Dr Darren Adamson

Profession: Practitioner psychologist

Registration Number: PYL35470

Hearing Type: Review Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 16/02/2021 End: 17:00 16/02/2021

Location: This hearing took place virtually.

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Suspended

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Allegation

As a registered Psychologist (PYL35470) your fitness to practise is impaired by reason of your misconduct. In that:

 

  1. On 3 November 2008 your registration with the General Teaching Council for England (GTC) was subjected to a Conditional Registration Order after a panel of the GTC’s Professional Conduct Committee found you guilty of unacceptable professional conduct.

 

  1. On 24 October 2011 your registration with the GTC was subjected to a Prohibition Order after a panel of the GTC’s Professional Conduct Committee found you guilty of having been convicted of relevant offences.

 

  1. You did not inform the HCPC when you applied to join the register on or around 7 December 2017 that findings had been made against you by the GTC, as set out in allegation 1 – 2 above.

 

  1. Your conduct in relation to allegation 3 was dishonest.

 

  1. The matters set out in allegation 3 - 4 constitute misconduct.

 

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

Finding

Preliminary Matters

Application for part of the hearing in private

1. Ms Bwoma applied for parts of the hearing, which might concern matters concerning the health or other aspects of the Registrant’s private life, to be conducted in private under Rule 10(1)(a) of the Conduct and Competence Rules 2003 as amended. The Registrant supported the application.

2. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel was satisfied that such parts of the hearing as may concern the Registrant’s private life should be held in private.

 

Background

3. The Registrant is a registered Practitioner Psychologist. The Registrant was previously employed as a teacher at Houghton Kepier School. The school referred him to the General Teaching Council (GTC), which imposed a Conditional Registration Order upon the Registrant’s registration as a teacher on 3 November 2008.

4. The Registrant was later employed at Berwick Community High School. Whilst employed at the school he was convicted of a number of criminal offences between March 2009 and July 2010. The GTC imposed a Prohibition Order upon the Registrant’s registration as a teacher on 24 October 2011.

5. The Registrant applied to the HCPC register as a Practitioner Psychologist on 7 December 2017. In the application form, the Registrant was asked, “Have you been disciplined by a professional or regulatory body or your employer?” The Registrant did not tick the box.

6. The Registrant attended the fitness to practise hearing that took place on 26-27 August 2020. In its written decision, that panel recorded the Registrant’s admission of each of the factual particulars of the allegation and found each of those particulars to be proved in the light of all the evidence. Its decision stated as follows, -

… The Registrant accepted that those matters [the facts found under particulars 3 and 4] constitute misconduct. …

…. The Panel was satisfied that the omission in Particular 3 was serious in that it misled the HCPC which, as a regulatory body with important functions of protecting the public and the wider public interest, regulates the admission of professionals onto its register. In this case, the application was misleading, and on its basis, the Registrant was admitted to the register on 5 February 2018. It is a crucial requirement that professionals are open and honest with their regulator. The dishonesty was serious in that the omission to inform the HCPC of the GTC’s findings was deliberate and intended to conceal.

….. The Panel was satisfied that the conduct in Particulars 3 and 4 fell so far short of the standards expected of the Registrant as to constitute misconduct.

 ..The Registrant gave evidence regarding the journey he has taken since the events which led to the GTC findings against him, as well as giving context to the misconduct which the Panel has found proved. His evidence and his submissions were that he has now moved on in his life and that there are no concerns about his practice at present.

… it was the fear of losing everything when applying to the HCPC register, a triggered reaction, that was the reason. This feeling of triggered shame and inadequacy explains why he omitted reference to the GTC findings, but declared his convictions on the same form, as he did not feel the same level of shame in respect of them.

… The Registrant told the Panel that, as a result of these regulatory proceedings, he reduced his client base in order to practise self-care, and stated that he does not cause harm to his clients, the only person he harms is himself. At present he only has six clients in order for him to cope with the HCPC regulatory proceedings against him.

… the Registrant gave his evidence in an honest and frank manner. … the Registrant has shown a great deal of remorse as well as a degree of insight. He has clearly reflected upon his actions.… However, … the Registrant in his evidence focused on himself as an individual, rather than demonstrating …. any real development of an understanding of the impact of his dishonesty on public confidence in him as a Practitioner Psychologist, or on the profession as a whole.

…The Registrant himself described his psychological progress as a “journey” rather than a “destination”. .. Dishonesty is difficult to remediate. However, the Panel was of the view that by means of the degree of insight shown, the Registrant has begun his remediation. … the Registrant’s insight and remediation are still developing.

….The Panel had no objective or third-party evidence of the Registrant’s current practice, any up-to-date references, or any letter or reference from his current therapist or professional supervisor. The Panel also noted that the testimonials relied on by the Registrant date from the time he applied to the HCPC register. The Panel therefore felt that it did not have enough evidence to assess how his work is progressing at present.

… The Panel did not have any objective information about the extent to which he has addressed the [redacted] difficulties about which the Registrant told the Panel, and which he told the Panel were the cause of the dishonesty. 

