Mrs Bobbie Hallam

Profession: Occupational therapist

Registration Number: OT33234

Hearing Type: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 05/11/2021 End: 17:00 05/11/2021

Location: Virtual

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Caution

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Allegation

As a registered Occupational Therapist (OT33234) your fitness to practise is impaired by reason of a conviction and/or misconduct. In that:

 

1. On or around 18 January 2018 you were convicted of “driving a motor vehicle with excess alcohol on 28 December 2017 contrary to the Road Traffic Act 1988 S.5(1)(A)”.

 

2. You did not inform the HCPC in a timely manner that you had been charged and convicted of the offences at allegation 1 above.

 

3. Your conduct in relation to allegation 2 above was dishonest.

 

4. The matters set out in particulars 2 and 3 constitute misconduct.

 

5. The matter set out in particular 1 constitutes a conviction.

 

6. By reason of your misconduct and/or your conviction your fitness to practise is impaired.

Finding

Preliminary Matters

Conducting the hearing in private

During the cross examination of the Registrant by Mr Lloyd for the HCPC, Mr Lloyd applied for part of the hearing to be conducted in private so that the Registrant’s private life could be protected. The Registrant supported Mr Lloyd’s application.


2. The Panel received and accepted legal advice that although final hearings should be conducted in public, there were circumstances in which a part of that hearing could be heard in private. Those circumstances included where matters relating to a Registrant’s health arose. The Panel was satisfied that it was appropriate to direct that those parts of the hearing which related to the Registrant’s health be conducted in private so as to protect her private life.


Background

3. The Registrant is a registered Occupational Therapist. At 16.55 on 28 December 2017, the Registrant was stopped by police due to the manner in which she was driving her car. As the police smelt alcohol on the Registrant’s breath, she was asked to take a roadside breathalyser test, after which she was arrested on suspicion of drink driving. A further test taken at the police station recorded that the Registrant had 102 micrograms of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath, and she was then charged with drink driving.

4. On 18 January 2018, at Lancashire Magistrates’ Court sitting at Blackburn, the Registrant pleaded guilty to driving a motor vehicle with excess alcohol, contrary to section 5(1)(a) of the Road Traffic Act 1988. She was fined £1720, ordered to pay the Victim Surcharge of £172 and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) costs of £85. The Registrant was also disqualified from driving for 25 months with the option to reduce the disqualification period by 25 weeks if she completed a course approved by the Secretary of State by 26 June 2019. An endorsement on the Memorandum of Conviction indicates that the Registrant completed such a course on 20 October 2018.

5. On 9 December 2019 by email, the Registrant notified the HCPC of her conviction in a self-referral form of the same date.

6. On 11 August 2020 a panel of the Investigating Committee found that there was a case to answer and referred the Allegation set out above to this Committee.

Decision on Facts


Particular 1 is found proved

7. The Panel has received in evidence a Memorandum of Conviction which shows that on 18 January 2018 at the Lancashire Magistrates’ Court (sitting at Blackburn Magistrates’ Court), the Registrant was convicted of driving a motor vehicle with excess alcohol on 28 December 2017, contrary to Section 5(1)(a) of the Road Traffic Act 1988. The same document shows that the Registrant pleaded guilty at the first opportunity and her plea was taken into account by the Magistrates when sentencing her. The Memorandum of Conviction sets out the sentence passed: the Registrant was fined £1720, order to pay the Victim Surcharge of £172 and the CPS costs of £85. She was also disqualified from driving for 25 months with the option to reduce this period of disqualification by 25 weeks if she were to complete a course approved by the Secretary of State by 26 June 2019. A note added to the Memorandum of Conviction on 26 October 2018 confirms that the Registrant completed an approved course on 20 October 2018.

8. The Panel has also considered the Registrant’s self-referral document which confirms this conviction. At the outset of the proceedings, the Registrant admitted Particular 1 and repeated her admission in her evidence before the Panel.

9. Following legal advice, the Panel relies on the Memorandum of Conviction as conclusive proof that the Registrant was convicted of the offence set out in Particular 1 of the Allegation. The Panel also accepts the Registrant’s admission in relation to this matter which was confirmed in her evidence.

10. Accordingly, the Panel is satisfied that Particular 1 of the Allegation is proved.
Particular 2 is found proved

11. The Panel has received in evidence a signed witness statement from NB who is employed as a Registration Manager by the HCPC. In that capacity, NB has reviewed the HCPC’s electronic record which shows contact made by the Registrant with the HCPC. NB has produced a printout of that record which covers only part of that period. However, the Panel accepts NB’s evidence that she reviewed the electronic record of contact with the Registrant for the period from December 2017 to 9 December 2019 and found no entry indicating that the Registrant notified the HCPC of her conviction on 18 January 2018 until the date of her self-referral on 9 December 2019.

12. The Panel has also received in evidence the Registrant’s email dated 9 December 2019 together with her self-referral form of the same date in which she notified the HCPC of both her arrest and later conviction. The Panel notes that in this referral, the Registrant has given an incorrect date for her conviction, referring to it as having been on 18 January 2019 when it was in fact on 18 January 2018. The Panel accepts that this was a typing error on the Registrant’s part. The Panel also notes that the self-referral is almost two years from the date of the Registrant’s arrest on 28 December 2017 and conviction on 18 January 2018.

13. In her witness statement, NB referred the Panel to the HCPC’s Standards of performance, conduct and ethics (January 2016) and in particular to Standard 9.5 which states:
“You must tell us as soon as possible if:
- You accept a caution from the police, or you have been charged with, or found guilty of, a criminal offence.”

14. The Panel has already decided that Particular 1 of the Allegation is proved and so it is satisfied that the Registrant was charged with and convicted of the criminal offence of driving with excess alcohol. The Panel accepts NB’s evidence that the HCPC expects registrants to inform the HCPC “a lot sooner and not wait 12 months to notify us”. Standard 9.5 states that registrants must tell the HCPC “as soon as possible”. The Registrant explained in her evidence that she made the self-referral on 9 December 2019 because she had been asked the day before by a prospective employer if she had reported her conviction to the HCPC. She told the Panel that until that time, it had “never entered my head” that she should have reported her conviction to the HCPC.

15. The Panel is satisfied that the Registrant did not inform the HCPC of her conviction in a timely manner. Although no specific time period is set out in Standard 9.5 or elsewhere for the disclosure of convictions, there is a clear expectation is that disclosure should be made promptly and the Panel has no hesitation in deciding that a delay of almost two years cannot be described as “in a timely manner” or, in the words of Standard 9.5 “as soon as possible”.

16. Accordingly, the Panel finds Particular 2 of the Allegation proved.

Particular 3 is found not proved

17. The Panel has considered the HCPTS Practice Note “Making decisions on a registrant’s state of mind” and it has received and accepted legal advice as to how it should approach the issue of dishonesty. In considering Particular 3, the Panel has applied the test for dishonesty as set out in the case of Ivey v. Genting Casinos [2017] UKSC 67 (at para 74) [the Ivey test]. In applying the Ivey test, the Panel has first decided the Registrant's knowledge or belief as to the factual circumstances of her conduct in Particular 2. The Panel understands that the Registrant’s belief does not have to be reasonable, so long as it is genuinely held. The Panel has then considered whether, based on the factual circumstances as it has found the Registrant believed them to be, her conduct was dishonest by the (objective) standards of ordinary decent people. The Panel understands there is no requirement that the Registrant must appreciate that what she has done is, by those standards, dishonest.

18. In relation to Particular 3, the Panel has first considered what the Registrant knew or believed as to the facts and circumstances of her not informing the HCPC of her conviction in a timely manner.

19. The Panel accepts the evidence of the Registrant that at the time of her conviction she never thought to contact the HCPC. The Panel does not consider that the Registrant was deliberately hiding her conviction from the HCPC. The Registrant told the Panel that she had immediately informed her then employers of her arrest for drink driving. She did not suggest that she had any conversation with her then employers about informing the HCPC or sought to lay the blame on them by e.g., suggesting that her employers told her they would report it to the HCPC. The Registrant told the Panel that her world had effectively imploded with her conviction in 2018; she had lost her driving licence, had then lost her job when she resigned in February 2018 knowing that she could not continue in her then role without a driving licence and had lost structure in her life. The Panel accepts the Registrant’s evidence that she made her self-referral on 9 December 2019 after being asked the previous day by a prospective employer whether she had informed the HCPC about her conviction. The Panel has seen her self-referral form in which the Registrant referred to the conviction and stated, “Due to having to cope with the consequences I never thought to contact the HCPC.” The Panel accepts that the Registrant has been consistent in her account as to why she did not inform the HCPC of her conviction “in a timely manner”. The Panel therefore finds that the Registrant did not know or believe that she had to disclose her conviction to the HCPC in a timely manner.

20. In these circumstances, and applying the Ivey test, the Panel finds that when the Registrant did not inform the HCPC in a timely manner of her drink driving conviction because she did not know or believe that she had to do, she was not acting dishonestly by the standards of an ordinary decent person.

21. Accordingly, the Panel finds Particular 3 of the Allegation not proved.

Decision on Grounds

22. In reaching its decision on the statutory grounds of conviction and/or misconduct, the Panel has taken into account the submissions of Mr Lloyd and it has received and accepted legal advice.

23. Mr Lloyd submitted that the matters alleged in both Particulars 2 and 3 of the Allegation, if proved, would each amount to misconduct and show that the Registrant’s conduct fell far below the standards expected of a Registrant in the circumstances.

24. The Panel notes that at the outset of the hearing, the Registrant accepted that her conduct in Particular 2 amounted to misconduct. The Registrant did not make any submissions as to misconduct and relied on her evidence.

Conviction

25. The Panel is satisfied, based on the Memorandum of Conviction, that the statutory ground of conviction is proved.

Misconduct

26. The Panel has had in mind the HCPC Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics (2016) and has concluded that the following standards are engaged and have been breached:

Standard 9 - Be honest and trustworthy

Personal and professional behaviour


9.1 You must make sure that your conduct justifies the public's trust and confidence in you and your profession.
Important information about your conduct and competence

9.5 You must tell us as soon as possible if:
You accept a caution from the police, or you have been charged with, or found guilty of, a criminal offence.

27. The Panel is satisfied that the Registrant’s conduct in relation Particular 2 fell far below the high standards of behaviour to be expected of an Occupational Therapist. The Panel accepts that this was one incident of non-reporting and that not every breach of the Standards necessarily amounts to misconduct. However, the Panel considers that not informing the HCPC of criminal convictions is a serious matter. The purpose of this requirement is so that the regulator is made aware of the circumstances of the conviction, has the opportunity to investigate these and then take any steps necessary to protect the public. A regulator needs to ensure that registrants are not only safe to practise but also that public confidence in their profession is maintained and standards of conduct and behaviours are upheld. Registrants need behave in their personal and professional lives in a way which justifies the public’s trust and confidence in them and in their profession. The Panel has concluded that by not informing her regulator of her conviction in a timely manner, the Registrant’s conduct fell far below what would be expected of an Occupational Therapist and that by her omission, the Registrant did not make sure that her conduct justifies the public’s trust and confidence in her and in her profession.

28. Accordingly, the Panel finds that the facts found proved in Particular 2 amount to misconduct.

Decision on impairment

29. In reaching its decision on impairment, the Panel has had regard to the HCPTS Practice Notes “Finding that Fitness to Practise is Impaired” and “Conviction and Caution Allegations”. The Panel has taken account of the submissions of both Ms Woolfson and those of the Registrant who gave further evidence to the Panel. It has received and accepted legal advice. The Panel has borne in mind that the purpose of this hearing is not to punish the Registrant for past misdoings but to protect the public against the acts and omissions of those who are not fit to practise.

Submissions

30. Ms Woolfson submitted that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired on public component grounds. She submitted that the Registrant had not provided evidence of insight into her conviction for a drink driving offence or her failure to report that matter to the HCPC in a timely manner and so there was a risk of repetition in this case. Ms Woolfson also submitted that a finding that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired was required to maintain confidence in the profession and its regulator.

31. The Registrant submitted that her fitness to practise is not impaired on either the personal or public component. In her evidence, the Registrant made it clear that she accepted that her conviction and misconduct were entirely her own fault. She said she was a “really good Occupational Therapist”. She stressed that while she wanted to put these proceedings and the matters that led to them behind her, she understood the seriousness of the situation.


Decision


Personal component


32. The Panel has considered the personal component. It is satisfied that drink driving conviction and the misconduct found proved in this case are both capable of being remedied. The Panel is satisfied that in undertaking a course approved by the Secretary of State, the Registrant has taken some steps to remedy the conduct which led to her conviction. However, when asked what she had learned from this course, the Registrant was unable to say more than that people should not drink and drive. The Panel takes the view that the Registrant has yet to achieve a proper level of insight into the impact her offending behaviour could have had on the safety of other road users. The Panel notes the Registrant’s expressed remorse and takes the view that while the Registrant’s remorse is genuine, it is limited because in expressing it, the Registrant has only really focussed on how the conviction and these proceedings have impacted on her personally.

33. The Panel is not satisfied that the Registrant has yet fully recognised that by her actions she has damaged public confidence in her profession and its impact on upholding proper standards of conduct and behaviour. The Panel accepts that it is an indication of some insight that the Registrant made admissions to the drink driving offence at the earliest opportunity, both in her police interviews and at the Magistrates’ Court. The Panel notes that the Registrant also made admissions at this hearing which she confirmed in her evidence to the Panel. The Registrant has recognised that her conduct in relation to both the conviction matter and her failure to inform the HCPC in a timely manner of that conviction, fell below the standards expected of an Occupational Therapist. However, the Panel does not consider that the Registrant has achieved sufficient insight into why it is important for Registrants to inform the HCPC of convictions. She was not able to articulate this fully to the Panel in her evidence.

34. The Panel has considered the likelihood that the Registrant will repeat her offending conduct, and it is satisfied that the risk of her driving whilst under the influence of alcohol in the future to be low. The Registrant committed the offence at a time when her personal circumstances were very different. That offence was now some three years ago. The Panel accepts that the Registrant’s evidence that the consequences for her of her conviction have been severe. She could not continue in her former employment. She has had two short periods of paid employment, one as an Occupational Therapist and one in a non-registered role. Otherwise, it appears she has been doing voluntary work. The Registrant has not applied for the return of her driving licence for financial reasons. It appears that while the Registrant may now be in a much more stable relationship than she was in 2018, finances are very tight and so she and her new partner do not socialise much as a consequence. The Registrant told the Panel that she only drinks now occasionally and only in a social situation and would take a taxi if she found herself in a similar situation to that which she was in in December 2017. She told the Panel that she would now know to report any conviction to the HCPC immediately and said she would ask the HCPC if she was in any doubt in the future about any matter that had to be reported.

35. The Panel is wholly satisfied that there is no risk that the Registrant would repeat her misconduct by failing to report matters such as a conviction to the HCPC in a timely manner.

36. In these circumstances, the Panel has concluded that while the risk of the matters which led to the Registrant’s conviction being repeated is low, and no risk of the misconduct being repeated, there are concerns regarding the Registrant’s lack of proper insight, reflection and remorse in respect of both the conviction and misconduct in this case which lead the Panel to conclude that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired on the personal component ground.


Public component

37. In relation to the public component, the Panel has considered very carefully whether given the nature and circumstances of the conviction and the misconduct in this case, public confidence in the Occupational Therapist profession and its regulatory body would be undermined if there was no finding of impairment in this case. The Panel has also considered whether it would be failing in its duty to declare and uphold proper standards of conduct and behaviour in that profession if it did not find impairment in this case.

38. The Panel does not consider that this is a case where there are concerns regarding risks to patients. The Panel has received no information that the Registrant is otherwise than a competent Occupational Therapist about whom there are no clinical concerns.

39. However, the Panel does consider that a reasonable member of the public fully aware of all the facts would be concerned if there was no finding of impairment where those facts showed that the Registrant’s conviction involved driving whilst under the influence of alcohol, given the high breath alcohol reading involved. The Panel accepts that the conviction did not occur while the Registrant was acting in her role as an Occupational Therapist. The Panel is satisfied that public confidence in the profession and in its regulator would be undermined if there was no finding of impairment in this case. The Panel is also satisfied that it would be failing in its duty to uphold and declare proper standards of conduct and behaviour in the Occupational Therapist profession if it did not find that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired.

40. Accordingly, the Panel therefore finds, on the public component, that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired.

Order

ORDER: The Registrar is directed to annotate the Register with a Caution Order against the name of Mrs Bobbie Hallam for a period of 18 months from the date on which the Order comes into effect.

Notes

No notes available

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Mrs Bobbie Hallam

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
05/11/2021 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Caution
27/09/2021 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Adjourned part heard
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