Mr Benjamin Hibberd

Profession: Practitioner psychologist

Registration Number: PYL32103

Hearing Type: Review Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 18/01/2021 End: 17:00 18/01/2021

Location: Virtual hearing - Video conference

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: No further action

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Allegation

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

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

a. Undertook this work without informing Hertfordshire County Council

b. Undertook some of this work while you should have been working for Hertfordshire County Council

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

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

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

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

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

Finding

Preliminary Matters

Proceeding in private

1. The Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) made an application for any matters of a personal or health nature to be discussed in private in a discrete part of the proceedings. At this stage the HCPC had no intention of making reference to any personal or health issues but should there be any reference made by the Registrant or questions from the Panel, it was submitted that these should be in private session. Ms Sleeman, Counsel on behalf of the Registrant, agreed with this application. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and considered the relevant HCPTS Practice Note on “Conducting Hearings in Private”.

2. The Panel was aware that as a starting point all hearings should be held in public. Where there are overriding considerations, only then should that public interest in hearings held in open session be overridden. The HCPC Rules provide the Panel with a discretion to consider such issues of a personal or health nature in private. The right to a private life is enshrined in Human Rights legislation. The Panel gave this matter consideration and agreed with the application to hear any matters of a personal or health nature in private.

Documentation

3. The Panel accepted additional documentation during the course of the hearing at the request of Ms Sleeman. Mr D’Alton consented to this. The Panel received:

• An extract from the Registrant’s statement which was provided to the substantive hearing panel in October 2020.

• An email from Dr DG, Senior Educational Psychologist at Enfield Council.

Background

4. Dr Benjamin Hibberd (“the Registrant“) is employed at Enfield Council and has continued to work there since his registration was suspended. This followed a finding of impairment at a substantive hearing in October 2020 and the imposition of a Suspension Order from practice for three months from the HCPC Register. Since his suspension from the Register, the Registrant has worked at Enfield Council as a ‘Child & Community Psychologist’, a role which does not require registration with the HCPC.

5. At the time of the Allegation, January 2017 to March 2018, the Registrant was employed as an Educational Psychologist by Hertfordshire County Council (“the Council”). The HCPC’s case was that whilst in that employment the Registrant undertook work for a company called Key Change Resources Ltd (“the Company”) and he did so: (i) without informing the Council; (ii) undertaking some of that work at times when he should have been working for the Council; and (iii) although later applying to the Council for permission to undertake work for the Company and, even though the application had not been approved and / or had been rejected, continuing to undertake that work on three subsequent occasions.

6. The HCPC also alleged that between January 2017 and January 2018, the Registrant falsified travel expense claims which led to an overpayment to him of about £668. The HCPC’s case was that the actions of the Registrant at points (ii) and (iii) above, and the falsification of travel claims, were acts of dishonesty.

7. During the substantive hearing the panel heard evidence from three witnesses in support of the HCPC case and also took into account the written statement of a fourth witness who did not attend.

8. The Registrant also gave evidence at the substantive hearing in October 2020.

9. At the substantive hearing the panel found the Allegation proved on the balance of probabilities.

10. At the substantive hearing, the Registrant accepted in his evidence that he had known what he was doing was dishonest from the start of each of the actions which the HCPC said were dishonest. On 18 September 2020, the Registrant prepared a written statement in which he admitted the Allegation.

11. On 21 October 2020, the substantive hearing panel stated in its determination:

“Decision on Impairment

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

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

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

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

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

• are the acts or omissions which led to the allegation remediable?

• has the Registrant taken remedial action?

• are those acts or omissions likely to be repeated?

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

“Do our findings of fact in respect of the doctor's misconduct, deficient professional performance, adverse health, conviction, caution or determination show that his/her fitness to practise is impaired in the sense that s/he:

1.has in the past acted and/or is liable in the future to act so as to put a patient or patients at unwarranted risk of harm; and/or

2.has in the past brought and/or is liable in the future to bring the medical profession into disrepute; and/or

3.has in the past breached and/or is liable in the future to breach one of the fundamental tenets of the medical profession; and/or

4.has in the past acted dishonestly and/or is liable to act dishonestly in the future.”

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

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

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

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

• brought his profession into disrepute

• been dishonest, and

• breached a fundamental tenet of his profession which is to act honestly.