… there was no evidence that the Registrant had put clients at unwarranted risk of harm by his dishonesty, or that he was at a real risk of doing so in the future.

… the Registrant… had brought the profession into disrepute, breached fundamental tenets, as set out in the Panel’s decision on misconduct, and acted dishonestly.

… The Panel considered the circumstances before it, including the degree of insight shown, the circumstances surrounding the dishonesty, and that the Registrant has moved forward [Redacted] The Panel also took into account that the Registrant has fully engaged in these proceedings, and noted that these proceedings have had an impact upon him personally, the Panel having assessed his demeanour.

… However, in light of the incomplete insight and remediation, and the lack of objective evidence surrounding his journey in addressing the [Redacted] issues which, on the basis of the Registrant’s case, led to the misconduct, the Panel was of the view that there is a real risk of the Registrant bringing the profession into disrepute, breaching fundamental tenets, and acting dishonestly in the future when triggered by difficult feelings or circumstances.

… In addition, the Registrant’s misconduct was serious. His entry onto the HCPC register involved dishonestly withholding information which he was directly asked about on the application form. This struck at the heart of the fundamental value of honesty required of the Registrant. In such circumstances, the Panel was satisfied that a reasonable well-informed member of the public, with knowledge of all the facts and circumstances, would be gravely concerned if the Registrant were to be allowed to practice without restriction. The Panel was therefore satisfied that the need to uphold proper professional standards and to maintain public confidence in the profession would be undermined if a finding of impairment were not made. The Panel found the Registrant’s current fitness to practise to be impaired on the basis of the need to uphold the wider public interest.

… The Panel therefore decided that the Registrant is currently impaired on the basis of the personal and public components as referred to in the HCPTS Practice Note on Impairment…

… The Panel identified the following mitigating factors:

i. the Registrant has shown considerable remorse;

ii. the Registrant has shown a degree of insight;

iii. positive references, although the Panel did not place significant weight on them at this stage as they were not written with the knowledge of the allegations made during the HCPC proceedings;

iv. a history of personal difficulties.

… The Panel identified the following aggravating factors:

i. the dishonesty was made for personal gain;

ii. the Registrant made no attempt to admit his dishonesty until the HCPC proceedings were brought.

iii. Until then he continued to practice under the HCPC registration knowing that he had submitted a dishonest declaration as to his character to achieve that registration.

… In light of the nature of the dishonesty, the Panel was of the view that it was serious and was towards the higher end of the spectrum, although it was not at the highest level. It was not a minor instance, and while dishonesty was not repeated, it had a prolonged effect in that it led to the Registrant being accepted onto the HCPC register…

… The Registrant has engaged with the regulatory process and has shown some insight and remediation. While the Panel has already determined there is a real risk of repetition, there is nothing at this stage to suggest to the Panel that the Registrant is unable to remedy his misconduct. Further, there are no public protection concerns which form a basis for the finding of impairment or the sanction which will be imposed.

… In light of these factors, the Panel was satisfied that a Suspension Order is appropriate and proportionate. The Panel concluded that a duration of 6 months is appropriate and proportionate, because it reflects on the one hand, the mitigating factors in this case, but also sufficiently addresses the need to maintain public confidence in the profession and the regulatory process, uphold proper standards, and sends a clear message that such misconduct is unacceptable. The Panel was satisfied that such an outcome is a proportionate result when weighing these various factors in the balance.

… The Panel considered a Striking Off Order but in light of the factors referred to above, including the insight and remediation demonstrated, a Striking Off Order would be disproportionate.

 

This Review Hearing

7. The HCPC and the Registrant relied on documents that were placed before the Panel. The Registrant gave oral evidence.

8. In summary, the Registrant’s oral evidence was as follows. When he applied to the HCPC in 2017 his failure to declare the measures taken against his teaching registration by the GTC had been motivated by a shame response. He acknowledged that this failure was completely unjustified. In July 2019 the Registrant received an email from the HCPC about the fitness to practise concerns that led to his hearing before the original panel. He realised that his reflections on his dishonesty had centred too much on him and not sufficiently on the wider aspects of the public interest. Since his suspension he had reflected further on his dishonesty and had attended an ethics course, where ethics were applied to particular scenarios. He had now had the opportunity to understand the implications of his dishonesty on the wider public interest. He saw that he had to be a bastion of integrity as a registered practitioner.

9. The Registrant relied on a number of documents, which he said demonstrated that he had supplied the information that had been suggested by the original panel. His position was that his fitness to practise is no longer impaired. He submitted that a Conditions of Practice Order would be appropriate to manage his return to practice if that were considered to be necessary. 

10. Ms Bwoma stated that the HCPC took a neutral position on the issue of whether or not the Registrant’s fitness to practise was currently impaired. She acknowledged that the Registrant had made considerable progress on the issue of insight. She drew the Panel’s attention to the concern raised by the previous panel as to the absence of objective information about the extent to which he had addressed the [Redacted] difficulties about which the Registrant had informed the original panel, and which he had told that panel had been the cause of the dishonesty. Ms Bwoma was neutral on any issue of sanction that might arise.

