Laurence O'Donnell

Profession: Biomedical scientist

Registration Number: BS69476

Hearing Type: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 25/11/2021 End: 17:00 26/11/2021

Location: Virtual via Video Conference

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Not well founded

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Allegation

As a registered Biomedical Scientist (BS69476) your fitness to practise is impaired by reason of a conviction. In that:

1) On 11 September 2020 at Caernarfon Magistrates’ Court you were convicted of “On 15/03/2020… drove a motor vehicle… on a road… after consuming so much alcohol that the proportion of it in your breath, namely 61 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath, exceeded the prescribed limit. Contrary to Section 5(1)(a) of the Road Traffic Act 1988 and Schedule 2 to the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988.”

2) The matter listed in particular 1 constitutes a conviction.

3) By reason of your conviction your fitness to practise is impaired.

Finding

Background
1.     Laurence O’Donnell (the Registrant) is registered with the HCPC as a Biomedical Scientist. On 14 September 2020 the Registrant notified the HCPC, by email, that he had received a conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol following a hearing at Caernarfon Magistrates Court on 11 September 2020. 
2.     The Registrant was breathalysed following a minor road traffic collision which occurred on 15 March 2020, and was found to be over the legal limit of alcohol. No other vehicle or persons were involved. The police attended and the Registrant was taken to the Police station and breathalysed. The Registrant’s reading was 61 micrograms of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath, the legal limit in the UK being 35 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath. 
3.     On 11 September 2020 the Registrant was convicted at Caernarfon Crown Court and received a fine of £180, ordered to pay the CPS costs of £620 and to pay a victim surcharge of £32. In addition, the Registrant was disqualified from holding or obtaining a driving licence for 17 months.
4.     The Registrant completed the required rehabilitation driving course on 24 July 2021, and he provided the Panel with the certificate of completion in respect of that course and he also provided two reflective pieces. The Memorandum of Conviction and two statements from the attending police officers were before the Panel.   
Decision on Facts & Grounds
5.     Ms R for the HCPC opened the case. The Registrant admitted the allegation and the conviction.  He told the Panel that he was impaired at the time of the incident but that he was not currently impaired. He said he has been working since the incident.
6.     Having taken legal advice on the evidential, conclusive nature of the Memorandum of Conviction before it, the Panel found the allegation proved and the ground established by reason of the conviction.
Impairment of Fitness to Practise
7.     The Panel heard evidence from the Registrant. He said he apologised and deeply regretted the incident.  He said his conduct had been out of character and he said he had been silly, selfish and irresponsible and he had put others at risk.  He said he had been on a night out with student friends on the night of the incident. He apologised to the profession and the Panel and said he regretted damaging the reputation of the profession and undermining public confidence in his profession.
8.     The Registrant said he had recently completed a Masters and was now a specialist biomedical scientist and felt he was of benefit to the profession.  He said he was grateful to his professional colleagues and manager who had all been very supportive.
9.     The Registrant said he had done a rehabilitation course and that had made him aware of the consequences and impact of drink driving.  He said the course had been emotional. The course had also discussed the issue of taking responsibility for one’s actions. He accepted the decision to drive that night had been his, and he took responsibility for what he had done.  He said he did not drink frequently and his actions had been selfish. He said he had not renewed his driving licence and did not plan to do so for some time.  He said it had been a difficult year but he stressed that he was not the victim.  
10. Ms R for the HCPC, in cross examination, asked the Registrant about the night of the incident. He accepted what the police officers had reported about the circumstances of the incident and said that he did not remember the whole incident clearly.  He accepted that he had put others at risk of harm and that the public would consider his conduct was very selfish. He accepted that the circumstances may undermine public trust and confidence in the profession and said that confidence in the profession was important and his conduct reflected badly on the profession.
11. The Registrant said the rehabilitation course had been very eye- opening and hard hitting and he said he would not drink and drive again.
Witness - CH
12. Mr W gave character evidence in support of the Registrant.  He is an aircraft engineer in the RAF. He told the Panel that he had known the Registrant since about 2012 when they were at University together.
13. Mr W said he had socialised with the Registrant and said he did not consider that the Registrant had any issues with alcohol.  He said he was aware of the allegation and understood that the Registrant had made a mistake and had learned from the incident. Mr W said that he considered the incident was a lapse of judgement by the Registrant who had reflected on the incident and what could have happened and had accepted that serious harm could have been caused.
14. Mr W said that the Registrant had said to him shortly after the incident that he had done something very stupid and was worried about the consequences for his career and was disappointed in himself. The witness said he knew the Registrant had completed a Masters and was keen to progress in his career. He said the Registrant seemed keen to make positive steps and that the Registrant had learned from his mistake.
Closing Submissions
15. Ms R for the HCPC provided a written submission and set out the relevant law. She referred to the HCPTS Practice Note on Impairment and invited the Panel to consider both the personal and the public components of fitness to practise and stressed the importance of the public interest.
16. The Registrant told the Panel that he wanted to reiterate his apology to the HCPC and the profession.  He said his conduct had fallen well below the standards expected of his profession and of health care generally.  He accepted his behaviour undermined the public interest and he said he would never drink and drive again. He said it had been very traumatic and he did not plan to renew his driving licence. He said he had reflected and sought self-improvement. He said he had learned from the rehabilitation course about the factors that trigger this behaviour and how not to repeat it.
Decision on Impairment
17. The Legal Assessor referred the Panel to the HCPTS Practice Note on Finding that Fitness to Practise is Impaired and to the authoritative guidance in CHRE v NMC & Grant [2011] EWHC 927 (Admin). Impairment was a matter for the Panel’s professional judgement and it required the Panel to consider the central issues of insight, remediation, remorse and the risk of repetition. The Panel should look both at past conduct and to the future in assessing the risk of repetition. The Panel should consider the nature, gravity and circumstances of the conviction. It must at all times keep at the forefront of its mind the fundamental and overarching objectives of the HCPC to protect the public and the wider public interest, including the reputation of, and public confidence in, the profession. 
18. The Panel considered all the evidence before it, including the evidence from the HCPC, the Registrant, Mr W and both parties’ submissions. It accepted the advice of the legal assessor and considered the practice note on impairment and on convictions. It considered the central issues of insight, remediation and the risk of repetition and was mindful of the wider public interest. No question arises in this case about the Registrant’s professional competence or ability.
19. The Panel found that the Registrant was honest, credible, open and genuine. He realises that he made a serious error of judgement.  The Panel noted that he has not renewed his driving licence and he was clear that he had found the rehabilitative course helpful and “eye opening”. He said that after attending that course he fully acknowledged the decision to drive that night had been his, and he made no excuses for his conduct. At no stage did he seek to minimise or excuse his conduct. He apologised to his profession and to the regulator. The incident was isolated and the Panel was satisfied that it was out of character for the Registrant.
20. The Registrant pointed out that he was not the victim. In his evidence, the Registrant referred several times to the reputation of the profession and to the importance of public confidence in the profession and for excellence in health care services. His character referee, Mr W, in his evidence made clear that the Registrant had learned from the incident and was remorseful and reflective about his conduct and the risk of harm. Mr W told the Panel about the Registrant’s dedication to, and ambition in his career.  
21. The Panel found that the Registrant demonstrated that he has good insight into his conduct and is of good character. Clearly, the rehabilitation course had a positive impact on him, and it has assisted him in his knowledge, reflection and insight into the risk he took and the danger he placed others in. The Registrant said that he currently had no plans to renew his driving licence, which the Panel considered showed a good level of insight and remediation. The Registrant made no excuses for his conduct and he took full responsibility for his actions. The Panel concluded that the Registrant has remediated his fitness to practise so far as is possible in the circumstances of this case. 
22. The Panel concluded that in these circumstances that there is a low risk of repetition of the conduct that led to the conviction. The Registrant does not present a risk to the public. The Panel found that the Registrant’s fitness to practice is not currently impaired on the personal component of impairment.
23. The Panel next considered the public component and it was mindful of the nature, gravity and circumstances of the conviction. The conduct involved placing others at risk of serious harm.  In fact, the conduct did not cause harm, but it had the potential to do so. The Registrant acknowledged the risk of harm in his evidence and he accepted responsibility and culpability for his conduct. He accepted that his conduct had fallen below what was acceptable.  
24. The Panel was mindful of the importance of maintaining public confidence in the profession and the need to uphold proper professional standards. It took account of the guidance in Grant which states: - “However it is essential, when deciding whether fitness to practise is impaired, not to lose sight of the fundamental considerations emphasised at the outset of this section of his judgment …. namely the need to protect the public and the need to declare and uphold proper standards of conduct and behaviour so as to maintain public confidence in the profession.”
25. The function of this Panel is not to punish the Registrant. That function has been fulfilled by the criminal court and the Registrant has already suffered the appropriate criminal penalty. The Panel must consider whether in all these circumstances the public interest was such that it also required a finding of impairment on public interest grounds.
26. The key question is, given all the evidence, including the nature of the allegation, would public confidence in the profession be undermined if there were to be no finding of impairment?
27. The Panel took account of all the circumstances and the following factors: -
  • The criminal conviction and penalty already imposed
  • The Registrant’s good insight and remediation
  • The Registrant’s candour and openness in his evidence, including the fact that he swiftly self referred to the HCPC
  • This was an isolated one-off incident that is not likely to be repeated
  • No harm was caused, although there was a risk of harm
  • The conduct which led to the conviction has no direct impact on his professional role or on his ability to practise safely and effectively in that role
  • The Registrant has worked safely and competently as a biomedical scientist before and since the incident 
  • The Registrant has learned from the incident and he has demonstrated a far better understanding and appreciation of the risks involved in his behaviour and his responsibility for that
  • The Registrant’s good character supported by the evidence of Mr White
  •  The Registrant continues to be well supported by his professional colleagues and manager in his professional role
28. The Panel considered what a well-informed member of the public would make of the circumstances of this case and the Registrant. The Registrant has been convicted and punished and he has been through a robust fitness to practice process with this regulator.
29. The Panel concluded that in all these circumstances a member of the public would consider that the fact of conviction and the penalty imposed by the courts is sufficient to mark the seriousness and the unacceptability of the Registrant’s conduct.  The public is not at risk from the Registrant and the Panel found that the conviction and penalty imposed sufficiently upholds proper professional standards and maintains public confidence in the profession.
30. The Panel concluded that the public interest did not demand a finding of impairment on public interest grounds. It concluded that in all the circumstances of this particular case, public confidence in the profession would not be undermined if there were no finding of impairment.
31. The Panel decided that the Registrant's fitness to practise is not impaired on the public interest component of impairment.
32. That concluded this decision which will be provided to the Registrant in writing.

Order

The Panel decided to that the case against the Registrant was not well found. This means their case is now closed and their HCPC registration status is unaffected.

Notes

No notes available

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Laurence O'Donnell

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
25/11/2021 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Not well founded