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

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

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

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

Decision on Sanction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mitigating and aggravating features

65. The mitigating features are:

• the Registrant’s good level of insight

• the co-operation on the part of the Registrant in the workplace investigation and with these proceedings

• the Registrant’s admissions and apologies at an early stage of these proceedings

• the positive testimonials provided from persons of professional standing who have known both the Registrant and the circumstances of the misconduct well and who, nevertheless, have commented favourably on the Registrant’s honesty and integrity.

66. The aggravating features are:

• the serious breach of trust committed by the Registrant

• the repetition of those breaches for personal gain which was sustained over a period of time.

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

68. The Panel next considered a Caution Order, which is deemed to be appropriate where:

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

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

70. The Panel considered a Conditions of Practice Order. The Panel noted, in particular, paragraphs 107 to 109 of the Sanctions Policy:

“107. Conditions will only be effective in cases where the registrant is genuinely committed to resolving the concerns raised and the panel is confident they will do so. Therefore, conditions of practice are unlikely to be suitable in cases in which the registrant has failed to engage with the fitness to practise process or where there are serious or persistent failings.

108. Conditions are also less likely to be appropriate in more serious cases, for example those involving:

• dishonesty…;

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

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

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

“A suspension order is likely to be appropriate where there are serious concerns which cannot be reasonably addressed by a conditions of practice order, but which do not require the registrant to be struck off the Register. These types of cases will typically exhibit the following factors:

• the concerns represent a serious breach of the Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics;

• the registrant has insight;

• the issues are unlikely to be repeated; and

• there is evidence to suggest the registrant is likely to be able to resolve or remedy their failings.”

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

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

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

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

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

Evidence Before Today’s Panel

12. The Registrant has provided the Panel with documentation including:

(i) The Registrant’s signed Statement, dated 3 Jan 2021.

(ii) The Registrant’s Reflective Piece, including reflections through regular supervision with Dr DG.

(iii) Testimonial from Dr DG, dated 17 Dec 2020 (referring to an earlier testimonial of August 2020, not enclosed).

(iv) Testimonial from Dr LT of Enfield Council, dated 15 November 2019.

(v) Testimonial from Dr TR, HCPC-registered Educational Psychologist, Author, and Educational Consultant, dated 31 July 2019.

(vi) Testimonial from Dr SK, Educational Psychologist, dated 1 August 2019.

(vii) Testimonial from JE, police office/undated.
 
(viii) Testimonial from Dr SR, GMC-registered, dated 1 August 2019.

(ix) Testimonial from MS, FRSA Director, Key Change Resources Ltd, dated 1 August 2019.

13. The Registrant took an Affirmation and gave evidence.

14. The Registrant confirmed to the Panel that following the imposition of the Suspension Order he underwent a change in job title from ‘Educational Psychologist’ to ‘Child & Community Psychologist’ from 19 November 2020 onwards. This role did not require HCPC registration. He had also sent an email communication in October 2020 to all members of Enfield Educational Psychology Service informing them of his recent HCPC hearing, outcome, and title change. In response to questions from the Panel, the Registrant confirmed that he had informed the schools with whom he had contracts undertaking private work that his HCPC registration was suspended.

15. The Registrant gave evidence that he has instigated supervision sessions with his line manager. These were weekly and were scheduled to continue to the end of March 2021. He used the Gibbs Reflective Cycle at these sessions, to allow reflection on the judgement and advice from the panel at the substantive hearing in October 2020, in addition to the allegations themselves. This also allowed him to identify coping strategies to prevent any kind of reoccurrence of dishonesty in the future.

16. The Registrant stated that during these supervision sessions he also kept a reflective log. He stated that he now kept of a copy of the HCPC ‘Ethics’ on his desktop as well as a hard copy, and diarised a reminder to reread his contact on a quarterly basis just to remind himself of his responsibilities and to ensure he was complying with the ethics. He also had support from his line manager and colleagues via virtual bubbles during the Covid-19 pandemic.

17. The Registrant confirmed that he currently worked part-time with Enfield Council three days per week. In response to questioning from the HCPC, the Panel noted that the Registrant is also the co-director of a private company, Schools Edupeutic Solutions Ltd (SEPS), which subcontracts workers to provide support services to schools within Essex Council. The Registrant confirmed that there is no conflict of interest with his employment. He confirmed that he had signed the multiple occupation notification forms in 2019 and 2020 with his current employer and his manager is aware of this work.

18. The Registrant accepted now that his conduct had not simply been “naive and reckless”, but he had been dishonest and unethical. He accepted that his dishonesty had inadvertently included his line manager. It had also impacted his team, whose staff had required to cover work while he was engaged in disciplinary proceedings. He had damaged the reputation and trust of the profession.

19. The Registrant confirmed that he had not submitted up to date references to this Panel except from his current manager. He stated that he considered the earlier references submitted at the substantive hearing in October 2020 and again today were from people who had known him well for some time and could comment on his character.

Submissions

20. On behalf of the HCPC, Mr D’Alton submitted that the HCPC was neutral on the question of whether there was current impairment and wished simply to make observations and mention of case law. He continued by saying that the purpose of sanctions was not to punish registrants but to protect members of the public.

21. Mr D’Alton emphasised that in the case of a review, the burden is upon a registrant to identify the ways in which they have rectified the failings in their conduct. The HCPC stated that in the light of the information submitted on behalf of the Registrant on the steps he had taken to restrict his practice to a different role to denote and reflect his suspension, the HCPC had no issues arising from the Registrant’s evidence of compliance.

22. The HCPC emphasised that it was for the Panel to consider whether the Registrant had demonstrated sufficient contrition, remorse, insight, and regret. He addressed the Panel in respect of the substantial steps taken by the Registrant to demonstrate the steps taken to improve his practice and fully accept his dishonesty. Mr D’Alton referred the Panel to the testimonials, noting that only two were current, and submitted that the Panel should put upon them what weight they saw fit to assess the Registrant’s insight, apology, and remorse.

23. Mr D’Alton submitted that the Panel should be clear about the purpose of the available sanctions and should approach consideration of those by using a step-by-step approach, ensuring the chosen sanction was proportionate and adequately upheld professional standards and the interests of members of the public. He submitted that if the Panel did decide that the Registrant is no longer impaired then the current Suspension Order should expire on 18 February 2021 to reflect the seriousness of the finding, rather than being revoked with immediate effect.

24. On behalf of the Registrant, Ms Sleeman submitted that the evidence before the Panel today of the Registrant’s actions to develop coping strategies and his development of fuller insight into his dishonesty showed the Registrant was no longer impaired.

25. Ms Sleeman also drew the Panel’s attention to the supportive testimonials submitted, including one from his line manager. It was clear that the Registrant was very highly regarded by the writers of those testimonials, who had described the Registrant as being honest. She submitted that the line manager’s email communication confirmed he was aware of the Registrant’s additional employment outside of the Council and therefore the Registrant was complying with requirements to report external work. He was able to be a good practitioner. She submitted that he had fully addressed the concerns identified by the panel at the substantive hearing in October 2020 and should be allowed to recommence his practice.

26. Ms Sleeman recognised that all sanctions would be available to the Panel. However, she drew the Panel’s attention to the comments made by the substantive hearing panel that there were no conditions that would be workable in this case of dishonesty and, on this basis, Ms Sleeman submitted conditions would not be appropriate.

27. Ms Sleeman submitted that the Panel should consider the Registrant no longer impaired and that the Suspension Order was sufficient sanction to have addressed this matter.

Legal Advice

28. The Legal Assessor reminded the Panel that its purpose today is to conduct a comprehensive review to determine if the Registrant is fit to return to unrestricted practice. She reminded the Panel that its role was not to conduct a rehearing of the Allegation, nor was it to go behind the previous findings. She advised that in carrying out this assessment, the Panel must exercise its own independent judgement. If the evidence before the Panel was sufficient to show that there has been full remediation and full insight gained, such that there is little or no likelihood of a repetition of the misconduct, the Panel may come to the conclusion that there is no continuing impairment and, in such a situation, it may allow the current order to lapse on 18 February 2021.

29. If, however, the Panel determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remained impaired, then the Panel must go on to consider what restriction, if any, should be imposed. She also advised the Panel that it should bear in mind the principles of fairness and proportionality and have regard to the Sanctions Policy document issued by the HCPC. She reminded the Panel that any order that it makes under Article 30 should not be punitive in purpose, and that it should be the least restrictive order that would suffice to protect the public and/or would otherwise be in the public interest.

