students were split between rooms for the practical exercise and could choose which room to enter, knowing who the tutor was going to be. The implication is that Colleagues A, B and C, were comfortable in choosing to enter the room where the Registrant was working.

76. In support of his denial, the Registrant sought to rely on the internal investigatory interviews with DD, who is recorded as not being able to recall any inappropriate comments being made in the cardiovascular assessment on 28 June 2019, although the specific allegation was not put to DD for comment, by Mr Lambert. The Registrant’s case is that room was relatively small and the six people in the room were in close proximity (2.5 metres) when the alleged comment was made, and hence, if it had been said, DD would have heard it.

77. When Colleague A was cross-examined it was suggested that the allegation that the Registrant had rubbed his thighs in a suggestive manner did not feature in her internal interview, and that this was a significant omission, given the shocking nature of the Registrant’s actions. Colleague A’s evidence was that, although the allegation was read out, she was not asked directly about this issue. However, she did point out that her account had not changed, as she had included this allegation in her original complaint, dated 10 July 2019: “…As he was saying this, he was rubbing both his hands down the top of his thighs with a suggestive expression in his face.”

78. The Registrant sought to cast further doubt on Colleague A’s account by suggesting that it was after this session, at approximately 3pm, on 28 June 2019 that he had given Colleagues A, B and C a lift in his car to the park and ride, pointing out that Colleague B’s recollection was that it had been Colleague A who made the request. The implication was that she would not have done so, had the Registrant made the comments.

79. Colleague A accepted that she had accepted a lift from the Registrant, but her evidence was that this was the week before around 21 June 2019. The Registrant’s case is that he was teaching on 21 June 2019 and hence Colleague A was mistaken. He relied on his university timetable to assert he was teaching on 21 June 2019, between 1 and 4pm. He also suggested that on 21 June 2019, given the geography of the university, and St Andrew’s Court, he would not have had cause to pass the location where he picked up Colleagues A, B and C, when walking back towards his parked car.

80. Colleague B, in oral evidence, confirmed that she thought that it was Colleague A who had requested the lift from the Registrant. She thought the lift was provided on the Friday afternoon of the first week of the course. She was clear that the lift had not been provided on 28 June 2019. She recalled that there had been a discussion in the car about the fact that the Registrant was working a shift over the weekend, and this was also discussed the following Monday, asking him how it had gone.

81. Ms Reid submitted that Colleagues A, B and C had given consistent, credible and detailed accounts of the incident. It is very unlikely that all 3 witnesses have fabricated their accounts of the incident. In oral submissions, she argued that the slight difference in recollection of the precise words used did not undermine their overall credibility and that some variation was to be expected, given the passage in time, since the incident occurred.

82. Mr Lo, on behalf of the Registrant, submitted that the HCPC had failed to discharge the burden of proof as to what was allegedly said by the Registrant, in light of the material inconsistencies between the witnesses. He argued that DD’s lack of recollection supports the Registrant’s assertion that no inappropriate comments were made.

83. The Panel founds allegation (i) and (ii) proved. Although the precise words used by the Registrant were recalled slightly differently, the Panel did not think this undermined the overall credibility of Colleagues A, B or C. The Panel rejected the notion that the accounts were so inconsistent that no weight could be placed upon them. The accounts are broadly similar and some slight variation in recollection is to be expected given the time which has subsequently passed since June 2019.

84. The Panel further concluded that the differences in recollection were evidence of witnesses trying to honestly recall what had happened. The Panel would have been more troubled had the accounts been identical, as this might have suggested some degree of collusion. The Panel placed little weight on the hearsay interview with DD, as his evidence had not been tested. The Panel accepted Ms Reid’s submission, that it is more likely that DD did not hear the comment, did not find it offensive, or was simply unable to recall it, as opposed to the three witnesses fabricating their evidence on this issue.

85. When weighing the broadly consistent evidence from Colleagues A, B and C, with the Registrant’s denial, the Panel preferred the evidence from the HCPC. There is no suggestion that Colleagues A, B or C could have misinterpreted what was said. The options are stark: either the witnesses fabricated the allegation, or it is true.

86. The Registrant could offer no explanation as to why Colleagues A, B and C would fabricate their accounts, and whilst noting they had spent “hours together in a car” commuting, giving them chance to “embellish” their evidence, he stopped short, in oral evidence, of calling them liars.

87. In contrast, as submitted by Ms Reid, the Registrant had a clear motive for denying this particular, as he now recognises that his conduct was highly inappropriate and crossed professional boundaries.

88. However, in his internal investigation interview, the Registrant makes a clear allegation of malice:
From the point of view, you know, the whole point is it appears to me, it seems like it has become targeted, the reason I say that is that she claims I have made her feel uncomfortable with the first event, which was the 26th I believe, but hasn't raised it, and she has then got in my car with her 2 friends and then 2 days later, she has purposely, and there is no other way to describe it, she has purposely put herself in to a lesson with me where she could have gone with 3 other lecturers, now the question I have got in my head is why has she done that, because that's not, her going with another lecturer wouldn't have raised any suspicions with me, why did she come to me, because the groups can choose to go, she has, she has actively put herself in the room with me and she has been documenting all of this, now if you feel uncomfortable with somebody the policy says you should raise this at the earliest opportunity and if you don't feel comfortable with raising it with me, you should go to one of my colleagues she hasn't done that, this has happened over a course of 3 weeks, she has actively pursued what I would class with malice, in my opinion, to put herself in a position where she feels perhaps maybe she can get stuff on me

89. When asked by the Panel, whether the Registrant’s case is that Colleague A had deliberately sought to target him, the Registrant pointed to Colleague A choosing to sit next to him, when she had no need to do so. When pressed, he confirmed that Colleague A’s actions were deliberate, but he could not provide any reason or motivation for her to do so.

90. The Panel found on balance that it is unlikely that the Registrant gave a lift to Colleagues A, B or C on 28 June 2019. There was compelling detailed evidence from Colleague B that this occurred on a Friday afternoon, given the discussion about the Registrant working a shift over the weekend.

Allegation 1(c)(i) Proved

91. The allegation is that on 02 July 2019, that the Registrant commented on whether Colleague A had shaved her legs.

92. The evidence in support of this allegation is set out below.

93. Colleague A’s account in her witness statement is (paragraph 17):
During the lesson on the 2 July 2020 we were going to be discussing and looking at sites where we would demonstrate intra-osseous (IO) access. Richard Maxon was looking for a volunteer in the class to sit on the floor so that other students could practice locating the IO site. He asked me if I had shaved my legs, which I responded to with ‘yes’. This makes me feel stupid now as I should not have had to reply. He then asked if I would volunteer to sit on the floor. I would never volunteer to get my legs out; therefore I said that I did not want to. I also knew that if I was to expose my legs for the purpose of the demonstration, Richard Maxon would have laid his hands on me and I did not want this to happen.

94. In oral evidence, Colleague A described being asked twice to volunteer. She had replied no initially. She felt there was an element of pressure on her, noting that an alternative volunteer was not sought. She had only sat on the chair closest to the Registrant, as it was the only chair left, after she had returned from the bathroom. She was asked, how she felt about being asked whether she shaved her legs and replied: Embarrassed. Embarrassed, belittled, angry that I was put in that situation and then answered.”

95. Colleague A’s witness and oral evidence is consistent with her original complaint: “RM said to me ‘Have you shaved your legs?’ I reluctantly replied that I had. I felt that I had been put on the spot. He said I should be the one to expose my legs in order to demonstrate the correct placement for the IO needle. I said I did not want to do this, believing he would have to touch me to do the demonstration. By this time, I felt uncomfortable at that thought. He insisted and I felt I had to go through with it.”

96. A consistent account was also provided in Colleague A’s internal interview: “I had gone to the bathroom at the beginning of the session so when I returned there was only one seat left. RM then asked me ‘have you shaved your legs’ I was embarrassed and felt that it was in preparation for RM to ask me to get my legs out for the demonstration, which I didn’t want to do . . . I said no, I didn’t want to do that, RM them said, ‘yeah go on, get your legs out’ I said fine, I’ll do it, I realise it’s a course where some skin might be needed to be shown, I felt getting my legs out was the least I could do.”

97. The allegation was also corroborated by Colleague B in her witness statement (paragraph 17):
We then proceeded on to a landmarking assessment, which is when you feel a part of a bone to ensure that the IO needle enters the correct part of the bone. One of the landmark locations is on the shin. Richard Maxon singled out Colleague A to sit on the floor to demonstrate the assessment; however Colleague A did not want to do it because said she did not want to be the one to do the demonstration. Despite this, Richard Maxon insisted that Colleague A sat on the floor. I do not recall what he said, just that he wouldn’t take no for an answer. She reluctantly sat on the floor as she is not the sort of person to cause a scene

98. In oral evidence, Colleague B said that the Registrant insisted that Colleague A undertake the demonstration. No one else was asked to volunteer, even after Colleague A had said she did not want to do it.

99. Colleague B also said, in her oral evidence, that after touching Colleague A’s leg, that the Registrant “remarked on how smooth her legs were and was glad that she had shaved her legs.”

100. This is consistent with the account in Colleague B’s internal interview, where she said: “…He made a comment about her smooth skin and that he was glad she has shaved her legs.”

101. Colleague B was asked in her evidence why this comment was not referred to in her witness statement for these proceedings, to which she replied it was an omission and that the comment was definitely made by the Registrant. In cross-examination, she said that her witness statement had been taken by telephone and this might explain why this issue had been missed.