 

Decision 

11. The Panel has taken into account the findings of the original panel and all the evidence before it today, both documentary and oral and the submissions made by Ms Bwoma and the Registrant. It has accepted the advice given by the Legal Assessor.

12. In practice there is a persuasive burden on a registrant at a review hearing to show that his fitness to practise is no longer impaired and that all the shortcomings which led to the original finding of impairment have now been overcome: see Abrahaem v GMC (2008) EWHC 183 (Admin) at [23].

13. The Panel considered the Registrant to be an honest witness. It was impressed by the development in his insight and that he now recognises the fundamental importance of public confidence in the profession. In particular, the Registrant stated the following in a reflective statement he produced for this hearing, -

…. I have taken time to consider the wider implications of my actions on the levels of trust and confidence afforded me and my profession by the general public and have been shamed by my response. … It is clearly of the utmost importance that I stand as a model of integrity and honesty in order to successfully represent my profession and in order to best support the general public. …      

14. The Panel also noted the report produced by Dr LD, Clinical Psychologist, who has known the Registrant for some years and who was prepared to supervise the Registrant if and when he returned to practice. She noted that the Registrant was ‘open and authentic’ during their session, in which they explored his suspension due to his dishonesty and wider implications. She stated that she ‘found him to be professional in his approach to challenging his early responses, recognising errors of judgment throughout this process and engaged in his thoughts on the wider implications of dishonesty.’

15. The Registrant also relied on two emails from patients who had found his professional work to be very helpful to their mental health. He also pointed to the course on ethics that he had completed and the certificate of ‘Ethics in Psychological Practice’ dated 8 January 2021 which he has produced for the Panel.

16. Despite the considerable progress made by the Registrant in addressing the impairment of his fitness to practise, the Panel was concerned that there continued to be a lack of independent evidence about the extent to which the Registrant had addressed the [Redacted] difficulties which he had told the original panel had been the cause of the dishonesty. Although the suggestions made by that panel as to the information that a reviewing panel might find helpful do not bind this Panel, a report [Redacted] would have helped to provide the objective evidence that the original panel had found to be lacking as to the causes that underlay the dishonesty. The Panel does not agree that the report of Dr LD adequately addresses the causes of the Registrant’s dishonesty, which had been caused by the shame response to which he has referred. Dr LD was put forward as a supervisor, [Redacted]. The testimonials provided support for the Registrant’s clinical care, but did not sufficiently address the issue of probity.

17. In those circumstances, the Registrant has not persuaded the Panel that he has overcome the shortcomings that led to the original finding of impairment. In particular, he has not produced sufficient evidence to demonstrate that he has addressed the [Redacted] issues that led to the impairment.

18. Therefore, the Panel has concluded that on the evidence placed before it, there remains a continuing risk that the Registrant would act dishonestly. In those circumstances, the Panel has concluded that the registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired.

19. The Panel directed itself in accordance with the Sanctions Policy, taking into account the public interests at stake as well as those of the Registrant, giving each due weight. In view of the continued risk of repetition, taking no action would be a wholly insufficient response to the impairment. A Caution on the Registrant’s registration would not be sufficient to maintain public confidence in the profession in view of the risk of repetition that the Panel has determined to exist.

20. The Panel did have sympathy with the Registrant’s position that Conditions of Practice should be directed. However, conditional registration would not address the impairment, namely dishonesty. Supervision, for example, would not protect against the risk of dishonesty. Therefore, Conditions of Practice would not be practical or appropriate in the circumstances. 

21. In those circumstances, the Panel has concluded that a Suspension Order is appropriate and proportionate. Such an order protects the public and addresses the wider public interest. It would also give the Registrant the opportunity to place before a further reviewing panel evidence to show that he has addressed the [Redacted] issues that led to the impairment.

22. Accordingly, the Panel has decided that suspension for a further period of three months is the minimum period to enable the Registrant to show that he is fit to practise as a registered practitioner.

23. The case will be considered at a further review hearing before the further order of suspension expires. That reviewing panel is likely to find helpful up to date independent written or oral evidence provided by other persons, [Redacted], as to whether or not the [Redacted] issues that led to the impairment have been overcome.  A later review panel may also be assisted by others, who are aware of the misconduct found proved in these proceedings, providing up to date character references which sufficiently address the issue of the Registrant’s honesty.

24. It is open to the Registrant to seek an early review of this Order, should he consider that he is able to demonstrate that his fitness to practise is no longer impaired.

Order

Order: The Registrar is directed to suspend the name of Dr Darren Adamson from the Register for a period of 3 months upon the expiry of the existing order. 

Notes

The Order imposed today will apply from 24 March 2021.


This Order will be reviewed again before its expiry on 24 June 2021.

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Dr Darren Adamson

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
16/02/2021 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Suspended
26/08/2020 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended