Dr Elinor Harper

Profession: Practitioner psychologist

Registration Number: PYL30276

Hearing Type: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 21/06/2021 End: 17:00 25/06/2021

Location: Virtual via Video Conference

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Struck off

Please note that the decision can take up to 5 working days to be uploaded onto the HCPTS website. Please contact one of our Hearings Team Managers via tsteam@hcpts-uk.org or +44 (0)808 164 3084 if you require any further information.

 

Allegation

As a registered Practitioner Psychologist (PYL30276) your fitness to practise is
impaired by reason of misconduct. In that:

1. Between February 2018 and April 2020, you did not maintain professional
boundaries with Service User A, in that;

a) You shared personal information with Service User A about your marriage.

b) During contact with Service User A from about September 2018 onwards you:

i. stated words to the effect of –

A. ‘do you feel that we have a close relationship?’
B. ‘I like you more than my other patients’
C. ‘you are special’
D. ‘I am attracted to you’
E. ‘I can no longer be with my husband because of how I feel about you’
F. ‘I love you’, and/or
G. ‘I will look after you’

ii. kissed and hugged Service User A in the therapy room.

c) You telephoned Service User A between therapy sessions to ask how Service User A felt about what you had said in paragraph 1.b.i.A above.

d) From about September 2018 onwards you engaged in a personal and/or sexual relationship with Service User A

e) You continued group and solo therapy sessions with Service User A after entering into a personal and/or sexual relationship with him.

f) [not proved].

g) You spent time with Service User A in a social setting with your child and/or Service User A’s children.

h) [not proved].

i) [not proved].

j) In or about January 2020 onwards when Service User A expressed concerns about your relationship you stated words to the effect of ‘there is nothing wrong with our relationship’ and/or ‘I cannot help who I fall in love with’.

k) In April 2020, after Service User A had sought to end your personal and/or sexual relationship with him, you attended a barbeque arranged by Service User A’s neighbours.

2. On or around 7 October 2019, when questioned by Colleague B about your relationship with Service User A, you provided information you knew to be untrue.

3. Your conduct in any or all of the particulars 1.a), 1.b), 1.c), 1.d), 1.e), 1.f),
1.g), 1.h), 1.i), 1.j), 1.k) was sexually motivated.

4. Your conduct in particular 2 was dishonest.

5. The matters set out in particulars 1, 2, 3 and 4 above constitute misconduct.

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

Finding

Preliminary matters:

Virtual Hearing

1.

In line with the current guidance from HM Government in relation to the COVID- 19 (Coronavirus) pandemic, this hearing was conducted by video-conference in accordance with Rule 2A of the Health and Care Professions Council (Conduct and Competence Committee) Rules 2003 (as amended) (“the Rules”).

Proof of Service

  1. The Panel was provided with a Service Bundle (“C2”) which contained:

 

  • A copy of a Notice of Hearing dated 12 April 2021 which had been sent by electronic mail (“email”) to the Registrant’s email address shown on the HCPC Register;

 

  • A certificate dated 12 January 2021, signed by the Registrar, confirming that the Registrant is registered in the Practitioner Psychologist part of the HCPC Register under registration number The certificate showed the Registrant’s registered postal and email addresses; and

 

  • Email correspondence from the Registrant confirming that she had received the Notice of

 

  1. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor who referred it to Rules 3 and 6 of the Rules.

 

  1. The Panel was satisfied that the Notice of Hearing had been properly served in accordance with Rule 3(b)(ii) and Rule 6 of the Rules.

 

Proceeding in the absence of the Registrant

 

  1. Having determined that service of the Notice of Hearing had been properly effected, the Panel went on to consider whether to proceed with the hearing in the absence of the

 

  1. The Panel heard submissions from Mr Mr Dite referred the Panel to the chronology of this matter. He also referred the Panel to the Bundle of Communications with the Registrant (“C3”). He submitted that it was clear that the Registrant has chosen not to attend the hearing. He submitted that it was in the public interest to proceed with the hearing and invited the Panel to exercise its discretion to proceed in the absence of the Registrant.

 

  1. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor who referred the Panel to Rule 11 of the Rules, the HCPTS Practice Note “Proceeding in the absence of the Registrant” and the case of GMC v Adeogba [2016] EWCA Civ 162.

 

  1. The Panel approached its decision with the utmost care and caution and had careful regard to the guidance provided in the HCPTS Practice Note.

 

  1. The Panel noted the content of the emails from the Registrant contained in bundle In particular, the Panel noted that on 19 January 2021, the Registrant sent an email to the HCPC in which she stated:

 

“…I have engaged with my regulatory body from the outset of this investigation.

 

I undertook appropriate CPD including an intensive course on Maintaining Professional Boundaries.

 

I have hitherto, responded promptly through my solicitor to the HCPC and wrote to the Investigating Committee agreeing that there was a case to answer, indicating that in order to avoid any further anxiety or inconvenience to (Service User A) or (Person B), I would make appropriate admissions on the advice of my solicitor.

 

…Having indicated that I would engage with Kingsley Napley the Council`s solicitors, regarding the forthcoming fitness to practise hearing I am writing to inform you that I am withdrawing my offer of further cooperation and assistance.

 

I now have no confidence that my own position will be properly and fairly taken into account at the Fitness to Practise Hearing. But for the current investigation I would be seeking Voluntary Erasure but have been advised that in the circumstances this would not be granted.

 

I am therefore disengaging with this process and am not going to participate any further in the fitness to practice investigation, nor am I going to seek to have my registration with the HCPC reinstated now or in the future. This is because, while I believe the allegations made against me include statements that rise to the level of libel, I don't believe the HCPC has objective measures for truth. Furthermore, I feel the HCPC's approach limits the ability of humans to achieve good mental health.

 

I will not be acknowledging any further correspondence and I have withdrawn instructions from my solicitor,… and request that no further correspondence be sent to either him or me.”

 

  1. The Panel further noted that notwithstanding the content of this email, the Registrant did respond to the Notice of Hearing and Final Hearing Bundle (“C1”) that were sent to her by email on 12 April 2021, in that on 24 May 2021, the Registrant sent emails to the HCPC and to Kingsley Napley LLP attaching evidence for the consideration of the Panel at the final The evidence comprised of a written statement and submissions from the Registrant and copies of screenshots of WhatsApp messages exchanged between the Registrant and Service User A. That evidence has been provided to the Panel as the Registrant’s Bundle (“R1”).

 

  1. The Panel also noted that the last communication from the Registrant was an email dated 11 June 2021, in which she stated:

 

“…I will not be attending the final hearing or calling any witnesses.”

 

  1. The Panel determined that it was fair, reasonable and in the public interest to proceed in the Registrant’s absence for the following reasons:

 

  • The Registrant has not made an application to adjourn the hearing and there is no evidence that the Registrant would engage further with the process or attend the hearing should an adjournment be granted;

 

  • The HCPC has made arrangements for two witnesses to give evidence during this The Panel was satisfied that the witnesses should not be inconvenienced and should be able to give evidence whilst the events are reasonably fresh in their minds.

 

  • The Panel recognised that there may be a disadvantage to the Registrant in not being present or represented at the She would not be able to cross-examine the witnesses called by the HCPC and/or give evidence. However, the Registrant was given the opportunity to attend and has chosen not to do so. In addition, the Panel noted that the Registrant was previously legally represented but had chosen to withdraw her instructions from her solicitors. In the Panel’s view, the potential disadvantage to the Registrant was mitigated by the fact that the Registrant had submitted R1 for the Panel’s consideration. The Panel also took into account that questions could be asked of the witnesses in attendance by the Panel and/or the Legal Assessor to test the reliability of the evidence presented. In these circumstances, the Panel concluded that any disadvantage to the Registrant was outweighed by the strong public interest in ensuring that the final hearing is conducted expeditiously.

 

  • Having regard to the content of the Registrant’s emails it was reasonable to conclude that the Registrant’s non-attendance was voluntary and therefore a deliberate waiver of her right to attend and/or be represented at the hearing.

 

Application to amend the Allegation

 

  1. Mr Dite applied to amend particulars 1.d) and 6 of the Allegation in the following terms:

 

1.d)    From about September 2018 onwards you engaged into in a personal and/or sexual relationship with Service User A.

 

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

 

  1. Mr Dite submitted that the proposed amendments were required to correct typographical He further submitted that they did not cause any prejudice to the Registrant.

 

  1. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

 

  1. The Panel was satisfied that the proposed amendments were necessary to correct typographical It was satisfied that they were minor in nature and did not change the substance of the Allegation. In the circumstances, the Panel was satisfied that the proposed amendments did not cause any prejudice to the Registrant. Accordingly, the Panel decided to allow the amendments in the terms sought.

 

Application to Admit Hearsay Evidence

 

  1. Mr Dite made an application to admit the witness statements of Service User A and Person B as hearsay evidence.

 

  1. In relation to the witness statement of Service User A, Mr Dite submitted that it was never the intention of the HCPC to call him as a witness to give live evidence due to his fragile mental He submitted that Service User A had provided a formal witness statement to the HCPC that contained a declaration of truth and that he knew his statement was intended for use in these proceedings. He submitted that in her written statement, the Registrant has made extensive submissions and that therefore Service User A’s evidence is not the sole and decisive evidence in relation to the matters in issue. He further submitted that the Registrant has waived her right to attend the hearing and to cross-examine any of the HCPC witnesses. He concluded by submitting that these were cogent reasons for admitting the witness statement as hearsay evidence.

 

  1. In relation to Person B, Mr Dite submitted that it was originally the intention of the HCPC to call her as a witness to give live However, she had subsequently decided that she was no longer willing to attend as a witness, even remotely, as she believed to do so would not be in her best interests or the best interests of her children. Mr Dite submitted that Person B had provided a formal witness statement to the HCPC and that it contained a declaration of truth. He further submitted that Person B provided contextual evidence and therefore her witness statement was not the sole and decisive evidence on any matter in issue. He therefore invited the Panel to admit Person B’s witness statement as hearsay evidence.

 

  1. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor who referred the Panel to Rule 10(1)(b) of the Rules, which provides:

 

“Subject to sub-paragraph (c) the rules on the admissibility of evidence that apply in civil proceedings in the appropriate court in that part of the United Kingdom in which the hearing takes place shall apply;

 

  1. The Legal Assessor advised the Panel that the hearsay evidence is admissible in civil proceedings in England and Wales pursuant to the provisions of the Civil Evidence Act

 

  1. The Legal Assessor also referred the Panel to Rule 10(1)(c) Rules, which provides:

 

“the Committee may hear or receive evidence which would not be admissible in such proceedings if it is satisfied that admission of that evidence is necessary in order to protect members of the public;

 

  1. The Legal advisor set out the factors the Panel should take into consideration when deciding whether to admit the hearsay evidence derived from the cases of Thorneycroft v NMC [2014] EWHC 1565 (Admin), NMC v Ogbonna [2010] EWCA Civ 1216, and El Karout v NMC [2019] EWHC 28 (Admin).

 

  1. The Panel first considered the witness statement of Service User The Panel noted that it was a formal witness statement that contained a declaration of truth. The witness statement was dated 14 December 2020. The Panel was satisfied that Service User A had understood when he made the witness statement that it was intended for use in these proceedings. The Panel considered that the content of the witness statement was highly relevant to the facts in issue. The Panel also had regard to the content of the Registrant’s 24 page statement and the 36 pages of screenshots of WhatsApp messages exhibited by her in R1. The Panel was therefore satisfied that Service User A’s evidence was not the sole and decisive evidence in relation to the Allegation.

 

  1. The Panel was satisfied that Service User A’s fragile mental health was a cogent and compelling reason for him not being called as a witness to give live evidence to the The Panel noted that the Registrant had not objected to the admissibility of Service User A’s witness statement. Furthermore, the Panel was satisfied that the Registrant had waived her right to attend the hearing or be legally represented and therefore her right to challenge or cross-examine any of the HCPC witnesses.

 

  1. Taking all of the above into account, the Panel decided that it was fair to admit the witness statement of Service User A as In reaching this decision, the Panel was mindful that the fact that the evidence was being admitted as hearsay may affect the weight the Panel attributed to it.

 

  1. The Panel next considered the witness statement of Person The Panel noted that it was a formal witness statement that contained a declaration of truth. The witness statement was dated 8 January 2021. The Panel was satisfied that Person B had understood when she made the witness statement that it was intended for use in these proceedings. The Panel noted that it was Person B who had made the complaint to the HCPC and to the Registrant’s employer. Person B had engaged with the HCPC investigation. The Panel was satisfied that the content of Person B’s witness statement was relevant to the facts in issue, although primarily she provided contextual evidence. The Panel was satisfied that Person B did not provide the sole and decisive evidence in relation to any particular of the Allegation.

 

  1. The Panel noted that although Person B had been proactive in the investigation at the beginning, she now believed that by re-visiting these matters by attending as a witness, she may cause damage to herself and to her The Panel also noted that there was some evidence that the children have been adversely affected by events associated with this matter. In the circumstances, the Panel was therefore satisfied that this amounted to a good reason for her not to be compelled to attend as a witness to give live evidence to the Panel. The Panel also had regard to the fact that the Registrant had not objected to the admissibility of Person B’s witness statement. Furthermore, the Panel was satisfied that the Registrant had waived her right to attend the hearing or be legally represented and therefore her right to challenge or cross-examine any of the HCPC witnesses.

 

  1. The Panel therefore decided that it was fair to admit the witness statement of Person B as In reaching this decision, the Panel was mindful that the fact that the evidence was being admitted as hearsay, may affect the weight the Panel attributed to it.

 

Anonymisation

 

  1. The Panel noted that the names of several of the HCPC witnesses have been anonymised in order to protect their privacy and In the Allegation and in Bundles C1, C2, C3 and R1, their names have been redacted and they are referred to as Service User A, Person B, and Colleague B respectively.

 

  1. However, the Panel noted that the name of the NHS Trust at which the Registrant was employed at the time of the Allegation had not been In the circumstances of this case, the Panel was concerned that the use of the name of the NHS Trust in these proceedings may lead to the identification of the anonymised witnesses or their family members. The Panel therefore invited submissions from Mr Dite as to the appropriateness of anonymising the name of the Trust by simply referring to it as “the Trust” during these proceedings.

 

  1. Mr Dite submitted that the HCPC did not object to the Panel’s

 

  1. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal

 

  1. The Panel concluded that it was necessary and appropriate to anonymise the name of the NHS Trust in order to protect the privacy and private lives of the witnesses and their In reaching this decision, the Panel was mindful that the hearing would be heard in public and that the Panel’s decision would also be published by the HCPC.

 

Background

 

  1. The Registrant is a registered Practitioner Psychologist.

 

  1. At the material time, the Registrant worked at the Trust where she had been employed since August 2017 as a Band 8a Counselling/Clinical Psychologist within the Psychology Step 4 The Registrant was responsible for providing assessment and therapy to adults of working age with psychological difficulties, as well as complex clients.

 

  1. In 2017, Service User A, who had a history of mental health issues, made a suicide The local mental health Crisis Team referred Service User A to the Trust and his initial assessment was undertaken by the Registrant on 4 January 2018. Six assessment sessions took place with the Registrant, the last being on 22 February 2018. Person B (Service User A’s ex-wife), attended the first and last of these sessions with Service User A. Thereafter, Service User A undertook a number of individual and group therapy sessions with the Registrant. The last individual session took place on 21 February 2019 and the last group session took place on 5 February 2019.

 

  1. Prior to Christmas 2018, it became apparent that the Registrant had personal issues that resulted in her taking extensive periods of sick leave in early On 11 March 2019, the Registrant was referred to Occupational Health and on 11 June 2019, the Registrant met with her line manager Colleague B, to discuss her long-term absence from work. During this meeting, the Registrant told Colleague B of her intention to hand in her notice. The Registrant subsequently handed in her notice on 16 July 2019.

 

  1. On 18 September 2019, Person B made a detailed formal complaint about the Registrant to the It was alleged that the Registrant had formed an inappropriate personal, sexual and intimate relationship with Service User A. On 18 and 20 September 2019, Person B provided further evidence in support of her complaint to the HCPC.

 

  1. On 26 September 2019, Person B made a formal complaint about the Registrant to the She alleged that the Registrant had engaged in grooming Service User A and was involved in an inappropriate personal and sexual relationship with him.

 

  1. Colleague B, in her capacity as the Registrant’s line manager, was informed of the complaint made by Person B and conducted a fact-finding As a part of that process, Colleague B telephoned the Registrant on 7 October 2019 and asked her to attend a meeting. Colleague B informed the Registrant that a complaint had been received but did not provide any more details during the telephone conversation.

 

  1. The Registrant attended a meeting with Colleague B later on 7 October Colleague B put the complaint to the Registrant and the Registrant denied that she had entered into a personal or sexual relationship with Service User A.

 

  1. On 16 October 2019, the Trust commenced a formal disciplinary investigation into the concerns raised about the SH was appointed as the investigating officer.

 

  1. SH was asked to conduct an investigation and to prepare a report in relation to whether the Registrant had “breached her position of trust with Service User A by forming an inappropriate relationship that went beyond the professional boundaries of that of a clinical psychologist and a client.”

 

  1. On 17 October 2019, SH sent an email to the Registrant, requesting her attendance at an investigatory The Registrant declined to attend and did not engage in the Trust’s investigation.

 

  1. On 20 October 2019, the Registrant ended her employment at the

 

  1. SH subsequently provided her report on 22 January 2020. A disciplinary hearing was then held on 9 April 2020, however, the Registrant did not attend. The Registrant was notified of the outcome by letter dated 22 April 2020.

 

Decision on Facts

 

The Panel’s Approach

 

  1. The Panel reminded itself that the burden of proving the facts is on the HCPC and that the Registrant does not have to prove Further, a fact is only to be found proved if the Panel is satisfied of it on the balance of probabilities.

 

  1. The Panel considered the documentary evidence, including witness statements of Service User A and Person B and exhibits contained in the HCPC Hearing Bundle It also considered the Registrant’s bundle R1, including a statement from the Registrant and screenshots of WhatsApp messages exchanged between the Registrant and Service User A.

 

  1. The Panel heard evidence from two witnesses, Colleague B and SH, called on behalf of the HCPC.

 

  1. The Panel took into account the written submissions (“C4”) provided by Mr

 

  1. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal

 

Evidence of Colleague B

 

  1. Colleague B adopted the content of his witness statement dated 8 February 2021.

 

  1. Colleague B confirmed that at the time she was a Consultant Clinical Psychologist at the Trust and that she was also the Registrant’s line She told the Panel that she had a good working relationship with the Registrant, there was never any tension between them and that they ran some therapy groups together. She stated that she had regular supervision meetings with the Registrant and that they took place in a friendly atmosphere with both of them able to bring matters up for discussion.

 

  1. Colleague B told the Panel that Service User A was initially referred as a Personality Disorder client but that he became a Step 4 She explained that following the six assessment sessions with the Registrant, Service User A was referred to Step 4 for individual therapy and to DBT Skills for group therapy.

 

  1. Colleague B stated that patient records were kept on an electronic database called She stated that she had accessed Service User A’s patient records and made a note of the dates of the therapy sessions and was therefore able to provide them in her witness statement.

 

  1. Mr Dite asked Colleague B about the Registrant’s extended sick Colleague B told the Panel that prior to Christmas 2018, it became apparent that the Registrant was ‘struggling’. She said that a couple of members of the DBT team had said she appeared a bit upset at times. Colleague B said she had spoken to the Registrant and that she had become tearful on occasions and had referred to her stressful domestic situation. Colleague B stated that it was around that time, in early January 2019, that the Registrant started to take sick leave. She explained that she had referred the Registrant to Occupational Health on 11 March 2019 in accordance with Trust procedures due to the amount of sick leave taken by the Registrant. Colleague B told the Panel that there was an expectation for her to keep in touch with the Registrant during her sick leave as she was her line manager. She told the Panel that they had an absence review meeting on 11 June 2019 and that during that meeting, the Registrant told her she was going to hand in her notice. Colleague B stated that she was surprised by the Registrant’s decision and urged her to think about it.

 

  1. Colleague B explained that the plan was for the Registrant to begin a phased return to work in June 2019, however, in reality this never happened and the Registrant only returned for a day or two.

 

  1. Colleague B stated that on 30 September 2019, she was asked by her line manager to conduct an initial fact-finding investigation into an alleged inappropriate relationship between the Registrant and Service User She stated that she was shocked to hear that such an allegation had been made, although she thought it ‘made sense of what was going on in the last year and the Registrant’s absences’ and was ‘the missing piece of the jigsaw’.

 

  1. Colleague B told the Panel that as part of her fact-finding investigation she telephoned the Registrant and told her she wanted to talk to her face to face because an allegation had been made about She said that the Registrant came in to meet her about half an hour later. She said she made notes of the meeting and later typed them up. Colleague B told the Panel that the Registrant said she felt mortified and physically sick that such allegations had been made against her. Colleague B stated that the Registrant’s manner during the meeting was anxious, she looked tense, her voice was shaky and her eyes were dotting around. Colleague B told the Panel that the Registrant assured her there was nothing to the allegation. Colleague B told the Panel that, as a result of other information she had obtained during her fact-finding investigation, she did not think that the Registrant was providing her with the ‘whole picture’.

 

  1. Colleague B stated that as a psychologist you would be mindful of your relationship with a client and would not abuse any power you She stated that it would be professionally upsetting and challenging if someone made such an allegation against you. Colleague B stated that her reaction would have been ‘What?’, but that was not the reaction in the room from the Registrant.

 

  1. Colleague B told the Panel that as a psychologist there is inevitably a power differential in the dynamic in the relationship you have with a She explained that the client is often telling you their innermost things making them vulnerable and the psychologist must therefore make sure that they do not abuse that knowledge. She told the Panel that the psychologist must make the client feel safe and must keep the relationship safe by maintaining boundaries.

 

  1. Colleague B stated that from a professional perspective, it was shocking for a psychologist to engage in a personal and sexual relationship with a She stated that it is ‘drummed in to us as professionals that you don’t have relationships with a client’. Colleague B told the Panel that it was very important to be mindful of the vulnerabilities of clients and maintain professional boundaries.

 

  1. Mr Dite asked Colleague B if it was understandable that the Registrant had breached professional boundaries as a result of her own personal Colleague B responded that in her opinion nothing excuses such behaviour.

 

  1. In answer to questions from the Panel, Colleague B confirmed that the importance of maintaining professional boundaries formed part of the training of a She stated that the psychologist has access to information from a privileged position creating a power dynamic differential. Colleague B stated that when dealing with Step 4 clients maintaining boundaries is even more important as they inevitably have complex issues and have often had difficult relationships in their background. Dual relationships could therefore be confusing, messy and detrimental to the client. Colleague B told the Panel that if there was an attraction either way between a psychologist and a client, then she would expect the psychologist to take it to supervision as it may affect the psychologist’s objectivity as a therapist.

 

Evidence of SH

 

  1. SH adopted the content of her witness statement dated 3 February 2021.

 

  1. SH confirmed that she had been appointed as the investigating officer by the Trust on 16 October

 

  1. SH told the Panel that she did not know the Registrant in either a professional or a personal She explained to the Panel how she had conducted her investigation. SH stated that she had spoken to Colleague B directly and that Colleague B had provided her with the statements and evidence she had gathered during her fact-finding investigation. SH told the Panel that she had accessed records relating to Service User A on PCMIS and on another electronic record system called Care Notes.

 

  1. SH told the Panel that on 17 October 2019 she sent an email to the Registrant asking her to take part in a formal investigatory interview. SH told the Panel that the Registrant declined the request and that she therefore never spoke to the Registrant.

 

  1. SH told the Panel that following her investigation, she produced a report dated 22 January

 

The Panel’s Assessment of the Witnesses

 

  1. The Panel assessed the reliability and credibility of each of the witnesses, including those who did not give evidence to the Panel but had provided witness statements, namely, Service User A, Person B and the Registrant.

 

  1. The Panel found Colleague B to be a credible and knowledgeable witness who gave articulate and clear evidence to the She was a senior line manager who understood the context of working with Step 4 clients. She knew the Registrant as a professional colleague and as a friend. The Panel considered that Colleague B gave her evidence without embellishment, was not in any way guarded and was happy to share information. The Panel also noted that her oral evidence was consistent with her witness statement.

 

  1. The Panel found SH to be a credible witness and her oral evidence was consistent with her written statement and her investigation However, as a reporting witness, the Panel considered her evidence to be of limited assistance.

 

  1. The Panel noted that Service User A’s witness statement was a formal witness statement and it contained a declaration of In the Panel’s view, the statement was internally consistent, and to a large extent it was also consistent with other evidence, for example Person B’s witness statement in relation to attending the first and last assessment sessions. The Panel noted that it was also consistent with much of the Registrant’s witness statement and with the content of many of the WhatsApp messages provided by the Registrant. However, the Panel also note that in relation to some parts of Service User A’s witness statement, the WhatsApp messages were at odds with his account, for example in relation to the circumstances of the meeting in New Brighton. The Panel considered that overall, Service User A’s witness statement appeared credible. The Panel therefore determined that it could give some weight to Service User A’s witness statement, albeit not as much as if Service User A had attended the hearing.

 

  1. The Panel noted that Person B’s witness statement was also a formal witness statement and it contained a declaration of In the Panel’s view, the statement was internally consistent, and to a large extent it was also consistent with other evidence. In the Panel’s view, the witness statement provided useful evidence in relation to the timeline of events. The Panel therefore determined that it could give some weight to Person B’s witness statement as it appeared to be both credible and reliable, however, it was of limited use as it mainly provided contextual evidence.

 

  1. The Panel noted that the Registrant’s 24 page written statement was a combination of evidence and Overall, the Panel was satisfied that it contained an honest account of events from the Registrant’s perspective. The Panel noted that the Registrant has made significant admissions within the statement and has also provided 36 pages of screenshots of WhatsApp messages exchanged between her and Service User A. In the Panel’s view, many of these messages support the HCPC case and therefore, by providing them to the HCPC the Registrant was providing an open account of her relationship with Service User A. The Panel was therefore satisfied that it could place significant weight on the Registrant’s witness statement.

 

The Panel’s Decision

 

Particular 1.a) Proved

 

  1. The Panel accepted the evidence of Service User A who stated in his witness statement that the Registrant told him that she was married but that she did not want to be with her husband, that her life with her husband was a hard one and that they slept in separate beds.

 

  1. The Panel also took into account the Registrant’s witness statement in which she admitted that she had ‘mentioned the state of her marriage’ to Service User A during an individual therapy session with him on 5 December

 

  1. The Panel was satisfied that by sharing personal information about her marriage with Service User A, the Registrant was not maintaining professional boundaries with him.

 

  1. Accordingly, the Panel found particular 1.a) of the Allegation

 

Particular 1.b)(i) Proved

 

  1. The Panel noted that this particular of the allegation is sub-particularised further into 1.b)(i)A to b(i)G in that it is alleged the Registrant used words to the effect of:

 

  1. ‘do you feel that we have a close relationship?’
  2. ‘I like you more than my other patients’
  3. ‘you are special’
  4. ‘I am attracted to you’
  5. ‘I can no longer be with my husband because of how I feel about you’
  6. ‘I love you’, and/or
  7. ‘I will look after you’

 

  1. The Panel therefore considered the evidence in relation to each of these sub- particulars separately.

 

  1. The Panel noted that Service User A has stated in his witness statement that the Registrant used words to the effect of those contained in all of the sub-particulars A-G.

 

  1. The Panel also noted that in her witness statement, the Registrant admits using words to the effect of those in sub-particulars D, E and F, for example, “I remember saying… how I felt this strong maternal pull towards him and how I was physically attracted to him”.

 

  1. The Panel also took into account the content of the WhatsApp messages passing between Service User A and the Registrant and noted that there were several examples of the Registrant using the words ‘I love you’ to Service User A, including:

 

Reg: I really ****ing love you babe SUA: I love you babe… you’re amazing

Reg: I love you too…always … I didn’t realise it at first …and then when I did realise I couldn’t admit it to myself straightaway … but since the day you first held me and stroked my back and looked deep in my eyes… the flood gates have opened and my love for you just flows through me … there’s no stopping it now

 

SUA: I’m so in love with you… you’re perfect xxx

 

Reg: I’m so in love with you too… we’re like two stars collided.

 

  1. The Panel was therefore satisfied that the Registrant used words to the effect of those set out in sub-particulars D, E and

 

  1. In relation to sub-particulars A, B, C and G, the Panel was satisfied that although the Registrant does not explicitly accept using words to the effect of those specified in these sub-particulars, they are nevertheless consistent with her description of her relationship with Service User A and with the nature of the content of the WhatsApp messages she has produced as In these circumstances, the Panel is satisfied that it is likely that the Registrant did use words to the effect of those specified. The Panel therefore accepts the evidence of Service User A in relation to these sub-particulars.

 

  1. In the Panel’s view, by communicating in this manner with Service User A, the Registrant was not maintaining professional boundaries with him.

 

  1. The Panel therefore found particular b)(i) of the Allegation proved in its entirety.

 

Particular 1.b)(ii) Proved

 

  1. The Panel accepted the evidence in the witness statement of Service User A who stated that during an individual therapy session he and the Registrant hugged at her At the next individual therapy session attended by Service User A, he describes the Registrant kissing him whilst hugging him. He then describes how after that session, they would always kiss when they were alone.

 

  1. The Panel also took into account the account provided by the Registrant in her witness She stated that at the end of the individual therapy session she had with Service User A on 26 November 2018, she asked Service User A if he wanted a hug and that they then did hug. The Registrant also stated that in an individual session she had with Service User A on 5 December 2018 they embraced and kissed each other.

 

  1. The Panel also noted the content of the WhatsApp messages provided by the In Particular, it noted the following exchange:

 

SUA: I was so happy when u said lets have a hug xxx Reg: I did notice you got up pretty quickly!

SUA: I was worried you was gonna ask what was in my pocket

 

Reg:   When you didn’t let me go and pulled me in close a second time, you stroked my neck and shoulder with your fingertips and I was     like

oh **** I’m in trouble here! xxx

 

SUA: Its mad thinking back…I so wanted to kiss you… I thought about you so much that week thinking of what to say xxx

 

Reg:   I know I couldn’t stop thinking about you then either… I felt like I was floating around just remembering again and again how it felt     to

be in your arms xxx

 

  1. The Panel was satisfied that by hugging and kissing Service User A in the therapy room the Registrant’s conduct was a clear breach of the professional boundaries that a registered professional would be expected to maintain with a vulnerable

 

  1. Accordingly, the Panel found particular 1.b)(ii) of the Allegation proved.

 

Particular 1.c) Proved

 

  1. The Panel accepted the evidence of Service User A who stated in his witness statement that he was in River Island when he received a call on his mobile telephone from a number that he did not The call was from the Registrant and she was calling him on her personal mobile telephone. During that call, Service User A describes the Registrant asking him how he felt about what had happened in their previous session when she had asked whether he felt they had a close relationship and had also asked him for a hug.

 

  1. The Panel also accepted the evidence from the Registrant who admitted in her witness statement that following the individual session with Service User A on 5 December 2018, she telephoned him a few days later from her personal mobile telephone to ask how he was

 

  1. The Panel was satisfied that by contacting Service User A on her personal mobile phone, and by asking him about how he felt following her questions to him about the closeness of their relationship, was a further example of the Registrant not maintaining appropriate professional boundaries with Service User

 

  1. In the circumstances, the Panel found particular 1.c) of the Allegation proved.

 

Particular 1.d) Proved

 

  1. The Panel noted that there are two elements to this particular of the Allegation. It therefore considered whether or not the Registrant engaged in a personal and/or a sexual relationship with Service User A and has made findings in relation to both.

 

  1. The Panel accepted the evidence of Service User A who stated in his witness statement that after their first kiss, he and the Registrant would always kiss whenever they were He described how they began to visit each other’s houses. He also described how they first had sexual intercourse at a hotel in Chester where the Registrant was staying after her Christmas party. In his witness statement, Service User A provided further details of the intimate personal and sexual relationship between him and the Registrant which lasted until approximately April 2020.

 

  1. The Panel also accepted the Registrant description of her relationship with Service User A as set out in her witness The Registrant admitted that during the individual session she had with Service User A on 26 November 2018 he told her he loved her and at the end of the session she then asked him if he wanted a hug. The Registrant accepted in her witness statement that it was during this hug that she realised she had romantic feelings for Service User A. She stated that she felt ‘tingling all over’, and was flustered. The Registrant also admitted that she told Service User A she was in love with him during their next individual session on 5 December 2018 and that they embraced and kissed each other in the therapy room. Thereafter, the Registrant described her relationship with Service User A as then becoming ‘very intense very quickly’. She stated that they spoke and/or messaged each other every day and met in hotels on 14 and 20 December 2018. In her witness statement, the Registrant described her relationship with Service User A as having been ‘intense and highly sexual’.

 

  1. The Panel also had regard to the content of the WhatsApp messages exchanged between the Registrant and Service User In the Panel’s view, the content of these messages also provided clear evidence that the Registrant and Service User A were involved in a personal, intimate, emotional and sexual relationship.

 

  1. Having regard to all of the above, the Panel was satisfied that from about September 2018 onwards, the Registrant engaged in a personal and a sexual relationship with Service User In so doing, the Panel was satisfied that the Registrant failed to maintain professional boundaries with Service User A.

 

  1. The Panel therefore found both elements of particular d) of the Allegation proved.

 

Particular 1.e) Proved

 

  1. The Panel accepted the evidence of Colleague B. In her evidence to the Panel, Colleague B adopted the content of her witness statement. In that witness statement, she explained how she had accessed Service User A’s records on PCMIS (Trust electronic records). The records showed that Service User A’s first attendance at a group session took place on 16 October 2018. Thereafter, he had 11 group sessions up until 5 February 2019 as well as a further three individual sessions with the Registrant on 26 November 2018, 5 December 2018 and 21 February 2019.

 

  1. The Panel accepted Service User A’s evidence in his witness statement that after their first kiss, he and the Registrant would always kiss whenever they were alone. He described how they began to visit each other’s houses, He also described how they first had sexual intercourse at a hotel in Chester where the Registrant was staying after her Christmas party.

 

  1. The Panel also accepted the evidence in the Registrant’s witness statement she admits that during an individual therapy session with Service User A on 26 November 2018, she realised she had romantic feelings for him, felt ‘tingling all over’ and was The Panel noted that at this point, by her own admission, the Registrant did not end the therapeutic relationship with Service User A, neither did she raise what had happened in supervision with Colleague B. The Registrant saw Service User A again for an individual session on 5 December 2018, during which they embraced and kissed. The Panel also took into consideration, the Registrant’s admission that she met the Registrant at hotels on 14 and 20 December 2018 and that they had sexual intercourse. The Panel noted that during this time the Registrant continued the therapeutic relationship with Service User A and continued to see him at weekly group sessions until February 2019 and for another individual session on 21 February 2019.

 

  1. In the Panel’s view, the Registrant’s continuation of Service User A’s individual and group therapy sessions after entering into a personal and sexual relationship with him amounted to a clear failure to maintain professional

 

  1. In the circumstances, the Panel found particular 1.e) of the Allegation proved.

 

Particular 1.f) Not Proved

 

  1. The Panel noted the evidence of Service User A who stated in his witness statement that every time he tried to end the group therapy, the Registrant would stop him from doing The Panel also noted that Service User A described feeling confused and that he ‘could not get his head around how the Registrant was able to carry on as his therapist’ given the nature of their relationship.

 

  1. The Panel also had regard to the evidence provided by the Registrant in her witness She stated that at no point did she try to convince Service User A to stay in therapy or to prevent him from ending therapy.

 

  1. Given the conflict in the evidence in relation to this matter, the Panel also had regard to the content of the WhatsApp messages exchanged between the Registrant and Service User The Panel noted the following exchange of messages:

 

SUA: …I’ve come to decision about group I’m not going back and I do feel better about it…. just means you would have to show me          the

last unit… miss you

 

SUA: I just think it will be better for us coz I don’t like the group now          it’s the last weeks anyway and I think the groups impacting on    the way I deal with us… one minute I see you as my gf and then       the next I want to offload and see you as a therapist…and I think it will do you good as well … hope that’s ok and you feel ok I do        that xxx

 

Reg:   Ok babe, of course its ok with me, you’ve got to do what is right       for you. I can tell you’ve done pros and cons on this and it isn’t   an        impulsive decision. I do have mixed feelings about it… I’ve         always been concerned that what’s happened with us would get in the way of your therapy because it’s so important you get the    help you need and have waited all this time. I know you’ve taken loads from the course though and are using it every day… i’m

so proud of you xxx

 

  1. The Panel also noted the following exchange of messages:

 

SUA: Ok thank you… do you feel better now that we’re not gonna see each other at group coz I do…

 

Reg: Yeah i do feel better about that, i want to be your girlfriend, not your psychologist…

 

  1. In the Panel’s view, these messages provided support to the Registrant’s evidence in respect of this

 

  1. The Panel therefore found particular f) of the Allegation not proved.

 

Particular 1.g) Proved

 

  1. The Panel accepted the evidence of Service User A who stated in his witness statement that he met the Registrant and her daughter Child A in a Subway restaurant in New Brighton. Service User A stated that his sons Child D and Child E were with him when they met at Subway. Service User A also described meeting the Registrant and Child A at a BBQ his neighbours had organised to celebrate his birthday.

 

  1. The Panel also accepted the Registrant’s In her witness statement she stated that in February 2019 she introduced Service User A to her daughter Child
  2. The Registrant stated that over the next three months Service User A spent more time with her daughter. The Registrant made reference to the meeting at the Subway Restaurant in New Brighton on 22 June 2019. She stated that Service User A was with his two sons Child D and Child E and that she was with her daughter Child A. The Registrant stated that she later met his stepson, Person C. The Registrant described her and Child A being invited to Service User A’s house a few days before Christmas 2019. The Registrant also stated that on 25 April 2020, she attended a BBQ organised by one of Service User A’s neighbours to celebrate Service User A’s birthday. The Registrant stated that her daughter Child A accompanied her to the BBQ.

 

  1. The Panel was satisfied that these were further examples of the Registrant not maintaining professional boundaries with Service User A.

 

  1. The Panel therefore found particular g) of the Allegation proved.

 

Particular 1.h) Not Proved

 

  1. The Panel accepted the evidence of Service User A who stated in his witness statement that he told the Registrant about his gambling Service User A stated that he had signed up to the ‘GamStop’ service and was thus prevented from gambling online in his own name, but the Registrant allowed him to open accounts using her details thus enabling him to gamble.

 

  1. The Panel also accepted the Registrant’s She stated in her witness statement that she knew that he had signed up to ‘GamStop’ The Registrant accepted that in November 2019 she allowed Service User A to set up an online gambling account in her name. The Registrant stated that Service User A opened additional accounts in her name, spending money from her account without asking her. The Registrant stated that all gambling accounts in her name were closed by May 2020.

 

  1. The Panel was satisfied that there was sufficient evidence to prove that the Registrant gave Service User A money that she knew was for However, particular 1.h) alleges that she did so ‘knowing that Service User A had professionally consulted you to address gambling issues’. The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant was aware of Service User A’s gambling issues, however but it was not satisfied there was sufficient evidence before it to support the assertion that Service User A had professionally consulted the Registrant to address his ‘gambling issues’. The Panel noted that Service User A had a history of mental health issues and following a failed suicide attempt in 2017, he was referred to the Trust. The Panel further noted the evidence of Colleague B who stated that Service User A was initially assessed as a personality disorder client. Colleague B stated that following the six assessment sessions with the Registrant, Service User A was referred to Step 4 for individual therapy and to DBT Skills for group therapy.

 

  1. The Panel found particular 1.h) of the Allegation not proved.

 

Particular 1.i) Not Proved

 

  1. The Panel noted that in his witness statement, Service User A stated that the Registrant told him ‘multiple times’ that he was not allowed to tell anyone about the

 

  1. The Panel also noted that the Registrant’s evidence conflicted with Service User A’s evidence on this However, the Panel was satisfied that the Registrant’s evidence appeared to be more credible. The Panel had particular regard to the following passages of her witness statement:

 

“Although I was worried about what people would think when they found out the truth of how we met, I wanted the world to know and for us to be able to have a relationship publicly. It was Service User A who was insistent on our relationship remaining a secret as he was terrified that Person B would stop him seeing the children if she found out.

 

 

I hated that our relationship was a secret. Of course, I had worries about what other people would think and how we would be judged when the truth came out, but I felt it much more important to me for our relationship to be out in the open so we could move forward together. Service User A told me that he couldn’t tell anyone yet because he was worried that as soon as Person B found out he had a girlfriend, she would stop him seeing the children.”

 

  1. Accordingly, the Panel found particular i) of the Allegation not proved.

 

Particular 1.j) Proved

 

  1. The Panel accepted the evidence of Service User A who stated in his witness statement when he told the Registrant words to the effect of ‘this is not right, you’re supposed to be my therapist’ to which her response would always be, ‘it is, people have different perspectives’.

 

  1. The Panel noted that although the Registrant does not specifically admit in her statement using words to the effect of those specified in particular j) of the Allegation, namely ‘there is nothing wrong with our relationship’ and/or ‘I cannot help who I fall in love with’, the Panel was satisfied that these words are consistent with her description of her relationship with Service User A and her thoughts and feelings about him, as detailed in her written statement and evidenced by the WhatsApp messages.

 

  1. In these circumstances, the Panel is satisfied that it is likely that the Registrant did use words to the effect of those

 

  1. The Panel was further satisfied that by using these words, the Registrant was not maintaining professional boundaries with Service User A.

 

  1. The Panel therefore found particular j) of the Allegation proved.

 

Particular 1.k) Proved

 

  1. The Panel accepted the evidence of Service User A who stated in his witness statement that, at the time of a BBQ held at his neighbours’ home in April 2020, he had ended the relationship with the Registrant but had ‘decided to try and continue to be friends’ with Service User A stated that his neighbours had invited the Registrant to this BBQ and had ‘run this by him’ before doing so. The Registrant then attended the BBQ along with her daughter Child A.

 

  1. The Panel also accepted the evidence of the Registrant who stated in her witness statement that Service User A had broken up with her again a week or so before the She stated that she had not intended to go, but that Service User A’s neighbour messaged her on the day and said that she had spoken to Service User A who was happy for the Registrant and her daughter to be there. The Registrant accepted that she attended the BBQ on 25 April 2020 with her daughter Child A. The Panel noted that the relationship continued until May 2020. The Registrant said in her witness statement that, “The last time I saw SUA was on 25 May 2020 after he had stayed the night at my flat… I think we spoke a couple of times on the phone after that”.

 

  1. The Panel was satisfied that from the available evidence, it could properly draw the inference that at the time of the BBQ the Registrant did not want her personal and sexual relationship with Service User A to The Panel was further satisfied that by attending the BBQ arranged by Service User A’s neighbours, the Registrant was not maintaining professional boundaries with Service User A.

 

  1. The Panel therefore found particular k) of the Allegation proved.

 

Particular 2 Proved

 

  1. The Panel accepted the evidence of Colleague B in relation to her meeting with the Registrant on 7 October 2019. The Panel noted that Colleague B had made notes of the meeting and that those notes were exhibited in the Hearing Bundle C1. The Panel noted that the Registrant had told Colleague B that she had treated Service User A like any other The Registrant told Colleague B that other than bumping into Service User A at a Subway, they had not met outside of the department and therapy appointments. The Panel also accepted the oral evidence given to the Panel by Colleague B in relation to her meeting with the Registrant on 7 October 2019. Colleague B told the Panel that the Registrant said she felt mortified and physically sick that such allegations had been made against her. Colleague B told the Panel that the Registrant’s manner during the meeting was anxious, she looked tense, her voice was shaky and her eyes were dotting around. Colleague B told the Panel that the Registrant assured her there was nothing to the allegation.

 

  1. The Panel also had regard to the Registrant’s witness statement in which she admitted that during the meeting with Colleague B on 7 October 2019, she denied that she was in a relationship with Service User In her witness statement, the Registrant also admitted that she had denied having contact with Service User A outside of therapy other than bumping into him in New Brighton on one occasion. The Registrant stated that she panicked as she had never had a complaint made against her before or been in a similar situation before and it ‘threw her.’

 

  1. The Panel was satisfied that at the time of her meeting with Colleague B on 7 October 2019, the Registrant was engaged in a personal and sexual relationship with Service User Indeed, the Panel noted that the Registrant has admitted this. The Panel was therefore also satisfied that the Registrant knew that the information she provided to her line manager was untrue.

 

  1. The Panel therefore found particular 2 of the Allegation proved.

 

Particular 3 Proved (in relation to particulars 1.a), 1.b), 1.c), 1.d), 1.e), 1.g), 1.j) and 1.k)

 

  1. The Panel noted that particular 3 of the allegation alleges that the Registrant’s conduct in any or all of the particulars 1.a), 1.b), 1.c), 1.d), 1.e), 1.f), 1.g), 1.h), 1.i), 1.j) and 1.k) was sexually motivated.

 

  1. The Panel was mindful that in the judgement in the case of Basson v GMC [2018] EWHC 5050 (Admin) the court held that a sexual motive means that the conduct was done either for sexual gratification or in pursuit of a future sexual relationship. The Panel also bore in mind the court’s observation in the judgement, confirmed by the Court of Appeal in the case of Haris v GMC [2021] EWCA Civ 763, that:

 

“the state of a person’s mind is not something that can be proved by direct observation, but can only be proved by inference or deduction from the surrounding evidence”.

 

  1. The Panel therefore considered each of the particulars a), 1.b), 1.c), 1.d), 1.e), 1.g), 1.j) and 1.k) and whether there was sufficient evidence from which it could infer that the Registrant’s conduct was sexually motivated. It did not consider 1.f),

1.h) and 1.i) having previously found these not proved.

 

  1. In reaching its decision, the Panel had regard to the Registrant’s description of her relationship with Service User A as set out in her witness The Registrant admitted that during the individual session she had with Service User A on 26 November 2018 he told her that he loved her and at the end of the session, she then asked him if he wanted a hug. The Registrant accepted in her witness statement that it was during this hug that she realised she had romantic feelings for Service User A. She stated that she felt ‘tingling all over’, and was flustered. The Registrant also admitted that she told Service User A she was in love with him during their next individual session on 5 December 2018 and that they embraced and kissed each other in the therapy room. Thereafter, the Registrant described her relationship with Service User A as then becoming ‘very intense very quickly’. She stated that they spoke and/or messaged each other every day and met in hotels on 14 and 20 December 2018. In her witness statement, the Registrant described her relationship with Service User A as having been ‘intense and highly sexual’. The Panel also had regard to the nature of the content of the WhatsApp messages exchanged between the Registrant and Service User A. The Panel was therefore satisfied that it was a safe and proper inference that much of the Registrant’s conduct was sexually motivated.

 

  1. In relation to particular a) the Panel was satisfied that by informing Service User A of the state of her marriage, and the fact that she and her husband were sleeping in separate beds, the Registrant was sharing intimate personal information with the Registrant. The Panel was satisfied that it was a safe and proper inference that the Registrant did so in order to inform Service User A that she was available. The Panel was also satisfied that it was a safe and proper inference that the Registrant did this in pursuit of a future sexual relationship with Service User A.

 

  1. In relation to particular b)(i) the Panel was satisfied that the words used by the Registrant to the effect of those specified in sub-particulars A-G, were all of a personal and intimate nature and were not related to the therapy being provided by the Registrant to Service User A. The Panel was also satisfied that it was a safe and proper inference that the Registrant used these words in pursuit of a future sexual relationship with Service User A.

 

  1. In relation to particular b)(ii) the Panel was satisfied that it was a safe and proper inference that by kissing and hugging Service User A, the Registrant did so for sexual gratification and in pursuit of a future sexual relationship with Service User A.

 

  1. In relation to particular c) the Panel was satisfied that by contacting Service User A on her personal mobile phone, and by asking him about how he felt following her questions to him about the closeness of their relationship, it was a safe and proper inference that the Registrant did this in pursuit of a future sexual relationship with Service User A.

 

  1. In relation to particular d) the Panel was satisfied that by engaging in a personal and sexual relationship with Service User A, that included them having sexual intercourse, the only inference that could properly be drawn was that it was for sexual gratification.

 

  1. In relation to particular e) the Panel was satisfied that it was a safe and proper inference that the Registrant continued group and individual therapy sessions with Service User A after entering into personal and/or sexual relationship with him, to continue having contact with Service User A. The Panel noted that the Registrant and Service User A had used the opportunity presented during individual therapy sessions to kiss and hug each other. The Panel was therefore satisfied that the Registrant did this in pursuit of the existing and future sexual relationship with Service User A and for sexual gratification.

 

  1. In relation to particular g) the Panel was satisfied that by spending time with Service User A in a social setting with her daughter Child A and Service User A’s two sons, Child D and Child E, it was a safe and proper inference that the Registrant was further establishing her existing personal and sexual relationship with Service User A and that she also did so in pursuit of a future sexual relationship with Service User A.

 

  1. In relation to particular j) the Panel was satisfied that the Registrant was seeking to justify/condone her actions. The Panel was further satisfied that it was a safe and proper inference that the Registrant did so in order to maintain her existing personal and sexual relationship with Service User A and that she also did so in pursuit of a future sexual relationship with Service User A.

 

  1. In relation to particular k) the Panel was satisfied that at the time the Registrant attended the BBQ on 25 April 2020, Service User A had recently ended their relationship. The Panel was satisfied that it was a safe and proper inference that the Registrant accepted the neighbour’s invitation to attend the BBQ because she did not want her relationship with Service User A to end and that she therefore also attended in pursuit of a future sexual relationship with Service User A.

 

  1. The Panel therefore found that the Registrant’s conduct was sexually motivated in relation to particulars 1.a), b), 1.c), 1.d), 1.e), 1.g), 1.j), and 1.k).

 

  1. Accordingly, the Panel found particular 3 of the Allegation proved in relation to particulars 1.a), 1.b), c), 1.d), 1.e), 1.g), 1.j), and 1.k).

 

Particular 4 Proved

 

  1. When considering whether the conduct described in particular 2 was dishonest, The Panel applied the test in respect of dishonesty set out in the case of Ivey v. Genting Casinos [2017] UKSC 67:

 

“Although a dishonest state of mind is a subjective mental state, the standard by which the law determines whether it is dishonest is objective. If, by ordinary standards, a defendant’s mental state would be characterised as dishonest, it is irrelevant that the defendant judges by different standards.”

 

  1. The Panel therefore had to decide:

 

  • What was the Registrant’s actual knowledge or genuinely held belief as to the facts? and

 

  • Given her actual knowledge or genuinely held belief as to the facts, was her conduct dishonest by the standards of ordinary decent people?

 

  1. In respect of the first part of the test as set out in the case of Ivey, the Panel was satisfied that by 7 October 2019 the Registrant was engaged in a personal and sexual relationship with Service User Indeed, the Panel noted that the Registrant has admitted this in her witness statement. The Panel was also satisfied (for the same reasons as set out in paragraphs 136 – 138 above) that the Registrant knew that the information she provided on 7 October 2019 to Colleague B, her line manager, was untrue.

 

  1. Applying the second part of the test as set out in the case of Ivey, the Panel was satisfied that the Registrant’s actions would be viewed as dishonest within the objective standards of ordinary decent people.

 

  1. Accordingly, the Panel found particular 4 of the Allegation

 

Decision on Grounds

 

  1. Mr Dite provided the Panel with submissions (“C5”) on behalf of the

 

  1. He submitted that standards 1, 2.7, 2.9 and 2.10 of the HCPC Standards of Proficiency for Practitioner Psychologists (2015) and standards 1.7, 6.2, 6.3, 9, 9.1, and 9.4 of the HCPC Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics (2016) were engaged.

 

  1. He further submitted that the Registrant’s conduct constituted a serious falling short of what was proper in the circumstances and clearly amounts to misconduct.

 

  1. In reaching its decision, the Panel had regard to its previous findings of fact, and the content of bundles C1 (the HCPC’s hearing bundle) and R1 (the Registrant’s bundle).

 

  1. The Panel recognised that the decision on the statutory grounds is a matter of independent judgement for the

 

  1. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor as to the approach it should adopt when considering the question of

 

  1. The Legal Assessor referred the Panel to the definition of misconduct provided by Lord Clyde in Roylance v GMC (No.2) [2001] 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. The standard of propriety may often be found by reference to the rules and standards ordinarily required to be followed by a practitioner in the particular circumstances.”

 

  1. The Legal Assessor also referred the Panel to the HCPTS Practice Note and to the case of Meadow v GMC [2006] EWCA Civ 1319, which made clear that a finding of misconduct by the Panel requires serious professional misconduct on the part of the Registrant.

 

  1. The Panel first considered whether the Registrant had breached the “rules and standards ordinarily required to be followed” by The Panel noted that the applicable rules and standards, in force at the relevant time were the HCPC Standards of Proficiency for Practitioner Psychologists (2015) and the HCPC Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics (2016).

 

  1. The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant had breached the following parts of The HCPC Standards of Proficiency for Practitioner Psychologists (2015):

 

  • Standard 1 (understand the need to act in the best interests of service users at all times);

 

  • Standard 7 (be able to exercise a professional duty of care);

 

  • Standard 9 (understand the power imbalance between practitioners and service users and how this can be managed appropriately); and

 

  • Standard 10 (be able to recognise appropriate boundaries and understand the dynamics of power relationships).

 

  1. The Panel was also satisfied that the Registrant had breached the following parts of The HCPC Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics (2016):

 

  • Standard 7 (You must keep your relationships with service users and carers professional);

 

  • Standard 2 (You must not do anything, or allow someone else to do anything, which could put the health or safety of a service user, carer or colleague at unacceptable risk);

 

  • Standard 9 (Be honest and trustworthy);

 

  • Standard 1 (You must make sure that your conduct justifies the public’s trust and confidence in you and your profession); and

 

  • Standard 4 (You must declare issues that might create conflicts of interest and make sure that they do not influence your judgment).

 

  1. The Panel recognised that not every failure to comply with the provisions of the HCPC Standards will necessarily result in a finding of However, the Panel took the view that the Registrant’s wide-ranging breaches of different aspects of the above HCPC Standards were extremely serious.

 

  1. The Panel noted that Service User A was a vulnerable client, with a history of abuse and mental illness who had waited a significant time to be able to access the therapeutic service provided by the The therapy sessions should have been a safe environment for him to share sensitive personal information in the context of seeking professional help with his mental health issues. Service User A therefore placed his trust in the Registrant. In the Panel’s view, the Registrant breached that trust by failing to maintain appropriate professional boundaries and by entering into a personal and sexual relationship with Service User A. The dual relationship resulted in conflict and confusion and had the potential to undermine Service User A’s treatment. The Panel noted that Service User A stated that the Registrant’s actions have had a negative impact on his ability to trust and to form therapeutic relationships with other professionals.

 

  1. The Panel further noted that the inappropriate personal and sexual relationship continued for a significant period of time and developed into a full sexual relationship involving sexual The Panel was satisfied that during this period, the Registrant put the personal and sexual relationship above her professional responsibilities as a Practitioner Psychologist. The Registrant did not raise the matter in supervision with her line manager Colleague B and never admitted her conduct to her employer. The Panel noted that the matter only came to light when Person B made complaints to both the HCPC and to the Trust. Furthermore, following the complaint to the Trust by Person B, the Registrant then lied about the nature of her relationship with Service User A at the meeting with Colleague B on 7 October 2019.

 

  1. The Panel was mindful of the judgement in the case of Remedy UK Ltd v GMC (2010) EWHC 1245 (Admin):

 

“…misconduct is of 2 principal kinds:

 

Firstly, it may involve sufficiently serious misconduct in the exercise of professional practice such that it can properly be described as misconduct going to fitness to practice; and

 

Secondly, it can involve conduct of a morally culpable or otherwise disgraceful kind which, may and often will, occur outside the course of professional practice, but which brings disgrace upon the doctor and thereby prejudices the reputation of the profession.”

 

  1. In the circumstances of this case, the Panel was satisfied that both of these descriptions applied to the Registrant’s

 

  1. The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant’s conduct fell far below the standards expected and could properly be characterised as “conduct that would be regarded as deplorable by fellow ” As referred to by Collins J in Nandi v GMC (2004) EWHC 2317 (Admin).

 

  1. The Panel therefore, found the statutory ground of misconduct to have been made

 

Decision on Impairment

 

  1. Mr Dite informed the Panel that in June 2020, the Registrant had previously provided a written statement to a panel of the Investigating Committee considering the imposition of an interim Mr Dite submitted that the written statement was a reflective piece, written by her after her attendance at a 3 day course on maintaining professional boundaries. Mr Dite submitted that although the Registrant had not asked for that statement to be provided to this Panel, she does not currently have legal representation and therefore she may have assumed that the Panel would have had sight of it. Mr Dite submitted that the content of the statement was relevant to the Panel’s determination at this stage of the hearing and that in the interests of fairness, the Panel should be provided with a copy.

 

  1. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and the Panel decided that the evidence was relevant to the issue of impairment and that in fairness to the Registrant, the Panel should be provided with a copy of the Registrant’s earlier statement. This was produced as (“C6”).

 

  1. The Panel then considered the content of It noted that it contained multiple references to the Registrant’s private life. Having taken further advice from the Legal Assessor in relation to Rule 10(1)(a) of the Rules, the Panel determined that C6 should be a private document and not form part of the public version of the Panel’s decision.

 

  1. In relation to the issue of impairment, Mr Dite referred the Panel to his written submissions in He invited the Panel to find that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired in relation to both the personal and the public components of impairment.

 

  1. In reaching its decision, the Panel was mindful that, as with the statutory grounds, the question of impairment is a matter for the Panel’s professional judgement.

 

  1. The Panel noted that it was required to determine whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently The Panel had regard to the decision in the case of Meadow v General Medical Council [2007] 1 All ER:

 

“in short, the purpose of FTP proceedings is not to punish the practitioner for past misdoings but to protect the public against the acts and omissions of those who are not fit to practise. The FTPP thus looks forward not back. However, in order to form a view as to the fitness of a person to practise today, it is evident that it will have to take account of the way in which the person concerned has acted or failed to act in the past”

 

  1. The Panel also had regard to the HCPTS Practice Note “Fitness to Practise Impairment” and noted the two components that the Panel must consider when determining whether or not the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired.

 

  1. The Panel first considered the personal In accordance with the decision in the case of Cohen v GMC (2008) EWHC 581, the three key questions for it to determine were:

 

  • Is the Registrant’s misconduct remediable;

 

  • Has the Registrant already taken remedial action; and

 

  • Is the misconduct likely to be repeated?

 

  1. The Panel noted that the Registrant’s misconduct involved a breach of trust and failure to maintain professional boundaries, sexually motivated conduct and dishonesty. In the Panel’s view, misconduct involving attitudinal issues such as these is difficult but not impossible to remediate. The Panel was therefore of the view that the answer to the first of these questions was that the Registrant’s misconduct was capable of remediation.

 

  1. The Panel next considered whether the Registrant has taken remedial The Panel noted that the Registrant has undertaken a course in relation to maintaining professional boundaries. The Panel received the Registrant’s written reflections on this course which had been previously provided to a Panel in June 2020 dealing with an interim order (C6). The Panel noted that the Registrant reflected extensively on each of the three days of the course. These reflections provided evidence of the development of insight into the breach of professional boundaries and the Registrant’s recognition of her professional responsibilities and the power imbalance in a psychologist’s relationship with a client. However, in the Panel’s view the Registrant demonstrated little insight into the harm or potential harm to Service User A, his family, her colleagues, the profession or the wider public. There was also no reference in her reflections to the dishonesty matter. The Panel also considered the Registrant’s submissions to the Panel (R1) and noted that there was no evidence of further remediation since June 2020. The Panel therefore determined that the answer to the second question was that whilst there was some evidence of the beginnings of remediation it fell far short of what would satisfy the Panel.

 

  1. The Panel then turned to the third question posed in the case of Cohen. It noted that in her reflections on the boundaries course the Registrant provided an account of a role play addressing how to manage similar professional boundary issues. However, there is no evidence of any application of learning in the clinical environment since that role In the Panel’s view, the Registrant’s witness statement which was provided for this hearing was presented as a story of the relationship between her and Service User A; it provided no further evidence of reflection, insight or remediation. The Panel determined that the Registrant has failed to demonstrate that she has sufficient insight into her serious and sustained misconduct or that she has remediated sufficiently. In these circumstances, the Panel was satisfied that there was a risk of repetition of the misconduct and a consequential risk of future harm to service users.

 

  1. For the above reasons, the Panel was satisfied that a finding of current impairment was required in relation to the Personal

 

  1. The Panel next considered the Public Component of The Panel noted that this has three aspects to it, namely protection of the public, maintaining professional standards and maintaining public confidence in the profession.

 

  1. The Panel adopted the approach as set out by Cox J in the case of CHRE v Grant [2011] EWHC 927 (Admin) in which she stated:

 

“In determining whether a practitioner’s fitness to practise is impaired by reason of misconduct, the panel should generally consider not only whether the practitioner constitutes a present risk to members of the public in his or her current role, but also whether the need to uphold proper professional standards and public confidence in the profession would be undermined if a finding of impairment were not made in the particular circumstances.”

 

  1. In Grant, the judge also cited with approval the helpful and comprehensive approach to determining this issue formulated by Dame Janet Smith in her 5th Shipman report:

 

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

 

  • 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

 

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

 

  • 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

 

  • has in the past acted dishonestly and/or be liable to acts of dishonestly in the

 

  1. The Panel was satisfied that Service User A was put at risk of unwarranted harm by the Her failure to maintain professional boundaries resulted in conflict and confusion and had the potential to undermine Service User A’s treatment. The Panel was also satisfied that the Registrant’s actions have had a negative impact on Service User A’s ability to trust and to form therapeutic relationships with other professionals.
  1. The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant has brought the profession into disrepute by entering into and maintaining a personal and sexual relationship with Service User A, a vulnerable client, with a history of abuse and mental illness. The Registrant met Service User A in a therapeutic setting that should have been a safe environment for him to share sensitive personal information in the context of seeking professional help with his mental health The Registrant therefore abused her position of trust by failing to maintain appropriate professional boundaries and by entering into a personal and sexual relationship with Service User A, which continued whilst Service User A participated in therapy with the Registrant.

 

  1. The Panel also determined that the Registrant’s misconduct, which involved a breach of trust, sexually motivated conduct and dishonesty amounted to a breach of fundamental tenets of the profession.

 

  1. For these reasons, the Panel concluded that the Registrant has acted in such a way, and was liable to act in such a way in the future, that all four limbs of Dame Janet’s formulation for determining impairment were engaged.

 

  1. The Panel was therefore satisfied that a finding of current impairment is required in relation to the Public Component, to uphold proper professional standards and to maintain confidence in the profession and in the regulatory The Panel was satisfied that a well-informed member of the public would be concerned if a finding of current impairment were not made in the circumstances of this case.
  2. In conclusion, the Panel decided that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired by reason of her misconduct.

Decision on Sanction


199. The Panel next considered what if any sanction to impose.

200. The Panel heard submissions from Mr Dite on behalf of the HCPC. Mr Dite reminded the Panel of the need to act proportionately and to consider the available sanctions in ascending order. He submitted that the Panel should impose the least restrictive sanction necessary to protect the public and meet the wider public interest concerns identified in the case. He addressed the Panel in relation to the mitigating and aggravating factors present in the case and referred the Panel to the HCPC Sanctions Policy. He directed the Panel’s attention to the parts of the HCPC Sanctions Policy relating to serious cases involving an abuse of a position of trust. He submitted that given the seriousness of the misconduct in this case, that the Panel may well be considering imposing either a Suspension Order or a Striking Off Order. He referred the Panel to the guidance in the HCPC Sanctions Policy in relation to each of these sanctions. He submitted that ultimately it was a matter for the Panel what sanction to impose.

201. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor who referred the Panel to the HCPC Sanctions Policy (March 2019) and in relation to the Panel’s finding on dishonesty, to the judgement in the case of PSA v GDC and Hussain [2019] EWHC 2640.

202. In reaching its decision on sanction, the Panel has again given careful consideration to all of the evidence it has received, to the submissions of Mr Dite, and to its findings at the fact-finding, grounds and impairment stages of this hearing.

203. The Panel reminded itself that the primary purpose of sanction is to address public safety, to uphold proper professional standards, to have a deterrent effect on other registrants and to maintain public confidence in the profession and in the regulatory process.

204. The Panel had regard to the HCPC Sanctions Policy and was mindful of the need to ensure that any sanction imposed is both reasonable and proportionate, properly balancing the interests of the Registrant against the need to protect the public, maintain professional standards and maintain public confidence in the profession.

205. The Panel noted that it should impose no greater restriction on the Registrant’s ability to practise as a Practitioner Psychologist than is absolutely necessary to protect the public and to address the wider public interest aspects of the case. The Panel therefore considered each of the available sanctions in ascending order before determining the appropriate and proportionate sanction in this case.

206. The Panel has already found that the Registrant’s conduct amounted to serious professional misconduct involving wide-ranging breaches of the applicable HCPC Standards. The Panel noted that the misconduct in this case falls within the definition of serious cases in the HCPC Sanctions Policy. It involved an abuse of a professional position involving a sexual relationship with a vulnerable service user and dishonesty. The Panel therefore had careful regard to the guidance provided in relation to such cases.

207. The Panel first considered what, if any mitigating and aggravating factors are present in this case.

208. In respect of mitigating factors, the Panel identified the following:

• The Registrant made a number of significant admissions in respect of the Allegation against her in the witness statement she provided for the consideration of the Panel (R1). These included that she had failed to maintain appropriate professional boundaries with Service User A and that she had engaged in a personal and sexual relationship with Service User A during the period he was undertaking therapy with her;

• There is no evidence that the Registrant has any previous regulatory findings recorded against her;

• The Registrant has taken some steps to remediate her misconduct by attending a 3-day course on maintaining professional boundaries. However, this was one year ago and the Registrant has not provided any evidence of any further steps she has taken;

• The Registrant has demonstrated some insight into aspects of her misconduct in the reflective statement she provided to the HCPC in June 2020 (C6); and

• The Registrant had a number of personal and domestic issues at the time these matters occurred.

209. In relation to aggravating factors the Panel identified the following:

• The Registrant abused a position of trust. She breached professional boundaries and engaged in a personal and sexual relationship with Service User A, whom she knew to be a vulnerable client;

• Although the misconduct was limited to one client, Service User A, the Registrant engaged in a pattern of behaviour involving multiple breaches of professional boundaries over a significant period of time. This included involving other members of Service User A’s family. The Panel found that this included the Registrant pursuing the sexual relationship with Service User A when he had sought to end it;

• There is no evidence of remorse or apology from the Registrant; .

• Although the Registrant has demonstrated some insight in her reflective piece (C6), the Panel noted that the Registrant did not address her dishonesty and the seriousness of lying to her employer about the nature of her relationship with Service User A. The Panel was also of the view that the Registrant’s insight into her abuse of the position of trust with Service User A was not fully developed. There was no recognition of the impact of her actions on Service User A, his family, other professionals or on the wider public perception of the profession;

• The Registrant’s actions had the potential to undermine Service User A’s treatment and therefore put him at risk of harm. The Panel was also satisfied that the Registrant’s actions have had a negative impact on Service User A’s ability to trust and to form therapeutic relationships with other professionals.

210. Given that the Panel has found that the Registrant acted dishonestly, the Panel had particular regard to paragraphs 55-58 of the HCPC Sanctions Policy. The Panel was mindful that dishonesty incorporates a wide range of behaviour and wrong-doing. In the Panel’s view, the Registrant’s dishonesty in this case while still serious, as she had lied to her employer, was not at the higher end of the spectrum. The Panel reached this decision on the basis that it was a single incidence of dishonesty and the Panel accepted that the Registrant had panicked when confronted by Colleague B and asked about the nature of her relationship with Service User A.

211. The Panel also had regard to the HCPC Sanctions Policy in relation to the Registrant’s abuse of a professional position.

212. The Panel noted that paragraphs 67 and 68 and 69 provide:

“67. The relationship between a registrant and service user or carer is based upon trust, confidence and professionalism. However, it is also a relationship in which there is an unequal balance of power, in favour of the registrant. Whilst registrants should endeavour to have positive relationships with service users and carers, it is essential that they remain aware of this dynamic and take care not to abuse their position.

68. Our Standards of conduct, performance and ethics require registrants to ensure that their conduct justifies the public’s trust in them and their profession. This means being honest and trustworthy and acting in the best interests of service users, as well as ensuring that their relationships with service users and carers remain professional. Where a registrant is found to have abused their professional status, this 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.

69. A registrant may abuse their professional position in a number of ways such as: …

• Inappropriate relationships: Our standards require registrants to ‘maintain appropriate relationships’. Where a registrant uses their professional status to pursue inappropriate relationships with service users or carers this may undermine the care or treatment provided and the public’s trust in the profession. Registrants should take care to set clear boundaries, and avoid conduct which strays beyond that typically expected of a therapeutic / professional relationship.

When considering whether a relationship is inappropriate, the panel should have particular regard for:

o evidence that the registrant’s professional status was a coercive factor in the relationship’s instigation;

o evidence of predatory behaviour;

o evidence that the service user or carer is particularly vulnerable;

o evidence that the relationship is of a sexual or otherwise inappropriate emotional nature.”

213. In the Panel’s view, the guidance in paragraphs 67 and 68 is directly applicable in this case. The Registrant engaged in a dual relationship with Service User A and abused the power dynamic that existed due to the fact that she was the registered professional and Service User A was her client. The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant did not therefore act in Service User A’s best interests and that her actions were highly likely to reduce public trust in the profession.

214. In relation to the bullet points contained in paragraph 69 of the guidance, the Panel was satisfied that although not predatory, the Registrant’s conduct was persistent and she actively pursued continuation of the sexual relationship with Service User A. The Panel was also satisfied that Service User A was particularly vulnerable and had been waiting for therapy for some time when he first met the Registrant. Finally, in relation to this paragraph of the guidance, the Panel was satisfied that the relationship was sexual and therefore to be regarded as a further aggravating factor.

215. Having regard to all of the above, the Panel considered each of the available sanctions.

216. The Panel first considered taking no further action, but decided that the misconduct found proved was too serious for this to be appropriate. It also concluded that mediation was not appropriate given the circumstances of this case.

217. The Panel then considered whether a Caution Order would adequately protect the public and meet the public interest concerns identified by the Panel. However, having regard to the seriousness of the misconduct, the risk of repetition previously identified by the Panel, and the limited insight and remediation demonstrated by the Registrant, the Panel determined that a Caution Order would not be an appropriate or proportionate sanction. In the Panel’s view, it would not adequately protect the public or meet the wider public interest concerns.

218. The Panel next considered whether a Conditions of Practice Order would be an appropriate sanction. The Panel took into consideration the guidance in paragraphs 105-117 of the HCPC Sanctions Policy.

219. The Panel noted that the Registrant’s misconduct involved:

• an abuse of a professional position including vulnerability;

• sexual motivated conduct; and

• and dishonesty.

220. In the Panel’s view, it was difficult to formulate workable, measurable and enforceable conditions of practice that would address these attitudinal concerns and provide an adequate level of public protection. Furthermore, given the seriousness of these matters, the Panel was not satisfied that a Conditions of Practice Order would be sufficient to meet the wider public interest.

221. The Panel also had concerns about the practicality of such an order. The Panel noted the content of the Registrant’s email dated 19 January 2021, in which she stated “I am therefore disengaging with this process and am not going to participate any further in the fitness to practice investigation, nor am I going to seek to have my registration with the HCPC reinstated now or in the future.” Although, after having sent this email, the Registrant provided the information in R1, she has not attended this hearing and has not provided the Panel with any up to date information about her current circumstances. The Panel was therefore not satisfied that the Registrant would engage with a Conditions of Practice Order if imposed by the Panel.

222. The Panel therefore concluded that it was not possible to formulate workable conditions of practice in this case.

223. The Panel next considered a Suspension Order. The Panel had regard to the content of paragraph 121 of the HCPC Sanctions Policy which provides:

“121. 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.

224. The Panel applied these bullet points to the Registrant’s case. The Panel has previously determined that the Registrant has only demonstrated limited insight into her misconduct and has not addressed her dishonesty. The Panel has also previously determined that although the Registrant has taken some steps to remediate her misconduct by attending the 3 day course in relation to maintaining professional boundaries in 2020, there is a risk of repetition of her behaviour and therefore a risk of harm to service users. Turning to the last bullet point, the Panel noted that since June 2020, the Registrant has not provided any further evidence of insight or remediation and has stated in correspondence with the HCPC that she wishes to terminate her professional registration with the HCPC.

225. The Panel therefore was satisfied that the serious regulatory concerns in this case could not be met by the imposition of a Suspension Order as it would not provide adequate public protection. In the Panel’s view a Suspension Order would not meet the wider public interest concerns.

226. The Panel therefore concluded that the appropriate and proportionate order in this case was a Striking Off Order. The Panel had regard to paragraphs 130 and
131 of the HCPC Sanctions Policy. It was satisfied that the gravity and seriousness of the regulatory concerns is such that any lesser sanction would be insufficient to protect the public, to uphold proper professional standards, to have a deterrent effect on other registrants and to maintain public confidence in the profession and in the regulatory process. In reaching this decision, the Panel recognised that a Striking Off Order will have a significant impact on the Registrant. However, it was satisfied that this is a case as in, Bolton v Law Society [1994] 1 WLR 512 at 519 and General Medical Council v Stone [2017] EWHC 2534 (Admin), where the reputation of the profession is more important
than the fortunes of an individual member:

 

Order

ORDER: That the Registrar is directed to strike the name of Dr Elinor Harper
from the Register on the date this order comes into effect.

The Order imposed today will apply from 23 July 2021 if no appeal is made.

Notes

Right of Appeal:

You may appeal to the High Court in England and Wales against the Panel’s decision and the order it has made against you.

Under Article 29(10) of the Health 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.

 

Interim Order:

Proceeding in the absence of the Registrant

  1. Mr Dite referred the Panel to the third page of the Notice of Hearing dated 12 April 2021, which made clear to the Registrant that in the event of the Panel imposing a sanction, the Panel has the power to impose an interim order to cover the statutory period during which the Registrant may exercise her right of appeal.
  2. Mr Dite submitted that in these circumstances, the Registrant is on notice that an application for an interim order may be Mr Dite further submitted that on the basis of the same reasoning that the Panel decided to proceed with the substantive hearing in the Registrant’s absence, it should also proceed to hear an application for an interim order in her absence.
  3. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. 
  4. The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant was on notice that an application for an interim order could be made by the The Panel decided that it was fair, reasonable and in the public interest to proceed with the interim order application in the Registrant’s absence for the same reasons as set out at paragraph 12 above.

Application for an Interim Suspension Order

  1. The Panel considered whether to exercise its discretionary power to make an Interim Order under Article 31(2) of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001.
  2. The Panel heard submissions from Mr Dite that an Interim Suspension Order is necessary to protect the public and is also in the wider public interest given the Panel’s decision in this
  3. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.
  4. The Panel had regard to the HCPC Sanctions Policy and noted that the making of an interim order is not automatic but depends on the circumstances of the case.
  5. The Panel was satisfied that, having found the Registrant’s fitness to practise impaired on grounds of public protection and the wider public interest and that the appropriate and proportionate sanction in this case was a Striking Off Order, that an interim order is necessary to cover the statutory period during which the Registrant may exercise her right of appeal.
  6. The Panel’s reasons for imposing the Interim Suspension Order were the same as its reasons for imposing the Substantive Striking Off Order as the sanction in this case.
  7. The Panel therefore decided to impose an Interim Suspension Order for a period of 18 months.
  8. This Interim Suspension 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 Dr Elinor Harper

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
21/06/2021 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Struck off