102. Colleague C’s evidence does not directly corroborate the allegation, although she did say in her internal interview: “… so he … said to [redacted] can you roll your trouser up, oh no first of all he said can you get on the floor, and um, no he said can you roll your trouser up and I will show it on you, she said I don’t want to, he said come on roll your trouser up and get on the floor, she said I don’t want to, anyway he said come on…

103. The Registrant admitted this allegation. In his witness evidence for the internal investigation he stated:
As with the previous sessions I demonstrated the use of the EZ-10 on an egg to show how gentle it can be and then got the students to do the same, I was talking to the students about the rights of access when and how's and advocated that they should all attend a Teleflex cadaver day to practice and also download the app.
As with the previous groups I asked the person sitting next to me to be a volunteer to demonstrate on the placement on the tibial plateau and maleosis, I made a joking comment saying not too hairy are they in relation to their lower legs…

104. When interviewed, in the internal investigation, the Registrant also admitted that he had made the comment, but asserted that this was “just a bit of an ice breaker, not sexual…”

105. In his witness statement for the final hearing, the Registrant says (paragraph 13-16):

13 I acknowledge that I made a comment regarding the Complainant having ‘shaved her legs’. Prior to the class starting, Colleague A walked in the room and sat next to me I asked if she would take part in demonstrating intra-osseous access as I had also asked the people that had sat next to me in previous classes (who were both male and female) …

16 Upon reflection I now accept that it was an ill-judged comment which I wouldn’t repeat and having taken a lot of time looking back on the situation I accept, was wholly inappropriate. Should the same situation ever arise again I would of course not make such a comment but would simply ask the group for a volunteer.

106. The Registrant had drawn a diagram of the room where the incident on 02 July took place. His evidence was that the room was relatively small and that other members of the group would have been able to hear any of the comments he is alleged to have made.

107. In oral evidence, the Registrant stated that Colleague A had entered the room first and had taken the seat closest to where he was sitting. He had no preference as to who volunteered, he simply asked the person who was sitting next to him, who happened to be Colleague A. Her response, when asked, was “I’d rather not”. The Registrant regarded this response as nonchalant, rather than a definite refusal. Colleague A appeared a little uncomfortable and he responded, perhaps as an ice-breaker was, “have you not shaved your legs?” In cross-examination, the Registrant said he had previously made a similar remark to a male volunteer, to the effect, “you might want to shave your legs,” again as an ice-breaker.

108. The Registrant’s position is that he now understands that such a personal comment might cause someone to become upset or discomfort. He would have apologised if he had known he had caused offence and had a three-way discussion with the course lead. He would now ask for a volunteer for the group, having informed them what was required, and if someone expressed unease, he would have said this was not an issue, and asked for an alternative volunteer. In hindsight, the Registrant accepted that he should not have asked Colleague A on a second occasion.

109. Mr Lo’s submission was that the comment “was meant to be light-hearted humour, intended to break the ice and put her at ease”.

110. The Panel found this allegation proved on the basis of the evidence set out above and on the Registrant’s admission.

Allegation 1(c) (ii) Proved

111. The allegation is that on 02 July 2019, the Registrant said: “you must make your fella happy at home, oh wait you’re single aren’t you?”; or words to that effect.

112. The evidence in support of the allegation is set out below.

113. Colleague A’s witness statement (paragraph 18):
…As I sat down, Richard Maxon looked at me with a surprised look and said “what was that?!” I asked what, and he replied saying “well you know, the way you just sat down, you must make your fella happy at home! Oh no wait, you’re single aren’t you?” It had not even crossed my mind that I had sat in a funny way. I felt really humiliated. I did not say anything to him at this point, we proceeded with the demonstration...”

114. Colleague A’s account in her original complaint is consistent with her witness statement: “He told me to sit on the floor. The way I always sit on the floor from standing is by splaying my feet, putting my knees together and slowly lowering my bottom to the ground, without using my hands. I have done this since I was 13 and injured my back doing gymnastics. RM made a big show of surprise and said, ‘What was that?’ I said, ‘What was what?’ RM said, ‘The way you sat down.’ I said, ‘I have always sat down like that.’ RM then said, ‘You must make your fella happy at home, oh no, wait, you’re single aren’t you?’ He then asked me to roll up both trouser legs.”

115. In her internal interview, Colleague A confirmed that she had not discussed whether she was single with the Registrant. However, he knew that she was single, from his earlier question regarding marital status.

116. Colleague A’s oral evidence was very similar: “I just sat down on the floor and I don’t think there’s any—a weird way with how I sit down on the floor but I just kind of lowered myself down on to the floor and he kind of immediately made a comment about it and said, ‘What was that?’ and I was a bit – it really had not even occurred to me that there was anything strange about how I sat on the floor, but I said ‘What was what?’ and he said ‘Oh, the way you sat on the floor. You must make your fella happy at home’ and then ‘Oh no, you’re single, aren’t you?’”

117. Colleague B’s witness statement states (paragraph 18):
Colleague A has an odd way of sitting down, she puts her knees together, her feet then splay out to the side, knees go down to the floor and then she swings her feet around to the front, so she is sitting on the floor with her legs out in front. This took everyone by surprise, especially Richard Maxon as he commented on the fact that she must be double jointed and that her ‘fella’ was very lucky, but then said “oh no that’s not right, you’re single aren’t you”. I think he was insinuating that as she was a flexible girl sex must be fun in her house.

118. When interviewed, Colleague B stated: “[Redacted] had to sit on the floor. She was like why do I have to sit on the floor. She is a bit flexible and sat with her legs at the side. He said oh my god I bet you make your fella happy, are you double jointed. Then he said ah you don’t have a boyfriend as your [sic] single aren’t you.”

119. Colleague B in cross-examination was challenged on the accuracy of her recollection. She was adamant that the Registrant has referred to Colleague A as being “double jointed.”

120. When asked what she thought the Registrant had meant about being “lucky”, she replied: “I think he was insinuating that she was flexible and so, you know, might be able to get into positions. It was definitely in a sexual manner that he was referring to that.”

121. Colleague C’s witness evidence: (paragraph 16):
On the 2 July 2020 [corrected to 2019] Richard Maxon was demonstrating to the class where the landmarks are on the leg to perform an intra-osseous (IO) access…he asked Colleague A to get onto the floor and roll up her trousers, she did this in a very odd way and everyone was laughing. Colleague A got onto the floor by bending legs outwards and going down onto her knees. Richard Maxon commented “Oh I bet your boyfriend loves you, oh no you haven’t got a boyfriend”, he must have remembered this from when he asked the class as to whether we were in a relationship.

122. In her internal interview, Colleague C said: “So he was explaining about on the knee, and said to [redacted] can you roll your trouser up, oh no first of all he said can you get on the floor, and, um, no he 18 | Page said can you roll your trouser up and I will show it on you, she said I don’t want to, he said come on roll your trouser up and get on the floor, she said I don’t want to, anyway he said come on and then she got on the floor in a really weird way on to the floor, so like I couldn’t do it she bent her legs out like that and went down on her knees, and Richard said I bet your boyfriend loves you, and sort of people laughed about how she got on the floor, then he said that, then he said oh no wait you haven’t got a boyfriend..”

123. In oral evidence, Colleague C was unsure of the precise words used, but stated that they were “along those lines.” She thought the reference to being flexible was suggestive that “a man might find that a good thing.” In cross-examination, when the inconsistency as to the precise words used, as between the witnesses was put to her, she noted that there were different recollections, and that the interviews were sometime after the incident, and it was hard to recall what was said word for word. When it was suggested to her that the Registrant had not made the comments alleged, and there was no sexual connotation, she said she could not remember.

124. The Registrant denied this allegation.

125. In the internal investigation interview, when the allegation was put to him, he replied: “No, I don’t remember saying that”. He did describe the manner in which Colleague A sat down:
When she went to sit down, I have never seen anything like it. Punch and Judy, the puppets, the way their legs go out like that and then they go down, that's how she sat down and myself and the others all looked at each other, her 2 friends looked at each other, and there was a bit of laughter, as when she first sat down everyone was like wow, she asked what, I said I am sure you have brought a smile to people's faces, as it was a very strange way to sit down, and sort of when up and down like that, like on a spring, she then moved in a way that I can only describe as a puppet on a spring, I said I'm sure that has brought a smile to everyone's faces, but it is what it is.

126. In the Registrant’s witness statement for these proceedings, he denied making the alleged comments, stating “I absolutely refute making the comment” (paragraph 27) and added: “I would not make this comment as I would perceive this to be wholly inappropriate, grossly offensive and demeaning” (paragraph 27).

127. The Registrant confirmed in his oral evidence that his only comment, when Colleague A had sat down, was “I'm sure that has brought a smile to everyone's faces.” He did not make the alleged comments which would never be acceptable in a professional environment.

128. In support of his denial, the Registrant relied on the internal interviews with MC and Mr Gibbins. MC’s response, when asked whether any comment was made by the Registrant or anyone else in the room, after Colleague A had sat down was: “No I am sure they probably said something but I can’t remember.”

129. Mr Gibbins, when interviewed, in the internal investigation, was asked whether he could recall any comment being made or an interesting way that a person sat on the floor? He replied, “Not that I recall”.

130. Ms Reid, on behalf of the HCPC, submitted that that there was no credible explanation as to why Colleagues A, B and C would fabricate such an account. They had a clear and truthful recollection of an inappropriate comment being made, which was obviously sexual in nature.

131. Mr Lo, on behalf of the Registrant, submitted that there were inconsistencies in the account which had been given, and that this undermined the credibility of the witnesses. For example, only Colleague B referred to the Registrant saying that Colleague A was “double jointed”. He also referred to inconsistencies as to whether it was another student (MC) who was initially demonstrating the IO technique. These differences were so significant they could not be explained away by the passage of time. The “limited coincidence in wording between the accounts of Colleagues A, B and C, serious doubt may be cast upon the validity of this allegation.”

132. He also sought to rely on the fact that MC and MG were unable to recall, when interviewed, any inappropriate comments. He submitted that, given the “alleged acts were very unprofessional and shocking in nature. It is therefore probable that, if they had witnessed the alleged acts, they would have reported them to Mr Lambert.”

133. The Panel found the allegation proved.

134. Although the precise words used by the Registrant were recalled slightly differently, the Panel did not think this undermined the overall credibility of Colleagues A, B or C. All three recalled a phrase being used which implied that Colleague A’s partner would be happy/lucky or words to that effect, having been triggered by the unusual way she sat down, and then the Registrant clarifying that Colleague A was in fact single.

135. The Panel was conscious of the time which has passed since the incident and concluded that witnesses accounts were truthful and broadly corroborated each other. As above, the Panel would have more reservations, had the accounts been identical, suggesting some level of collusion.

136. The Panel rejected the submission that the burden of proof had not been discharged, as a result of the slightly inconsistent accounts. The Panel concluded that it was more likely that the comment had been made, than that the three witnesses would fabricate, without apparent motive, such an assertion. Colleague A’s evidence that she felt humiliated and degraded by the Registrant’s comment had a clear ring of truth about it.

137. The Panel was unable to place any significant weight on the internal interviews with MG and MC, as they did not give evidence. It is also possible that comments were made which they did not hear.

138. The Panel accepted the submission made by Ms Reid that the Registrant had a clear motive to deny the allegation, given the serious and inappropriate sexual nature of the comment, which he accepted would amount to wholly unacceptable conduct.

Allegation 1(c)(iii) Proved

139. The allegation is that pm 02 July 2019, that the Registrant said “while you’re down there love” or words to that effect.

140. The evidence in support of this allegation is set out below:

141. Colleague A’s witness statement:

21. A short while after we finished the demonstrations, Richard Maxon asked somebody in the class to pass him a syringe. The syringe was thrown gently, underarm across the room by Max Gibbins and it landed next to Richard Maxon, I was set next to him on a chair at this point therefore I bent down to pick up the syringe. As I did this, Richard Maxon commented saying “whilst you’re down there love”, in a suggestive and dirty manner. Nobody in the classroom laughed and again, I was very embarrassed. I had reached the end of my tether at this point therefore I did not react. I sat up and gave him the syringe

142. This account is consistent with the answers given in her internal interview, where she describes feeling, “Disgusted, Humiliated, Belittled, demeaned, never felt so demeaned or humiliated in my life.”

143. It is also consistent with the original complaint made by Colleague A: “A short while after this he asked someone to pass him a syringe and whoever it was, threw it. It landed on the floor in front of RM who was sitting on a chair. I was sitting near him and so that he could continue with the demonstration I bent down and picked it up. As I bent over slightly to one side of him, he said ‘While you’re down there love.’ I took this to be a reference to me performing oral sex on him. I couldn’t look up, I just continued looking at the floor. Nobody in the group laughed.”

144. In oral evidence, Colleague A described the comment being made in a tone which was “dirty.” In cross-examination, it was suggested that neither the manner in which the comment was made, or the suggestion that the comment referred to oral sex, were made in the internal interview. Colleague A pointed out that she had made reference to oral sex in her original complaint: “I took this be a reference to me performing oral sex on him.”

145. It was suggested in cross-examination that Colleague A’s witness statement had been embellished and been exaggerated, in relation to the tone of the comments. She denied this and pointed out this was not an easy subject to discuss when being interviewed. In re-examination, she confirmed she had not been asked in the internal interview specifically about the tone in which the Registrant made the comment or the reference to oral sex. Rather it appears that Mr Lambert’s questions were limited to reading out Colleague A’s original complaint, and then asked her how she felt about it.

146. Colleague B’s witness statement says (paragraph 20):
Later on in the same session Colleague A had asked for a syringe and a student in the class threw it across the room and it landed on the floor. bent down to pick it up and Richard Maxon said “whilst you’re down there love”. This was clearly inappropriate, he probably thought that he was having banter with her, however she was clearly embarrassed. was red in the face, I could see she was embarrassed and the whole room felt awkward.

147. This is also consistent with Colleague B’s internal interview: “There was also an incident where [redacted] sat next to Richard and [redacted] asked for a syringe. Richard threw it and [redacted] reached down to get it and he said ‘while you’re down there love’ intimating she should give him oral sex as she was at [h]is groin level. We kind of eyeballed each other across the room.”

148. In oral evidence, Colleague B said: “So Colleague A, she bent down to pick it up. It landed by Richard’s feet and then he made the comment, ‘Whilst you’re down there, love.’ . . . My understanding of somebody who is saying ‘whilst you’re down there, love’ means that, while you’ve got your face in line with my groin area . . . He was insinuating that she might give him oral sex.”

149. The Registrant denies this allegation.

150. In his internal investigation interview, the Registrant replied, when the allegation was put to him, “are you having a laugh”. He later added: “no I don't remember saying it, fucks sake if I have made any comments like that as with everything they're joking, as I've said if in a room of 5-6 people that's just messroom banter if it was said but I don't believe that I have said it…”

151. The Registrant’s witness statement for these proceedings denies this allegation: “I absolutely refute making the comment” (paragraph 31) and notes that such a comment would be “shocking and offensive,” would “destroy boundaries” and “would in no doubt make any person feel vulnerable and in an unsafe environment” (paragraph 32).

152. In oral evidence, the Registrant remembered Max Gibbins throwing the syringe, but denied making the comment, which was suggestive and unacceptable in a professional context. He said, “It’s just not going to happen”.

153. In support of his denial, the Registrant relied on the internal interviews with MC and Mr Gibbins. MC makes no reference to this incident in his internal interview. Mr Gibbins, in his internal interview recalls that he “chucked” the syringe to the Registrant. He was asked if any comments were made after the syringe had been passed to him, in regard to either him or anyone else, and he replied, “No”.

154. Ms Reid, on behalf of the HCPC submitted that it was far more plausible that the Registrant did make this comment than that both Colleague A and Colleague B have simply fabricated it. There was little room of misinterpretation, given that the Registrant’s denial that any comment of this nature was made. She submitted that if the Registrant’s account was accepted, the inevitable corollary was that Colleague A and B had created a “malicious fabrication”. This was not plausible, as there was no motive to do so. It was also significant that Colleague C did not hear the comments, as if they were fabricated, surely all three would give similar accounts, to boost their evidence.

155. Mr Lo, on behalf of the Registrant, submitted as above, that the HCPC had not proven its case, noting there was an inconsistency as to who threw syringe, and that neither Colleague C, or MC or MG heard the alleged comment.

156. The Panel found the allegation proved.

157. The Panel concluded that the allegation was supported by the evidence of Colleagues A and B, that an inappropriate sexual comment was made, as Colleague A bent down to pick up the syringe, at a point where her head would have been close to the Registrant’s groin. The Panel concluded there was a clear pattern of behaviour on the part of the Registrant.

158. The Panel felt that nothing turned on the inconsistency as to who threw the syringe. This did not undermine the credibility of Colleagues A and B. The Panel was unable to place any significant weight on the evidence of MC or MG, who had not given evidence.

159. The Panel agreed with the submission that the fact that Colleague C had not witnessed this comment, undermines the suggestion that the three witnesses had somehow colluded to provide inaccurate or untruthful evidence.

Allegation 1(c) (iv) Proved

160. The allegation is that on 02 July 2019, that the Registrant rubbed his hands on Colleague A’s leg and/or commented as to how soft they were.

161. The evidence in support of this allegation is set out below.

162. Colleague A’s evidence is (paragraph 20):
MC was locating the IO needle position on my leg and he asked if he could put his hand on my leg to show where the needle had to go, I said yes. Richard Maxon then said “no, that is not where it needs to be” and tried to push my trouser legs up further and continued to locate his fingers on the exact same position as where Matt had his fingers. I can confirm that Richard Maxon did not ask permission to touch my leg and he touched me with his fingers below my knee for approximately 5 seconds. This did not make sense to me. He then proceeded to rub his finger on my leg and said “ooo how soft are your legs!”. Richard Maxon’s hand started off in the position where the IO needle would be inserted and then moved further down my shin and calf. He rubbed his finger up and down my leg for approximately 3 seconds). This made me feel embarrassed and humiliated.

163. This account is corroborated by Colleague A’s internal interview: “After [redacted] placed his fingers in the position, RM said ‘no not there, there’ which was in almost the exact same position that [redacted’s] fingers had been. He could have asked [redacted] or moved [redacted’s] fingers, I felt like it was an excuse to touch my leg. He didn’t ask permission before he did that. Colleague A is asked where RM rubbed her leg and how it was done. She replies: “Two/three fingers for about one to two seconds before I stood, it was in a similar area to where he had been for landmarks whilst I was sitting down.”. Colleague A is asked how she felt. She replies: “I felt stupid that I got myself into that situation and I was embarrassed and humiliated.”

164. Colleague A’s original complaint states: “RM told [my colleague] it was in the wrong position and placed his own fingers on my leg in virtually the same position. He also tried to push up both my trouser legs up which were sitting just above my kneecaps and were not interfering in the process he was trying to demonstrate. I then put both my hands on my knees to stop him and thought ‘why is he doing that?’ He then rubbed my leg and said ‘Oooooo, how soft are your legs.’ The whole incident made me feel sick and embarrassed.”

165. Colleague A’s oral evidence was “He then proceeded to put his fingers on the site just below my knee where— exactly the same spot where [the male student] had put his fingers, to demonstrate where the correct position was for the IO needle and then ran his fingers down my shin, down my leg for about two or three seconds and commented on—and said ‘Oh, how soft are your legs’

166. When Colleague A was cross-examined it was suggested that the allegation that the Registrant had made reference to how soft her legs were did not feature in her internal interview, and that this was a significant omission given the shocking nature of the Registrant’s actions. Colleague A again pointed out that her account had not changed, as she had included this allegation in her original complaint, dated 10 July 2019, “…He then rubbed my leg and said “Oooo, how soft are your legs.” The whole incident made me feel sick and embarrassed.” This allegation is also set out in the Terms of Reference for the internal investigation. Colleague A confirmed in re-examination she was not asked directly if the Registrant had commented on her legs, whilst touching them, during the internal interview with Mr Lambert.

167. Colleague B’s witness statement says (paragraph 19):
“…She proceeded to pull her trouser legs up to perform the demonstration, Richard Maxon then ran his hand up Colleague A’s leg to show where the landmarking should be. I do not recall which leg it was, but Richard Maxon put his hand on Colleague A’s shin and ran his hand up the inside of her lower leg to an area just below the knee. I cannot recall exactly how long Richard Maxon touched Colleague A’s leg for, maybe around 5 seconds. However, there was no need for him to do this; the landmark position is just below the knee therefore there was no reason to run his hand up her leg”

168. In her internal interview, Colleague B said: “[Redacted] then rolled her trousers up and he moved his hand from the bottom of her leg to knee. He made a comment about her smooth skin and that he was glad she had shaved her legs.”

169. In her oral evidence, Colleague B confirmed the above account: “…He remarked on how smooth her legs were and was glad that she had shaved her legs.”

170. Colleague B was clear that there was no reason for the Registrant to touch Colleague A’s leg in the manner in which he did in order to demonstrate the landmarking technique – the location being close to the knee, and not requiring any contact further down the leg.

171. Colleague B was cross-examined on why the alleged comment did not feature in her witness statement. She replied that this was on omission and that the comment “was most definitely said.”

172. Colleague C’s witness statement (para 17):
During the demonstration, Colleague A had to roll her trouser legs up just below the knee cap, and I recall Richard Maxon making a comment regarding how soft her legs were.”

173. In her internal interview, Colleague C stated, “…he also made some comment about her legs being smooth.”

174. The Registrant denied the allegation. His witness evidence is the internal investigation was:
I asked the complainant to roll her trousers up to her knees as I had with the two, previous groups and I then started to point to the complainants legs explaining where the points were and how to angle the drill, I placed my hand on her legs and said something like are there not too bad in relation to hair (this was not said with any sexual intent but as with the other groups was done to put at ease) I would have done exactly the same to the group previously and I believe I had a male volunteer who I said you might need a trim. I do not recall as alleged stroking the complainant's legs, there was contact as with all other volunteers showing points to aim for access placement.

175. When interviewed, in the internal investigation, and when the allegation was put to him, he replied, “I don’t remember that, but if I did in the context of what I am saying, I’m asking a student to get their legs out for me…if I had said it that’s the way it would have been, its not sexual…”

176. The Registrant’s witness statement for these proceedings denies this allegation.

35.I accept that I did place my hand on the complainants leg/legs and I did make the comment of “they’re not too bad” this was following on from Allegation 1.(b)(i) whereby I had tried to use light hearted humour as an ice breaker.

36.The placement of my hands was done to demonstrate the correct anatomical positioning for insertion of the intra-osseous device. I refute the allegation that I rubbed my hands as this did not happen and furthermore, I did not make a comment about how soft they were.

177. The Registrant further notes that such actions would be “shocking and offensive,” would “destroy boundaries” and “would in no doubt make any person feel vulnerable and in an unsafe environment” (paragraph 37). He continues: “I would not perform this action as I would perceive this to be wholly inappropriate, grossly offensive and demeaning” (paragraph 38). The Registrant adds: “I accept that this could have and has made the colleague A uncomfortable and had I have been made aware I absolutely would apologise and amended my actions in future with this knowledge” (paragraph 39).

178. In oral evidence, the Registrant stated that he had palpated the Registrant’s leg and made a comment, “not too bad” which was a follow up to his previous comment about Colleague A shaving her legs. The level of contact was limited to that required to undertake the demonstration. He denied stating that the Registrant’s legs were soft, as this would not be an appropriate comment in a work environment. Someone would be “grossed out” if such a comment was made.

179. The Registrant accepted in cross-examination that his comment, even if intended to put her at ease, could be seen as a reference to how hairy or not her legs were, and this was poor judgement on his part.

180. In support of his denial, the Registrant relied on the internal interviews with MC and Mr Gibbins. MC was asked whether he could recall any inappropriate comments being made during the course of the demonstration of how to use an IO device on the tibia, also described as “land marking”, on Colleague A. He replied no.

181. Mr Gibbins, in the internal investigatory interview, was asked whether the Registrant had touched Colleague A’s leg and replied, “I can’t remember, he probably must of to show us the landmarks, but I can’t remember.” He was unable to recall anything else about the demonstration, or what was said, noting only that “…the group we were in for that was always making jokes and things, but I can’t remember what was said.”

182. Ms Reid, on behalf of the HCPC, submitted that there was a consistent recollection between the students that the Registrant had made a comment along the lines that Colleague A’s legs were “soft” or “smooth” while he was touching her legs and alluded to the fact that she had shaved her legs. Colleague A and B remember him rubbing her leg in a manner which was not rightly part of the demonstration, and then commenting on the smoothness of her legs immediately after rubbing them. It was further submitted that the Registrant’s admission of a comment using slightly different words intended to communicate that Colleague A’s legs were not hairy or spiky, and that she had shaved them well enough, was a distinction without a difference.

183. Mr Lo, on behalf of the Registrant, submitted that there were a number of inconsistencies which rendered the witness’s accounts unreliable, including the number of seconds the Registrant had his hand on Colleague A’s leg, and as to who was initially involved in the demonstration. He also noted that Colleague C, MC and MG did not report inappropriate contact with Colleague A’s leg. In addition, the “ooh, how soft your legs are”, was not mentioned in the witness statement of Colleague B, or in the interviews of MC or MG.

184. The Panel found the allegation proved. The evidence from the witnesses were broadly consistent and as above, the Panel concluded that they had given truthful evidence, and had no motive to make false accusations. There were some minor differences and omissions, between the accounts, but these did not undermine the witness’s overall credibility.

185. The difference between whether the contact with Colleague A’s leg 2 or 5 seconds was not one of any significance. There was no need to touch Colleague A’s leg to demonstrate the landmark technique. The Registrant could have pointed to the correct location at the tibial plateau which is below the knee.

Allegation 1(c)(v) Proved

186. The allegation is that on 02 July 2019, that the Registrant commented on the pictures he found on Colleague A’s Facebook profile.

187. The evidence in support of this allegation is set out below.

188. Colleague A’s witness statement (paragraphs 22-26):

22. Later on the same day we were in the middle of tidying up the kit that we had been using for the demonstration. Richard Maxon was sat on his phone when he asked, “do you have a kid?” I said no, and he said, “what’s this then?” and on his phone was a picture of my nephew and I, I was so shocked because this was a picture from my Facebook profile. I produce a copy of this picture in Exhibit 6.

23. The picture Richard Maxon held up was not my current Facebook profile picture at the time which was concerning as he had obviously been scrolling through my pictures. I am also not friends with him on Facebook therefore he must have searched for my profile. I was actually under the impression that my privacy settings were much higher on my Facebook; however they must not have been as he was able to view my pictures.

24. Richard Maxon proceeded to scroll through my pictures and was commenting on them, for example he commented on how my hair had changed since a particular picture…When he showed me the first picture I did not smile, or laugh, or give him any indication to suggest that I was happy with him looking at my Facebook account, therefore I was confused as to why he continued to scroll through my pictures.

25. As we were walking out of the classroom Richard Maxon asked whether I would accept him as a friend if he was to add me on Facebook, at which point I replied “no”

26. Colleague B, Colleague C, MC and MG were all in the room at this point and Richard Maxon did not try to make it discreet, he was openly scrolling through my pictures in front of the whole class.

189. Colleague A’s internal interview: Colleague A is asked why she thinks RM looked at her Facebook page. She replies: “I don’t know, he called me over, no idea why he looked at it, he said ‘[Redacted], do you have a child?’ he then turned his phone round and showed me a picture of me with my nephew. It was the only one occasion he called me [redacted]. He never referred to any of the other group like that normally only first names.”

190. Colleague A’s original complaint: “Finally, the same lesson, towards the end, he said to me ‘Miss [redacted] do you have a kid?’ I said ‘No.’ As he was asking, he was looking at his phone. He then said ‘Who is this then?’ and turned his phone around for me to see. On his phone was a picture of me and my two-year-old nephew. I was speechless as it was a photograph from my Facebook page. I had believed that the privacy setting on my page prevented anyone from seeing any details about me, unless invited to do so. He then scrolled through my old profile pictures. He was holding his up phone up and the rest of the group could see the photographs. He stopped at one photo and said, ‘Nice hair.’ He didn’t look at any other person’s Facebook page at that time. At the end of the lesson as we were gathering to leave the room, he said to me ‘If I add you on Facebook will you accept the request?’ I told him I wouldn’t.”

191. Colleague A’s oral evidence was that the picture which the Registrant showed her, was her with her nephew, this was an older profile picture and she assumed from that, that the Registrant had been scrolling through her Facebook pictures.

192. When asked how the other students were able to see the images on Richard Maxon’s phone, Colleague A responded: “He had spun his phone round so he was kind of going—looking through like this, spun his phone round to—so that everybody else could see.”

193. Colleague B’s witness evidence:

22. At the end of this session I cannot recall exactly what we were doing however I think we were tidying up, and Richard Maxon was sat in the corner when he said to “do you have a kid?” she said no, and he replied saying “who is this then?” and held up a picture from her Facebook profile, she stated that it was her nephew. Richard Maxon then asked “if I requested you as a friend on Facebook would you accept me?” I cannot recall her exact reply, however it was something along the lines of “probably not”.

23. I found this very odd as Andy Jones, the course leader, had previously said to us all that the lecturers and tutors were there to teach and support us, but there was a professional boundary to be adhered to therefore we could not add lecturers on social media or socialise with lecturers outside of work. Therefore for Richard Maxon to openly look at her Facebook was very odd.

194. Colleague B’s internal interview: Colleague B is asked whether RM asked Colleague A whether she had a child. Colleague B replies: “She said no then he said who is this then and it was her Facebook page with a photo of her nephew. He asked if he added her as a friend if she would accept she said she didn’t know. He then continued to flick through her profile pictures commenting on hairstyles etc.”

195. In oral evidence, Colleague B was asked, other than when he held up the phone and showed the picture of Colleague A and her nephew, did you see anything else on his phone at this point? What did he do after that? The reply was: He was looking through her profile pictures and commenting on her hairstyles. She was then asked; how do you know he was flipping through her profile pictures? She replied: I can see what he was—I could see him swiping.”

196. Colleague C’s evidence is (paragraph 20):
On the same day, towards the end of the lesson we were packing up to go home when Richard Maxon asked Colleague A whether she had any children, she said no, and he replied ‘well who is this then?’ and help up a picture of her and a child on his personal mobile phone. Colleague A replied saying that it was her nephew. I am uncertain as to how Richard Maxon responded to this as I left the room. Colleague A and Colleague B proceeded to follow me out of the room and as we were waiting for the tutors to let us go home, Richard Maxon came over and said ‘you would not accept me as a friend anyway would you?’ Colleague A said no. We were all very shocked at Richard Maxon’s comments, especially as it had been made very clear at the beginning of the course that we cannot be friends with tutors on Facebook and to be careful of what we post on social media.”

197. Colleague C’s internal interview: “…we were all still in the room and all still sat on our seats and he said have you got any children and he was like no, and then he turned his phone around and said so who is this on your Facebook then, and she said that’s my nephew, and then we got up to walk out … and I walked sort of out ahead and stood by the door in the other room, and Richard came and stood over that way and [redacted] and [redacted] came and stood by me and he said something like ‘you wouldn’t accept me as a friend if I requested you anyway would you?’ and [redacted] just sort of looked shocked and said ‘I don’t know’—but we had already been told by Andy Jones that no lecturers were not friends and you are not meant to be friends with them on Facebook at the start of the course.” Colleague C is asked how this made her feel. She replies: “uncomfortable, I just thought it was weird I wouldn’t want anyone to look at my Facebook, well I haven’t got Facebook, but just yeah, I don’t think it’s professional.”

198. The Registrant admitted this allegation.

199. The Registrant’s witness statement for the internal investigation says:
Whilst the students were practicing the use of the IO I checked my phone as there was some messages and notifications on it, I went onto Facebook and read my notifications, whilst scrolling through the events page the suggested friends list came up, I looked at this and the complainant was on it, I clicked on the profile and had a quick look, there was a picture with the complainant and a small child together, as we were ending the lesson and walking out I said to her, have you got children ? she said no, why? I showed her the picture and said I wasn't too sure of you did, she said, ok so much for my privacy settings, I was surprised by this and a little sarcastically said, I won't be getting a friend request then ...
This conversation took place between us with other people walking about, it was not as alleged in front of the entire class who heard.

200. In the internal interview, the Registrant stated:
I went on to Facebook and read my notification and whilst scrolling through the events page and it came up with suggested friends and she was on it, [redacted] was on it, so I clicked on it, I've had a quick look and when you click on the persons profile initially underneath there's like several different pictures and one of those pictures there was a picture of her with a young baby.
So I've put in here there was a picture of the complainant and a small child together, so when we've ended the lesson and we've gone to walk out and I was sort of walking next to her and said have you got kids, again in terms of the context of trying to remember what everyone was trying to tell me in terms of their lives.
She was like no, it was literally me and her showed her the phone next to her and went oh look because I saw that I wasn't too sure and she was a bit snappy and said so much for my profile settings and I was like ok then, and I sarcastically said to her then you won't be sending me a friend request then and I put that in here…

201. In his witness evidence for these proceedings, he stated:

42.I clicked on one of the pictures and this showed the Complainant with a small child. I spoke to the Complainant and asked if she had children and she replied “no, why?” I then showed her the picture I was looking at. I acknowledge that this was totally and utterly unacceptable and wrong of me to do. I have reflected upon this and would not look at the social media of students un-invited.

43.I fully recognise and accept that this was poor judgement and is not something I would repeat again. I again would like to apologise for any upset this has caused to Colleague A and accept this was not appropriate, I will not be doing this ever again

202. The Registrant’s oral evidence was that his telephone vibrated during the practical. He was sat on a chair in the corner of the room. There were a number of messages of condolences regarding the recent death of a close colleague. A tab came up on Facebook, people you might know, including those in alleged in close proximity. Colleague A’s details came up, and the first photograph showed her with a child

203. When asked questions from the Panel, the Registrant confirmed that Colleague A had come up on his Facebook account as a suggested friend. He was unsure whether any other members of the student group had also come up as suggested friends. He offered an explanation for this, which was that as Colleague B had admitted looking at his Facebook profile, it was reasonable to assume that Colleague A had also viewed his profile.

204. Mr Lo, on behalf of the Registrant submitted that his actions had to be seen in context: “The Registrant did not possess an academic background, but rather commenced his teaching post directly from his service as an ambulance paramedic. In the transition, he did not receive adequate training from the university, part of which would have consisted of information about the relevant social media policies and the inappropriateness of connecting on social media with students”

205. The Panel found this allegation proved, on the basis of the evidence from Colleagues A, B and C as set out above and the Registrant’s admission.

206. The Panel took the view that it was unlikely that Colleague A’s profile had appeared randomly on the Registrant’s Facebook page, based solely on her geographical proximity, and it is more likely that a search was initiated by the Registrant. This would be consistent with the pattern of behaviour demonstrated by the Registrant towards Colleague A, in the particulars found proved, as set out above.

207. The Panel rejected Mr Lo’s submission that the Registrant would not have known that his actions were inappropriate. As a registered Paramedic he would have been aware of the perils of social media and not to make personal comments about a student, in the same way that would apply to a colleague or a patient.

Allegation 1(c) (vi) Proved

208. The allegation is that on 02 July 2019, that the Registrant displayed pictures from Colleague A’s Facebook profile on his mobile phone in view of the class of students.

209. The evidence in support of this allegation is set out above.

210. In addition, Colleague A denied in cross-examination that the conversation about Facebook had occurred as they walked side by side, leaving the room, such that no other student could see her profile pictures.

211. The Registrant denied the allegation.

212. In the internal investigation interview, the Registrant stated:
So the conversation took place as we were walking out as all the other people were coming walking out into that main of that room, it wasn't like I got it out and said in front of everyone have you got kids, we were walking side by side, all the other people were talking, around us, so it wasn't done in front of the entire class like she is alleging…

213. The Registrant’s witness evidence for these proceedings states:

47.I refute that I showed the pictures from Colleague A’s Facebook profile in view of the class. I did, as acknowledged in 1. (b)(vi) show Colleague A a picture on her Facebook, but this was done as we were leaving the small room we were in to go into the large ward area for the end of the teaching session. We were walking side by side.

48.The students alongside myself were all in the room when I was looking at Facebook, this was my initial looking at and replying to multiple messages and statements surrounding the sudden death of my colleague. The students were practising with training equipment and I was sat alone in a corner area. I showed Colleague A the picture as we moved from one room to another at the end of the teaching session and these two rooms are only separated by a corrugated door.

49.I accept that these were mistakes and errors of judgement on my behalf, and I am genuinely wholly remorseful for this causing the upset it has.

214. The Registrant’s oral evidence was that Colleague A’s details came up, as they were walking out of the door and she responded, making a comment about her privacy settings. They were walking shoulder to shoulder – there were others 2-3 feet behind and who could not have seen the phone. It was very unlikely that anyone else would have seen the screen.

215. The Registrant admitted in cross-examination that he had not clicked on Colleague A’s profile picture, rather on photographs in general, which is how the image of her with a child appeared. He denied commenting on other photographs, and in particular in relation to Colleague A’s hair having changed.

216. The Registrant also relies on the internal investigatory interviews with MC and MG. MC was unable to recall any incidents involving Facebook whilst he was at university. MG was unable to recall at any stage the Registrant showing anyone Facebook who was in the room.

217. Ms Reid, on behalf of the HCPC, submitted that it was very clear that other students could hear these comments and were aware that the Registrant was looking at Colleague A’s profile and pictures, and several of them have described him turning the phone around so that the pictures were visible to other students. The Registrant may or may not have actively intended to display these pictures to other students, but it is clear that he was careless regarding whether or not they could be seen, and the fact that some students may have been starting to leave the class does not indicate that the pictures could not be seen by any other student.

218. Mr Lo, on behalf of the Registrant submitted that other students in the vicinity would not have been able to see his phone. He also relied on the fact that neither MC nor MG recalled this incident.

219. The Panel found the allegation proved.

220. The Panel accepted the evidence from Colleagues A, B and C who corroborated each other. In particular, the Panel took account of Colleague B’s clear recollection that the Registrant was swiping through pictures of Colleague A and commenting on her hairstyles. If no other student had been able to see the screen, it would have been impossible for Colleague B to have observed this.

221. There was a dispute of fact as to whether the incident had happened at the end of the class, when they were leaving the room. Whilst the Registrant maintained this was the case, the Panel preferred the evidence of Colleagues A and C who corroborated each other, that the incident occurred “in front of the whole class” and “whilst they were still in the room and sat on our seats…”

222. The Panel was unable to place any weight on the hearsay investigation interviews with MC and MG. It is possible they did not hear the comments, were not paying attention, or had simply forgotten about the incident. Their accounts do not undermine the veracity of the accounts from the witnesses who have given oral evidence and been cross-examined.
Particular 2 Proved

223. The allegation is that the Registrant’s conduct (as set out above) was in appropriate and/or crossed professional boundaries.

224. Ms Reid, on behalf of the HCPC submitted that:

a. In respect of allegation 1(a), that no pedagogical purpose was made clear to the students, when asking about their relationship/marital status and/or sexual status. The Registrant accepted these questions were improper and a misjudgement on his part.

b. Allegations 1(b)(i) and 1(b)(ii) (28 June 2019) – although the Registrant does not accept the allegation, it is common ground that the comment or the gesture, if made, “would have been wildly inappropriate to say to and about a student in front of other students.”

c. Allegations 1(c)(i), 1(c)(ii), 1(c)(iii), 1(c)(iv): The Registrant accepts that he asked Colleague A whether she had shaved her legs, and he now recognises that this was inappropriate and states that he would not do it again under the same circumstances. It is submitted that this is clearly inappropriate and self-evidently has the potential to make a female student in particular feel uncomfortable. The Registrant does not accept any of the other comments he is alleged to have made on 02 July 2019, and does not accept having rubbed Colleague A’s leg, but accepts that if this conduct did occur it was inappropriate and unprofessional. It is submitted that it is self-evidently inappropriate and highly unprofessional to make comments during a class session in front of other students about a female student’s flexibility and suggesting that this related to sexual positions and keeping a boyfriend happy, to make a joke about that female student giving the instructor oral sex whilst she was bending down near him, and to comment on how soft and/or smooth a female student’s legs were whilst rubbing them.

d. Allegation 1(c)(v) and 1(c)vi – 2nd July 2019 – Facebook Incident. It is submitted that it was inappropriate and crossed professional boundaries for the Registrant to be looking at a female student’s profile in class, asking her probing personal questions about whether she had any children, commenting on her appearance and hairstyle, and flipping through older photographs whilst commenting on them. This understandably made Colleague A extremely embarrassed and uncomfortable. The Registrant should not have needed any special training on the role of social media between instructors and students to understand that this behaviour was inappropriate and unprofessional and very likely to make Colleague A deeply embarrassed and uncomfortable. Doing so in clear view of other students only made the conduct that much more inappropriate and uncomfortable for Colleague A.

225. Mr Lo, on behalf of the Registrant, submitted:

a. The Registrant admitted Allegation 1(a), 1(c)(i) and 1(c)(v) and in respect of each of those admissions, accepted that his actions were “inappropriate and crossed professional boundaries”.

b. “In respect of the allegations which are not admitted by the Registrant, the Registrant accepts that, if they are proven, they constitute behaviour which were inappropriate and crossed professional boundaries”.

226. The Panel found this allegation proved. The Registrant had in respect of each of particulars, on the findings of fact set out above, and the allegation found proved, behaved in a manner which was inappropriate and/or had crossed professional boundaries.

Decision on Grounds

227. The Panel then considered, in light of all the evidence it had heard, whether the Registrant’s actions amounted to misconduct.

228. The Panel accepted the Legal Assessor’s advice on the definition of misconduct. In particular, the Panel paid regard to the definition given by Lord Clyde in Roylance v General Medical Council (No.2) [2000] 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…”

229. The Panel also had regard to the guidance in Nandi v GMC [2004] EWHC 2317, where Collins J suggested that misconduct could be defined as: “conduct which would be regarded as deplorable by fellow practitioners…”

230. The Registrant admitted in his witness statement that in relation to those particulars to which he had made admissions that his behaviour was inappropriate and had fallen short of the expectations set out by the HCPC for being a registered Paramedic.

231. Ms Reid, on behalf of the HCPC submitted that:

(a) Although the Registrant’s conduct is not alleged to have been clearly sexually motivated, the comments were sexual in nature. The impact on the students, was to make them feel uncomfortable and in particular Colleague A, who was inappropriately targeted.

(b) Colleague A was a young female student subjected to a pattern of embarrassing, inappropriate, and suggestive conduct which crossed professional boundaries.

(c) Guidance can therefore be obtained from case law relating to sexual misconduct and in particular, (Arunachalam v GMC [2018] EWHC 758 (Admin). It is important not to “underestimate or trivialise the seriousness of unwanted sexual conduct, even at [a] relatively low level . . . [or to] overlook the affront to the dignity of workers, especially women workers, which it offers; nor the suffering it causes, particularly when authority is abused.”

(d) There was a breach of trust on the part of the Registrant in conducting himself in the manner which he did towards a student when he was acting as an instructor.

(e) The Registrant’s conduct in this case is self-evidently serious, highly inappropriate, breached several relevant standards of ethics and conduct, and fell far short of what the public would expect of an HCPC-registered paramedic.

232. Mr Lo, on behalf of the Registrant submitted: The Registrant accepts that, insofar as the allegations are admitted or found to be proven, they would constitute misconduct.

233. The Panel concluded, having regard to the facts proved, and the submission set out above, that the Registrant’s failings were sufficiently serious to amount to misconduct, falling short of what would be proper in the circumstances and amounting to conduct which fellow practitioners would regard as deplorable, for the following reasons:

(a) The conduct of the Registrant towards students, and in particular, Colleague A was wholly unacceptable and crossed professional boundaries. The conduct was aggravated by a number of features considered below.

(b) Firstly, although sexual motivation was not alleged, the comments were crude and clearly sexual in nature, for example, alluding to sexual orientation, masturbation and oral sex.

(c) Secondly, there was a clear power imbalance between the Registrant as a teacher and the students, who were new recruits on a course they had waited some time to commence, and who were anxious to progress and succeed.

(d) Thirdly, the comments/actions appear to have been directed towards Colleague A, as opposed to the student cohort more generally. The Panel has found that there was a pattern of behaviour towards Colleague A, noting, for example:

(i) that she was asked to volunteer when demonstrating the intraosseous cannulation technique, despite her initial refusal to do so

(ii) and the Registrant’s searching for images of her on Facebook.

(e) Finally, the Registrant’s actions towards Colleague A were repeated, taking place within a relatively short timeframe, escalating over seven days in respect of the number of comments and leading to inappropriate physical contact. The Panel concluded there were overtones of predatory behaviour in the Registrant’s actions.

234. The Panel also had regard to the following Standard of Conduct, Performance and Ethics (January 2016) which is concluded had been breached:
• Standard 9.1.- You must make sure that your conduct justifies the public’s trust and confidence win you and your profession.
Decision on Impairment

235. The Panel had to consider whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired, in light of the Registrant’s proven misconduct. The Panel had regard to the HCPTS practice note ‘Finding that Fitness to Practise is Impaired’ and has accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel has also exercised the principle of proportionality.

236. The Panel is mindful of the forward-looking test for impairment.

237. At present, the Registrant is currently on secondment, working as a Clinical Research Paramedic, a role which is patient facing.

238. The Panel had regard to the Registrant’s personal statement, including (but not limited to the following paragraphs:

24.I have spent a lot of time trying to understand why (and how) my actions are alleged to have caused such offence. In my 19+years of frontline service, ‘banter’ has always been a coping mechanism and has helped build friendships that have lasted for years. I understand that old style banter is no longer appropriate, and I tried to make sure that my behaviour was more fitting for changing times.

25.Reflecting on the allegations I can see that I hadn’t fully appreciated that my way of making people feel comfortable in asking personal questions could actually have the opposite effect and make an individual feel uncomfortable, or that their privacy had been invaded. I have only ever wanted to do my best and never meant to cause any offence. I am really sorry that what I thought were harmless, even humorous comments, have had the opposite impact and it is really upsetting for me to hear this.

26.I now understand the need to consider the fact that people have backgrounds that I am not aware of, and I need to bear in mind that everyone will have different perceptions of lecture content. I like to think of myself as a hard worker. Having completed over a year of working at the University and also completing my first year of my BSc I was relishing the work, sadly and in an extremely short timeframe a close colleague and friend was diagnosed with cancer and passed away within two weeks. This I have to say had a massive impact on me, along with all my colleagues and students were devastated at this loss.

239. The Panel has seen the Registrant’s witness statement in which he offers an unreserved apology in respect of those particulars he admitted. However, he disputes that his current fitness to practice is impaired. The Registrant argues:

(a) The investigation by SCAS concluded that there was no malice intent or sexual harassment, although he had crossed professional boundaries.

(b) He acknowledges that the events had significant implications for Colleagues A, B and C and risked them losing faith in those teaching them and the profession as a whole.

(c) He has undertaken a number of relevant courses, including:

i. A professional boundaries course provided by Biz Training Solutions), and in oral evidence, the Registrant admitted that prior to the course his professional boundaries were “blurred”.

ii. Assuring Safer Care, Embracing Human Factors for Improvement,

iii. Masterclass – The Essentials of Effective Leadership

iv. Masterclass(es) – Influencing Skills, Maximising Assertive Behaviour and Personal Impact.

(d) The above has been reviewed as part of an ongoing development plan.

(e) He has reflected on his admitted misconduct and now works in a more formal manner, with clear boundaries relating to his interactions with colleagues and students.

240. The Panel has seen the Registrant’s document entitled, Reflection of Richard Maxon, dated 29 October 2021.

241. The Panel has been provided with witness statements from Jane Reid, Senior Paramedic and Mr Daniel Morrison, a Paramedic with SCAS, and the Registrant’s Trade Union representative in the internal investigation and disciplinary process.

242. Ms Reid, in her witness evidence, stated (paragraph 12):
Richard’s strength in supporting students was great, he would link it with people in practice who were supporting students. This was not expected of him but he did anyway. He would chase placement students for evidence of the paperwork that students needed to provide, he would chase them for it so they do not fail. He was a very popular member of the academic team as well.

243. However, Ms Reid also noted the way that the Registrant communicated with students was a developing skill. There was a tendency that he would say things which were not inherently inappropriate but could be construed as such (para 8).

244. Mr Morrison gave oral evidence that the Registrant was one of the best lecturers, when he was on the university course, who he described as kind and supportive. The Registrant was able to provide students with real life experience and contextualised learning in a way in which other lecturers didn’t, which was more text book based.

245. The Panel also considered the relevant documents in the Registrant’s bundle including the testimonial/character references from:

(a) Mr Andrew Frost, Paramedic dated 19 October 2021,
(b) Mr Andrew Jones, Course Leader, CertHE programme in the School of Health Sciences and Social Work, University of Portsmouth, dated 26 November 2019,
(c) A signed character reference dated 20 October 2021 form a registered Paramedic, but whose name is not clear,
(d) Caroline Appleby, Paramedic, dated 18 October 2021,
(e) Caprice Green, former student Paramedic, undated,
(f) Christopher Jones, Paramedic, dated 21 October 2021,
(g) Chris Wells, Programme Lead, Allied Health and Social Care, dated 25 November 2019,
(h) Danielle Holloway-Moger, student Paramedic (undated),
(i) Daniel Mellish, Paramedic, dated 19 October 2021,
(j) Debbie Millson, dated 24 October 2021,
(k) Darren West, Paramedic, Team Leader, SCAS, dated 23 October 2021,
(l) Emma Jane Allcott, Paramedic, 22 October 2021,
(m) Greg Catlin, Paramedic, dated 20 October 2021,
(n) Gavin Roberts, Paramedic, dated 25 October 2021,
(o) Team Leader, SCAS, dated 23 October 2021 – signed but the name is not printed,
(p) Hayley Howarth, Paramedic dated 20 October 2021,
(q) Holleigh Jankowicz, Paramedic dated 22 October 2021,
(r) Heather Tyalor, Paramedic, dated 21 October 2021,
(s) Hannah Tobin, Paramedic, dated 22 October 2021,
(t) Joe Lambtom, Paramedic, dated 17 October 2021,
(u) Jane Lousie Reid, Education Manager, dated 24 November 2019,
(v) Janice Nice, Paramedic, undated,
(w) Katie Collingwood, Paramedic, dated 28 October 2021,
(x) Katie Eliman, Paramedic, dated 22 October 2021,
(y) Kally Johnson, Paramedic, dated 17 October 2021,
(z) Kate Williams, Paramedic, dated 18 October 2021,
(aa) Lauren Cottee, Paramedic dated 21 October 2021,
(bb) Leanne Everett, Emergency Care Assistant, dated 21 October 2021,
(cc) Louise Fowles, Paramedic, dated 18 October 2021,
(dd) Lucy Gurr, Paramedic, dated 22 October 2021,
(ee) Megan Siân Brownsell, Paramedic, dated 25 October 2021,
(ff) Phil [Ashwell] Senior Lecturer, dated 27 October 2021,
(gg) Paul Atkinson, Paramedic, dated 28 October 2021,
(hh) Robin Harford, Paramedic, [undated],
(ii) Mr R.W. Isherwood, Paramedic and Senior Teaching Fellow, dated 26 October 2021,
(jj) Sky Hatchard, Specialist Paramedic, dated 24 October 2021,
(kk) Samantha Holland, Paramedic, dated 20 October 2021,
(ll) Sophie Webb, Paramedic, dated 22 October 2020,
(mm) Thomas Countney, Paramedic, undated,
(nn) Tamaras Hammudeh, Paramedic, dated 22 October 2021,
(oo) Teresa Sturgeon, Specialist Paramedic, undated.

246. The Panel heard submissions on the issue of impairment from the HCPC and on behalf of the Registrant.

247. Ms Reid on behalf of the HCPC submitted that:

(a) The Registrant had “displayed only “incomplete insight, at best.” The Registrant had only accepted that some of his conduct was inappropriate and had disputed many of the more serious allegations. He had denied the comments/gestures which were sexual in nature.

(b) The Registrant maintained there was a teaching-based reason for asking about relationship/marriage status, when the overwhelming evidence was that he never explained this purpose to any of the students present that day, making several of them feel very uncomfortable.

(c) There was a failure to take full responsibility for or appreciate the seriousness of his actions, and that the risk of repetition is therefore real and remains.

(d) In respect of the public component, she argues: The Registrant in this case has engaged in a pattern of embarrassing, suggestive, and inappropriate behaviour in respect of a young female colleague at a time when he was in a position of authority as her instructor, causing humiliation and extreme distress to Colleague A, and discomfort and awkwardness to some of the other students as well and, in the HCPC’s submission, has not fully taken responsibility for these actions. It is therefore submitted that public confidence in the profession would be undermined if a finding of impairment were not made under all the circumstances of this case.

248. Mr Lo, on behalf of the Registrant submitted:

(a) In reliance upon (Yusuff v GMC [2018] EWHC 13 (Admin)), the Registrant’s denial of several of the allegations should not, in and of itself, be regarded as indicative of a lack of insight.

(b) The Registrant has shown insight as to the inappropriateness of the alleged conduct (both those which are admitted, as well as the others if proven), their serious nature and their impact upon Colleague A.

(c) In relation to allegation 1(a), the Registrant states that he now understands why people might be uncomfortable with talking about their personal lives in that setting. He would never again ask these questions when attempting to teach a class about demographic fields. He completely accepts responsibility and apologised for his actions.

(d) In relation to allegation 1(c)(i), the Registrant now understands the offence and upset that asking whether Colleague A had shaved her legs caused. He accepts that it was poor judgment on his part, in an attempt to put her at ease.

(e) In relation to allegation 1(c)(v), the Registrant now understands why it made her feel uncomfortable, that from her perspective it appeared as if the Registrant had sought her out deliberately on Facebook. He now understands the need to maintain professional boundaries, especially in relation to social media use.

(f) Dealing with the allegation which he denied:

i. Allegation 1(b)(i), when asked on a scale of 1 to 10 how inappropriate he thought the comment was, he answered that it would have been an ‘8-plus’ and that it would make people feel vulnerable.

ii. Allegation 1(b)(ii), the alleged gesture was on a scale of 1-10 in terms of how inappropriate it was, he answered ‘8-plus’. There was, in his opinion, no context in which conduct of this nature was acceptable.

iii. He made a similar concession for Allegation 1(c)(ii): A person on the receiving end of such a comment would take it as “offensive, demeaning, degrading, make her feel sort of uncomfortable, unsafe.” In no circumstances would such a comment be acceptable.

iv. The Registrant similarly accepted in respect of Allegation 1(c)(iii) that despite several interpretations of the phrase, none of them was acceptable.

v. Allegation 1(c)(iv) he accepted that anyone hearing the comment about how soft Colleague A’s legs were, would be “grossed out and really uncomfortable”.

vi. In relation to the allegation that he rubbed his hands inappropriately on Colleague A’s leg, the Registrant’s comment was that “there is no jokey way to do that; it’s just lecherous.”

(g) The Registrant had embarked on a “targeted program” of CPD, in order to eliminate the possibility that he would find himself in a similar situation again. This included a Professional Boundaries Masterclass and a Personal Impact Course.

(h) The Registrant has produced a Personal Reflection, identifying the cause of the complaints.

(i) He had not honestly considered how uncomfortable some may feel in relation to certain questions which he asked, and that going forward he would attempt to avoid such problems by communicating in a much more structured way. When carrying out demonstrations, he would respect the wishes of those who are reluctant to volunteer.

(j) The Registrant acknowledges that he had caused upset to Colleague A. He was extremely sorry for this and stated that he would have apologised immediately if his conduct had been raised with him.

(k) Whilst conceding that his fitness to practice on the personal component was “possibly” impaired at the time of the complaint this is no longer the case. He has demonstrated insight into admitted allegations. He has also shown insight into the allegations he denied, setting out why such conduct was unacceptable. He has addressed issues pertaining to professional boundaries and, “For these reasons, repetition is almost an impossibility”.

(l) In relation to the public component, there is a low risk of repetition. “The Registrant acknowledges the importance of maintaining public confidence in the profession and upholding professional standards. However, the Panel is respectfully requested to consider the fact that the cumulative process of the complaint, the internal SCAS investigation and these Fitness to Practice proceedings, had been a salutary lesson for the Registrant. Aside from leading to significant personal impact, the Registrant was compelled to confront the problems within his usual professional modus operandus, understand the importance of boundaries and to take remedial action. In the circumstances, it is submitted that public confidence would not be undermined by a finding that the Registrant is not impaired at the present and going forward.”


249. The Panel concluded that the Registrant’s current fitness to practice is impaired, having regard to both the public and personal components of impairment, for the following reasons:

(a) The Registrant’s misconduct was serious and had a number of aggravating features, which are set out at paragraph [7] above. The comments were of a sexual nature and directed towards a young female, in the context of a significant power imbalance.

(b) The Registrant did make several admissions. However, his concessions were to the less serious factual particulars. The Registrant denied the more serious particulars which had obvious sexual connotations. The Panel considered that some of the comments, by any objective assessment, were sexual in their nature. The Panel accepted Mr Lo’s submission that a denial of factual particulars does not of itself indicate a lack of insight. However, the Panel concluded that the Registrant had sought to minimise his culpability, denying the more blatant allegations and playing down the seriousness of them (i.e. suggesting if they were said, then the context was a jokey “Benny Hill” manner) and disputing that there was any sexual connotations.

(c) The Panel also considered the fact that the Registrant sought to allege collusion or a degree of malice towards him on the part of Colleague’s A, B and C. This accusation was without foundation and simply on the basis that they shared a long car journey when commuting. The Registrant’s willingness to make such an accusation to minimise his own actions, demonstrated a lack of insight.

(d) The Panel noted the Registrant’s concession that the comments which he denied were wholly unacceptable and that he placed them as being eight plus out of ten, on a scale of unacceptability in several instances. The Panel regarded this as an aggravating feature. Regardless of whether in a teaching or a Paramedic setting, working with service users, he knew that his actions were inappropriate. The Panel rejected the suggestion that his comments could be explained by “old style banter” which he needed to recalibrate for a modern setting.

(e) The Panel formed the view that the Registrant had a deep-seated attitudinal problem, which is very difficult to remediate. The Panel noted the Registrant’s apology to Colleague A, and his efforts to remediate by undertaking CPD courses, but concluded that his insight, at best was partial. It was noted for example, there was no evidence that he had undertaken training in equality and diversity, or unconscious bias.

(f) The Registrant’s insight was limited to a grudging acceptance that his behaviour was inappropriate for those less serious particulars which he had admitted.

(g) The Panel did not accept Mr Lo’s submission that the risk of repetition was “almost an impossibility.” The Panel concluded that the there was a real risk of repetition, if he found himself in a situation where there was a power imbalance, whether in a teaching, mentoring role or working with service users and colleagues as a Paramedic.

(h) The Panel did have regard to the large number of character witnesses or testimonial evidence. However, the Panel could place limited weight on these, as they did not address directly the allegations which the Panel has found proved, or evidence a change in behaviour since the events in question. The Panel also noted Ms Reid’s comment that the Registrant had a tendency to say things which were not inherently inappropriate but could be construed as such.

(i) The Panel had regard to the public component of impairment and concluded that a reasonably well-informed member of the public would be shocked to learn that the Registrant’s current fitness to practise had not been found to be impaired, given the nature of his misconduct and the findings set out above.

(j) The Panel concluded that the Registrant’s actions have brought the reputation of the Paramedic profession into disrepute, and that he has breached a fundamental tenet of the Paramedic profession.

(k) The Panel also had regard to the need to uphold proper standards of behaviour, in concluding that the public component of impairment is clearly established. The Panel concluded that confidence in the Paramedic profession would be undermined, if there was no finding of impairment, given the serious nature of the misconduct which has been identified.

Sanction

250. The Panel has heard submissions on sanction, from Ms Reid, on behalf of the HCPC. She argued that the aggravating features were: breach of trust, repetition of concerns/pattern of unacceptable behaviour, and lack of insight.

251. Ms Reid directed the Panel to the HCPC Sanction Policy and in particular, the guidance for serious cases:

(a) Paragraph 62: Failure to work in partnership: “Cases where a registrant has … refused to cooperate with colleagues, whether that be the result of bullying, discrimination, or dishonesty, are likely to result in a more serious sanction.”

(b) Paragraph 68: Abuse of Professional Position: “Where a registrant is found to have abused their professional status, that is highly likely to reduce the public’s trust in them and their profession. The greater the alleged abuse of trust, the more serious the panel should consider the concerns.”

(c) Paragraphs 71-72: Predatory Behaviour. “The panel should take predatory behaviour particularly seriously, as there will often be significant risk to the targeted service user or carer… Any evidence of predatory behaviour is likely to lead to a more serious sanction.”

252. The Panel has also received written submissions from Mr Lo, on behalf of the Registrant, in relation to sanction. Mr Lo sets out the following mitigating features:

(a) The Registrant has worked in the NHS since leaving school in 1993. In his 28-year career, he has never been the subject of serious disciplinary complaints concerning the crossing of professional boundaries.

(b) The Registrant admitted certain parts of the allegations.

(c) The allegations were concerned with a single complainant within a short temporal period of seven days.

(d) The Registrant clearly expressed remorse in respect of the upset and offence caused to Colleague A. It was his clear evidence that, if he had been confronted by Colleague A in the immediate aftermath of the incidents, he would have apologised forthwith and taken immediate steps to change the way he taught classes and communicated with students.

(e) Although there has been a finding that the allegations included comments which were crude or sexual in nature, sexual motivation was not alleged as such.

(f) There was a finding of an imbalance of power between the Registrant and Colleague A. However, although it formed part of the HCPC’s submissions, there was no specific finding of a breach of trust. It is also relevant that, whilst there was an imbalance of power, the complainant was not a vulnerable individual.

253. Mr Lo submitted that remediation remains a real possibility, having regard to the Continuing Professional Development (CPD) courses the Registrant has undertaken. He has made a “good faith” attempt at remediation. He should be afforded an opportunity to address the further concerns identified in the Panel’s decision. The concerns are overall capable of being remediated and the risks of repetition mitigated. On 03 December 2021, he enrolled in a course dealing with sexual harassment, delivered in five webinars by the College of Paramedics. The first of these webinars is “Sexual Harassment and Inappropriate Behaviours Webinar.”

254. Mr Lo submits that a nine-month Suspension Order is a proportionate sanction in the circumstances, as a sanction which reflects the imperatives of protecting the public, upholding professional standards, as well as maintaining the public’s confidence in the profession and the regulatory process, whilst at the same time adhering to the principle that sanctions should represent the minimum action necessary for the public to be protected.

255. Finally, Mr Lo asks the Panel to be mindful of the Registrant’s personal and family circumstances and the potential financial hardship that any particular sanction might have upon him.

Decision on Sanction

256. The Panel has paid regard to the HCPC’s Indicative Sanctions Policy and has accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel paid particular regard to the principal of proportionality and the need to strike a careful balance between the protection of the public and the rights of the Registrant.

257. The Panel has also reminded itself that the purpose of fitness to practise proceedings is not to punish registrants but to protect the public and to maintain high standards amongst registrants and public confidence in the profession concerned.

258. The Panel has had regard to the aggravating and mitigating circumstances in this case.

259. The aggravating features are:

(a) The seriousness of the proven misconduct, including the fact there was a pattern of behaviour over a 7-day period.

(b) The Panel found that there was a power imbalance between the Registrant and Colleague A. This amounts to an abuse of the Registrant’s professional position.

(c) The Registrant’s actions have caused distress and offence to Colleague A.

(d) The Panel found that the Registrant’s actions had overtones of predatory behaviour. His actions in breaching professional boundaries included an inappropriate relationship and inappropriate use of social media.

(e) The Registrant has developed only partial insight into his misconduct and the Panel formed the view that there was an ongoing risk of repetition.

260. The mitigating features are:

(a) The Panel has seen no evidence of any prior fitness to practice or regulatory concerns.

(b) The Registrant has engaged in the development plan, put in place by his employers, SCAS.

(c) The Registrant has engaged in these regulatory proceedings.

261. In light of the above factors, the Panel determined that given the nature of the Registrant’s misconduct and the findings set out above, that to take no action or to impose a Caution Order would not protect the public, retain public confidence in the regulatory process or have the necessary deterrent effect on other registrants. The Panel further concluded that public confidence in the profession would be undermined by imposing either of these sanctions, given the seriousness of the Registrant’s misconduct.

262. In addition, a Caution Order is not appropriate having regard to the HCPC Sanctions Policy. This suggests (at paragraph 101) that a caution order is likely to be the appropriate order where (1) the issue is isolated, limited or relatively minor in nature, (2) there is a low risk of repetition, (3) the registrant has shown good insight and (4) the registrant has undertaken appropriate remediation. The Panel’s findings in this case were that there was a pattern of misconduct which was not minor in nature and that there was a risk of repetition. The Registrant has only developed partial insight and has not undertaken appropriate remediation.

263. The Panel next carefully considered whether to impose a Conditions of Practice Order, having regard to the Sanctions Policy. The Panel noted that paragraph 108 suggests that conditions are less likely to be appropriate in serious cases, including those where there has been an abuse of professional position. The Panel also had regard to paragraph 109, which states that conditions might be appropriate in such a case, but only where the Registrant’s conduct was minor, out of character, capable of remediation and unlikely to be repeated. The Panel, considering its findings set out above, concluded that the Registrant’s conduct was not minor and made a finding that there was a risk of repetition.

264. The Panel also had regard to paragraph 10 of the Sanctions Policy. The primary function of any sanction is to protect the public, have a deterrent effect on other registrants, uphold public confidence in the profession and in the regulatory process. The Panel concluded that given the nature of the misconduct and the aggravating features set out above, a conditions of practice order, could not be formulated to address the issues in this case.

265. The Panel next considered whether to make a Suspension Order. The Indicative Sanctions Policy (paragraph 121) suggests that a Suspension Order is appropriate where there are serious concerns, but which do not require the registrant to be struck off, but where the concerns cannot be addressed by a Conditions of Practice Order. The Panel concluded that this was an appropriate sanction to mark the seriousness of the misconduct, protect the public and address the wider public interest concerns which the Panel identified.

266. The Panel had regard to the limited degree of insight as set out above but concluded that the identified failings are potentially capable of being remedied in the future, if the Registrant engages with a future review Panel.

267. The Panel determined that the Suspension Order should be imposed for a period of 6 months. The Panel had regard to paragraph 124 of the sanctions policy, noting that short term suspensions can be appropriate where there is no ongoing risk of harm, but where further action is required in order to maintain public confidence in the profession, send out a clear message to members of the Paramedic profession and maintain professional standards.

268. Having arrived at an appropriate sanction, the Panel concluded that to impose the more restrictive sanction of a Striking Off Order would be unnecessarily punitive and disproportionate. The Panel noted that striking off should be reserved for cases where there is no other way to protect the public and in this case the Panel determined that an adequate level of public protection could be achieved by the lesser sanction of a Suspension Order.

269. Whilst in no way seeking to bind any future review Panel, this Panel anticipates that the following matters are likely to be off assistance to any future reviewing Panel:

(a) The Registrant should provide evidence of relevant CPD to address the issues identified in these proceedings.

(b) A reflective piece written by the Registrant demonstrating insight into the impact his actions have had on both his colleagues and the profession.

(c) Testimonial/character evidence relevant to the issues identified in these proceedings.

Order

Order: That the Registrar is directed to suspend the registration of Mr Richard Maxon for a period of 6 months from the date this order comes into effect.

Notes

This order will be reviewed again before its expiry on 13 July 2022.


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 and Social Work 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.


Application for an Interim Order

1. Miss Reid, on behalf of the HCPC, made an application for an Interim Order, to cover the
appeal period, pursuant to Article 31 of the Health and Care Professions Order 2001.

2. Mr Lo, on behalf of the Registrant, did not oppose the application for an Interim Order.

3. The Panel accepted the Legal Assessor’s advice and had regard to the HCPC Practice Note
on Interim Orders, and the guidance contained in the Sanctions Policy. The Panel concluded that an Interim Order was necessary for the protection of the public and otherwise in the public interest, to cover the expiry of the appeal period (28 days from the service of this
determination) or if there is an appeal, the determination of that appeal.

4. The Panel concluded that in light of its findings, as set out above, that an average
member of the public would be shocked or troubled to learn that the Registrant was permitted to continue in unrestricted practice for the duration of any appeal period.

5. The Panel considered whether it could impose an Interim Conditions of Practice Order but
concluded that this was not practicable and would not provide the necessary degree of public
protection, that was required, for the same reasons as identified above, when considering what sanction to impose on the Registrant. The Panel therefore concluded that the appropriate order was an Interim Suspension Order.

6. The Panel concluded that it was necessary to impose an Interim Suspension Order
for a period of 18 months. Different considerations apply as to the duration of the Interim
Order, as opposed to the substantive Suspension Order, as the period in question, is designed
to cover how long it may take the High Court to finally dispose of any appeal that might be made.

Interim Order:

The Panel makes 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 Richard Maxon

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
13/12/2021 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended
01/11/2021 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Adjourned part heard