Decision

30. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. It took into account the parties’ submissions and written representations and evidence when making its decision. The Panel, as advised, referred to the guidance issued by the HCPC.

31. The Panel started by considering whether there had been compliance with the substantive Suspension Order. The Panel noted that from 19 November 2020 the Registrant has been able to continue to work for the same employer and manager. During the period of his suspension he has worked as a ‘Child & Community Psychologist’ (an unprotected title) applying his knowledge and skills but not requiring his registration.

32. The Panel noted that the Registrant has engaged with his manager, Dr DG, and undertaken reflections on his conduct through regular supervision, commencing 25 November 2020. In particular the Registrant had followed the “Gibbs Reflective Cycle” with Dr DG. Through this they have discussed ways of working and decided to proceed mindfully with weekly supervision, scheduled till 31 March 2021. This has been, “taking on board all forms of feedback in a manner that addressed both [the Registrant’s] needs and service priorities”.

33. The Panel concluded that there has been compliance.

34. The Panel then considered whether any concerns remain about the Registrant’s fitness to practise. Whilst the Panel accepted that dishonesty is a difficult, if not impossible, issue to resolve, consideration is required of whether and to what degree the Registrant’s actions were capable of remedy, whether there has been remediation, and therefore whether going forward there was any likelihood of a repetition of the previous misconduct.

35. In this regard the Panel took into account the reflective statement and the references from professional colleagues and friends which attest to the Registrant being open and honest about his previous misconduct. The Panel put weight on the recent testimonials from his manager but considered the more historic testimonials less persuasive.

36. The Panel noted the information that the Registrant instigated and booked in weekly supervision sessions with his line manager to think about an approach that would allow deep reflection on the judgement and advice from the substantive hearing panel, in addition to the allegations themselves, in order that strategies could be co-constructed and implemented to prevent any kind of reoccurrence in future.

37. The Panel noted that during these supervision sessions the Registrant had kept a reflective log and, with his line manager’s help in facilitating, had applied and used the Gibbs Reflective Cycle “for some deeper thought and processing around the allegations, why they may have occurred and, crucially, what I can do to ensure they do not reoccur”.

38. The Panel noted the insight the Registrant has gained into his dishonest acts and his development of his own awareness of its impact. The Panel accepted that the Registrant’s current level of insight into his misconduct is sufficiently developed.

39. The Panel considered that the Registrant has demonstrated, through his interaction with colleagues over the last three months and his personal testimony submitted to this Panel, remorse, apology, and regret for his actions. Given the repercussions and impact these proceedings have had on the Registrant, combined with his remorse, remediation, and insight, the Panel is of the view that the risk of repetition appears low.

40. Having identified that there is little likelihood of repetition, and in light of the improved insight gained by the Registrant into his misconduct, as well as his genuine remorse and apology, the Panel concluded that there is no current and continuing impairment on the personal component of its decision.

41. The Panel then considered whether there remained any concerns from the perspective of the wider public. The Panel appreciated that there was in fact a public interest in ensuring that good practitioners are retained to provide professional services to the public. The Panel has before it clear evidence that the Registrant is considered by his employer and colleagues to be a good, respected, and trusted employee.

42. The Registrant’s dishonesty had not put any service user or colleague in danger. The major impact of his actions has been on the reputation of the profession, as well as having an adverse impact on the Registrant’s own reputation and registration.

43. The Panel is of the view that a member of the public, in full knowledge of all the facts, would consider that a 3-month Suspension Order had given appropriate weight to the wider public interest factors. The Registrant has been suspended from practice between 18 November 2020 to 18 February 2021 and this 3-month period of suspension served as a deterrent effect for other registrants, upholds the reputation of the profession, and maintains public confidence in the regulatory process

44. The Panel therefore concluded that on the public component of its decision there is no current impairment.

45. Having reached this decision that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is no longer impaired on either the personal or the public components, the Panel concluded that the current Suspension Order will lapse on 18 February 2021.

Order

The Suspension Order will lapse upon its expiry on 18 February 2021.

Notes

No notes available

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Mr Benjamin Hibberd

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
18/01/2021 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing No further action
19/10/2020 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended