Dr Paul Curran

Profession: Practitioner psychologist

Registration Number: PYL23198

Hearing Type: Final Hearing

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

Location: Virtual Hearing via Video Conference

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Suspended

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

Allegation

(as amended at Day 1 of the hearing, namely, 25 October 2021)


1. Between 24 May 2019 and 28 June 2019 you conducted assessments for Child 1 and Child 2 and you did not act in the best interest of Child 1 and/or Child 2, in that you:

a) did not produce the Educational Psychology reports following the assessments you had undertaken;

b) did not provide the assessment data to Person B despite several requests made by Person B;

2. Between 13 August 2019 and 23 August 2019 you did not communicate effectively with Person B, in that you did not respond to his:

a) emails and

b) letter.

3. The matters set out in particulars 1 and 2 constitute misconduct.

4. By reason of your misconduct, your fitness to practise is impaired.

Finding

Preliminary Matters

Remote hearing conducted via video-link

1. In light of the current Government advice on containing the COVID-19 pandemic, this hearing was conducted virtually via video-link to protect the health and safety of its registrants and stakeholders.

Service of the Notice of hearing

2. The Registrant was not present nor represented at the hearing. The Panel was provided with documentary evidence that the Notice of this hearing was sent to the Registrant on 10 August 2021 by email to his registered email address; confirmation of electronic delivery to the Registrant’s registered email address was received. The Notice contained the dates and start time of the hearing and the fact that it would be held remotely due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

3. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor in relation to Rules 3(1) and 6 of the HCPC (Conduct and Competence Committee) (Procedure) Rules 2003 (the Rules) and was satisfied that there had been proper service in this case.

Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant

4. The Presenting Officer, on behalf of the HCPC, applied to proceed with the hearing in the Registrant’s absence. He provided the Panel with a bundle of documents which, he submitted, demonstrated the HCPC’s significant efforts to make contact with the Registrant via his email address. The Presenting Officer told the Panel that the Registrant has had no engagement with the regulator in the course of these proceedings.

5. The Presenting Officer submitted that the Panel should proceed today; that the Registrant knew or is deemed to know about the hearing, had waived his right to attend and that it was in the public interest to proceed in his absence.

6. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel referred to the HCPTS Practice Note of September 2018 on Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant and to the guidance that a hearing panel should consider as provided by the cases of R v Jones (Anthony) [2004] 1 AC 1HL and GMC v Adeogba [2016] EWCA Civ 162. Applying that guidance, the Panel was careful to remember that its discretion to
proceed in absence under Rule 11 is not unfettered and must be exercised with the utmost care and caution, and with the fairness of the hearing at the forefront of its mind.

7. The Panel noted that the Notice of Hearing informed the Registrant of the date and details of the Conduct and Competence Committee hearing, and of his right to attend and be represented. He was also advised of the Panel’s power to proceed with the hearing in his absence if he did not attend and of how he could apply for a postponement of the hearing. The Registrant was informed of the sanction powers available to the Panel, should it find his fitness to practise to be currently impaired. The Panel noted that in addition to the Notice of Hearing a further email was sent to the Registrant on 18 October 2021 without any response from the Registrant. The Panel noted that the Registrant has not requested a postponement or adjournment of today’s hearing and there has been no communication from the Registrant or any representative. Taking all the above circumstances into account, the Panel concluded that it was unlikely in all the circumstances that an adjournment would secure the Registrant’s attendance on a future date. The Panel took the view that the Registrant had voluntarily waived his right to attend and that adjourning this hearing would serve no purpose.

8. The Panel was mindful that it must also consider fairness to the HCPC, whose case was ready to proceed today. The HCPC’s witness was present and ready to give evidence. The Panel took account of the public interest in the expeditious resolution of regulatory allegations, the fact that the allegations in this case are more than two years old and the impact of cost and delay caused by an adjournment upon other cases. Following the guidance in the case of Adeogba, given that there was no good reason to adjourn the hearing, the Panel decided it was in the public interest to proceed in the Registrant’s absence.

9. The Panel considered that there was some disadvantage to the Registrant in proceeding in his absence as he would not be able to challenge the evidence put forward by the HCPC or give his own evidence. In the Panel’s judgment, however, this could be mitigated. The Panel was mindful that it could explore any inconsistencies in the evidence which it identified and should ask questions and consider points which might be in the Registrant’s interests and were reasonably apparent from the evidence. Furthermore, the limited disadvantage was the consequence of the Registrant’s decision to absent himself from the hearing, waive his rights to attend and be represented.

10. In these circumstances, the Panel decided that it was fair to proceed in the absence of the Registrant.

Application to Amend the Allegation

11. The Presenting Officer applied to amend the following particulars of the Allegation:

a) Amend particular 1(b) under deletion of the words as follows: did not provide the Educational Psychology reports and/or the assessment data to Person A and/or Person B despite several requests made by Person A and/or Person B;

b) Amend the stem of particular 2 under deletion of the words as follows: Between 13 August 2019 and 23 August 2019 you did not communicate effectively with Person A and/or Person B, in that you did not respond to their/his:

c) Delete particular 2(a): telephone calls;

d) Amend particular 2.b): emails; and

e) Delete particular 2.c): what’s app messages; and

f) Amend particular 2.d): letter.

12. The Case Presenter told the Panel that the allegations in this case relate to the Registrant’s conduct between 24 May 2019 and 28 June 2019 in relation to the assessments of Child 1 and/or Child 2. He stated that the Registrant did not act in the best interest of Child 1 and/or Child 2 and that he did not communicate effectively with Person B, Person B being the Clinical Director of a company offering expert witness assessments and reports for legal proceedings.

13. The Presenting Officer submitted that the proposed amendment of deleting parts of the particulars of the allegations and amending the stem of particular 2 would correct it to reflect the evidence without affecting the nature or substance of the charge. The Presenting Officer submitted that written notice that the HCPC intended to apply to make this amendment was sent to the Registrant in February 2020 and the Registrant had not objected to the proposed amendment of which he had been notified.

14. The Panel heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Legal Assessor advised the Panel that there is no specific Rule governing a power to amend an allegation. The Panel should have regard to the merits of the case, the fairness of proceedings and consider whether the requested amendment can be made without injustice. The Panel should consider the wider public interest in ensuring that allegations accurately reflect the evidence that has been adduced. She advised the Panel that early notice and minor changes are less likely to cause injustice than late notice and substantial alterations that heighten the seriousness of the Allegation.

15. The Panel considered that the Registrant had been given plenty of notice and ample opportunity to consider the proposal. No issues of prejudice or unfairness had been raised by or on behalf of the Registrant. In the Panel’s judgment, the proposed amendments were made on the basis of the material gathered during the HCPC's investigation and served to clarify it. The Panel was satisfied that the amendments did not change the substance of the Allegation, could be made without injustice to the Registrant and were fair. Accordingly, the Panel acceded to the Presenting Officer’s application to amend the Allegation.

Hearing held partly in private

16. Matters relating to the health and private life of the Registrant would be referred to in the hearing. Rule 10 enabled the whole or part of the hearing to be held in private for the protection of matters including the private lives of the Registrant, any witness, client or service user. The Panel, having heard submissions and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor, agreed that any references to the health or private life of the Registrant, clients or service users should be heard in private.

Documentation

17. The Panel received a bundle of documents from the HCPC and heard live evidence from Person B.

Background

18. The Registrant is a Practitioner Psychologist.

19. Witness 1 is referred to as “Person B”. He is registered with the HCPC and is a Consultant Clinical Psychologist and Managing Director of a company which undertakes expert reports on health and education for legal proceedings.

20. Person B contacted the Registrant in early 2019 to see if he would be interested in receiving instructions as an associate, for writing educational psychologist reports. Person B explained the nature of the work and what was required. The Registrant produced his due diligence documentation at Person B’s request. Thereafter, the Registrant was instructed to conduct two separate assessments for two children (Child 1 and Child 2) and subsequently produce a report for each child.

21. The assessments and reports the Registrant was given instructions to undertake were being prepared to assess educational needs with a view to obtaining the necessary educational support for the subjects of the report.

22. The Registrant arranged for Child 2 to attend his office to carry out an assessment which Child 2 undertook. The Registrant attended the home and school of Child 2 to assess their support needs and to identify the most suitable school for them.

23. Person B did not receive the reports or the data from the assessments. Person B emailed the Registrant on several occasions in August 2019. He was assured the reports would be forthcoming. The Registrant did communicate with third parties and attend the school of one of the children to observe the child in respect of the preparation of the report. In August 2019 Person B also sent the Registrant a recorded delivery letter which was delivered to the Registrant’s address and signed for. There was no response from the Registrant.

24. On 19 September 2019 Person B referred the Registrant to the HCPC on the basis that that neither the reports nor assessment data in relation to Child 1 and Child 2 were not produced and/or sent by the Registrant. This was despite repeated requests from Person B.

Decision on Facts

25. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The standard of proof in HCPC proceedings is the civil standard, on the balance of probabilities, meaning that before finding a fact proved the Panel must be satisfied it is more likely than not that the alleged event occurred. The burden of proof was upon the HCPC which brought the allegation, it was not for the Registrant to prove his innocence.

26. The Panel has considered each particular of the Allegation separately and has evaluated the evidence in order to make its findings on the facts. The Panel heard evidence under affirmation from Witness 1 referred to as Person B, the Clinical Director of a Company supplying Psychology reports.

Particular 1.a): Proved

1. Between 24 May 2019 and 28 June 2019 you conducted assessments for Child 1 and Child 2 and you did not act in the best interest of Child 1 and/or Child 2, in that you:
a) did not produce the Educational Psychology reports following the assessments you had undertaken; and/or

27. The Panel heard evidence from Person B, who adopted his statement, following typographical corrections, as his evidence in chief. Person B’s evidence was that between May 2019 and 28 June 2019, the Registrant had accepted instructions regarding the preparing of Educational Psychology Reports (the Report/s) in respect of Child 1 and also Child 2.

28. Person B stated that in May 2019, the Registrant had arranged for Child 1 to attend his office for the Registrant to carry out an assessment. Person B understood Child 1 had attended and that the Registrant had undertaken the assessment. Person B described how Child 1, who attended an independent school, was about to sit examinations to allow them to attend a specific secondary school. The Report was required to find out if Child 1 needed extra time for exams.

29. Person B gave evidence that in May 2019 the Registrant attended the home of Child 2 and in June 2019 he attended Child 2’s school, to assess Child 2’s support needs and to identify the most suitable school for Child 2’s needs.

30. Person B stated that he had not received the Educational Psychology reports from the Registrant, despite repeated requests.

31. Person B stated that when the Reports were not received a delay occurred in assessing Child 1 and Child 2 and thereby obtaining additional support for Child 1 and identifying the correct educational support for Child 2. Person B gave evidence that the parents of Child 1 had turned down the option of Child 1’s school obtaining an educational psychologist in favour of the Report from the Registrant. Person B stated that although he was assured by the Registrant that the Reports would be provided he did not receive them.

32. The Panel also had regard to the written documentation containing communications from the Registrant and Person B about the preparation and supply of the Reports. The Panel accepted Person B’s evidence as credible and reliable. His evidence was measured and he did not provide answers unless he was able to do so. Person B stated that although he had a mutual professional contact who knew the Registrant, he had not discussed this case with them. Person B confirmed he had reluctantly taken the step to refer the Registrant to the HCPC.

33. The Panel was satisfied on the balance of probabilities that between 24 May 2019 and 28 June 2019 the Registrant had commenced assessments for Child 1 and Child 2 and did not act in the best interest of Child 1 and Child 2, in that the Registrant did not produce the Reports following the assessments.

Particular 1.b): Proved

1. Between 24 May 2019 and 28 June 2019 you conducted assessments for Child 1 and Child 2 and you did not act in the best interest of Child 1 and/or Child 2, in that you:
b) did not provide the assessment data to Person B despite several requests made by Person B;

34. The Panel heard evidence from Person B, who adopted his statement, following typographical corrections, as his evidence in chief. Person B’s evidence was that between May 2019 and 28 June 2019, the Registrant had accepted instructions regarding the preparing of Educational Psychology Reports (the Report/s) in respect of Child 1 and also Child 2.

35. In May 2019, the Registrant arranged for Child 1 to attend his office as part of the assessment. Person B understood that Child 1 had attended the Registrant’s office and the Registrant had carried out the assessment.

36. Person B gave evidence that in May 2019 the Registrant had visited Child 2’s family home to assess Child 2 and in June 2019 the Registrant had attended Child 2’s school to assess Child 2’s support needs. This was in order to identify the most suitable school to support Child 2’s needs.

37. Person B stated that he realised that the Reports on Child 1 and Child 2 had not been received from the Registrant. Person B had then asked the Registrant for the assessment data. Person B stated that despite several requests, he had not received the assessment data from the Registrant.

38. Person B described how Child 1, who attended an independent school was about to sit examinations to allow them to attend a specific secondary school. The assessment data was required to prepare a Report to find out if Child 1 needed extra time for exams. When the assessment data was not received by Person B a delay occurred in assessing and thereby obtaining additional support for Child 1 and identifying the correct educational support for Child 2. The parents of Child 1 had turned down the option of Child 1’s school obtaining an educational psychologist in favour of the Report from the Registrant. Person B stated that he had repeatedly sought the assessment data when he had not received the Reports so he could action and expedite the Reports.

39. The Panel also had regard to the written documentation containing communications from Person B to the Registrant requesting the assessment data which had already required Child 1 and Child 2 to engage in assessment and which was required to prepare reports. It accepted Person B’s evidence that he had not received data about the preparation and supply of the Reports.

40. The Panel accepted Person B’s evidence as credible and reliable. His evidence was measured and he did not provide answers unless he was able to do so. He stated that although he had a mutual professional contact who knew the Registrant, he had not discussed this case with them. Person B confirmed he had taken this step of referring the Registrant to the HCPC, reluctantly.

41. The Panel was satisfied on the balance of probabilities that between 24 May 2019 and 28 June 2019 the Registrant conducted assessments for Child 1 and Child 2 and did not act in the best interest of Child 1 and Child 2, in that did not provide the assessment data to Person B despite several requests made by Person B.

Particular 2.a): Proved

2. Between 13 August 2019 and 23 August 2019 you did not communicate effectively with Person B, in that you did not respond to his:
a) emails; and

42. The Panel had regard to the documentation produced by HCPC from Person B. This included three emails between 13 August 2019 and 23 August 2019 from Person B to the Registrant seeking a response. The Panel having heard and accepted the evidence of Person B, was satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the Registrant did not communicate effectively with Person B, in that the Registrant did not respond to Person B ’s emails.

Particular 2.b proved

2. Between 13 August 2019 and 23 August 2019 you did not communicate effectively with Person B, in that you did not respond to his:
b) letter.

43. The Panel had regard to the documentation produced by HCPC from Person B. This included a “signed for delivery” letter, dated 22 August 2019 from Person B to the Registrant asking the Registrant to send the “reports or the raw assessment data”. The Panel having heard and accepted the evidence of Person B, was satisfied on the balance of probabilities that between 13 August 2019 and 23 August 2019, the Registrant did not communicate effectively with Person B, in that the Registrant did not respond to Person B’s letter.

Statutory Ground

44. The Panel went on to consider, on the basis of the facts found proved, whether the ground of misconduct was established and if so, whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired. In reaching its decision, the Panel adopted a two-stage approach, first in considering whether the facts found proved constituted misconduct, then whether those findings led to the conclusion that his fitness to practise is currently impaired. The Panel noted that there is no burden or standard of proof at this stage and exercised its own professional judgement, keeping at the forefront of its consideration the overarching objectives of the HCPC.

45. The Presenting Officer submitted that the Panel should consider the HCPC Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics (2016), as a whole but in particular drew the Panel’s attention to standards requiring open and effective communication; and ensuring that service users are not disadvantaged. The Case Presenter submitted that the Registrant’s lack of communication and not acting in the best interests of Child 1 and Child 2 was a serious falling short of what would be proper in the circumstances and that the Panel could readily conclude that his actions amounted to misconduct.

46. The Legal Assessor referred the Panel to the guidance on misconduct in Roylance v GMC (No 2) [2001] 1 AC 311, that misconduct “is a word of general effect, involving some act or omission, which falls short of what would be proper in the circumstances.” The Panel accepted the Legal Assessor’s advice that misconduct is qualified by the word “serious”; it is not just any professional misconduct that will qualify. The Legal Assessor reminded the Panel that not every instance of falling short of what would be proper in the circumstances, and not every breach of the HCPC Standards, would be sufficiently serious such as to amount to misconduct in this context.

47. The Panel had careful regard to the context and circumstances of the matters found proved. In reaching its decision on misconduct, the Panel has also had in mind the HCPC Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics (2016) which sets out the standards that a Practitioner Psychologist must continue to meet throughout their professional career. It concluded that the following standards were engaged in this case and were breached:

“1. Promote and protect the interests of service users and carers
2. Communicate appropriately and effectively
2.5 You must work in partnership with colleagues, sharing your skills, knowledge and experience where appropriate, for the benefit of service users and carers.
2.6 You must share relevant information, where appropriate, with colleagues involved in the care, treatment or other services provided to a service user.”

48. The Panel was aware that not every act falling short of what would be proper in the circumstances, and not every breach of the HCPC Standards, would be sufficiently serious that it could properly be described as misconduct. However, the Panel exercising its own professional judgement, was in no doubt that the Registrant’s not acting in the best interest of Child 1 and Child 2, by not communicating effectively, was behaviour which amounted to the statutory ground of misconduct. It considered that it was incumbent upon the Registrant to communicate effectively and act in the best interests of and promote and protect the interests of service users, by providing assessment data and Reports. It is a reasonable expectation of colleagues and service users that the Registrant would work in partnership with colleagues and share the relevant information relating to Child 1 and Child 2 with Person B. This is a key principle set out in the Standards. The Panel was in no doubt that the Registrant’s conduct fell seriously short of what would be proper in the circumstances and would be considered deplorable by fellow practitioners.


Decision on Impairment


49. The Panel, having determined that the facts found proved in relation to the Registrant’s not communicating effectively and not acting in the best interests of Child 1 and Child 2, amounted to misconduct, went on to consider whether, as a result of that misconduct, the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired.

50. The Presenting Officer submitted that whether the proven facts amount to impairment of fitness to practise is also a matter of judgement for the Committee. He submitted that there had been no engagement with the regulator and there was no evidence of insight or any remediation and that the Registrant’s fitness to practise was and remains impaired. The Case Presenter submitted that there has to date been:

a) a failure to accept or address that misconduct;

b) the Registrant has shown no remorse in relation to the behaviour and he has failed to respond to communications to obtain the reports and assessment data; and

c) the Registrant’s actions were not in the best interests of the service users.

51. The Case presenter further submitted that the conduct found proved, is so serious that finding that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is not impaired would undermine both public confidence in the profession as well as the regulatory process and its role in upholding proper professional standards.

52. For these reasons, the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired.

53. On the issue of impairment of fitness to practise, the Legal Assessor referred the Panel to the HCPTS Practice Note on ‘Finding Fitness to Practise is Impaired’, and to the guidance on the assessment of impairment and consideration of the public interest, in the case of CHRE v NMC & Grant [2011] EWHC 927 (Admin). She reminded the Panel that it should consider the Registrant’s insight, his remorse, any steps to remediate, and the risk of repetition of the behaviour leading to the facts found proved. The Panel should at all times keep in the forefront of its mind the central importance of the need to protect the public and the wider public interest. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

54. The Panel recognised that there is no burden or standard of proof and that this is a matter for the Panel’s independent judgment. Whilst there is no statutory definition of impairment, the Panel was assisted by the guidance provided by Dame Janet Smith in the Fifth Shipman Report, as adopted by the High Court in CHRE v NMC and Paula Grant [2011] EWHC 297 Admin. In particular, the Panel considered whether its findings of fact showed that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired in the sense that he:

"a. 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
b. Has in the past brought and/or is liable in the future to bring the medical profession into disrepute; and/or
c. Has in the past breached and/or is liable in the future to breach one of the fundamental tenets of the medical profession; and
d. Has in the past acted dishonestly and/or is liable to act dishonestly in the future."

The Panel noted that the guidance relating to dishonesty did not apply to the conduct in this case as it did not include an allegation of dishonesty.

55. The Panel’s duty is not only to protect patients/service users but to maintain public confidence in the profession and the regulatory process, which includes the declaring and upholding of proper standards of conduct and behaviour. Practitioner Psychologists occupy a position of privilege and trust in society and are expected at all times to act professionally, appropriately and effectively communicating with service users, acting in their best interests and sharing information with colleagues.

56. The Panel first considered its findings in light of the factors indicating that a Practitioner Psychologist’s fitness to practise might be impaired as set out by Dame Janet Smith in the Grant case, as set out above. The Panel found that the Registrant had not responded to communications by email and telephone as well as not acting in the best interest of Child 1 and Child 2. The Panel has not received any evidence of the Registrant’s remediation in this regard. Whilst the Panel noted that by not providing the Report/s and/or assessment data, the Registrant had caused some delay in the provision of educational support to Child 1 and Child 2, it noted that this was somewhat mitigated by the prompt action of Person B. The Panel considered that it could not be said that the Registrant had put service users at unwarranted risk of harm. Therefore, the Panel was satisfied that the Registrant had not acted so as to put service users at unwarranted risk of harm. The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant has brought and is liable in the future to bring the profession into disrepute and has breached and is liable in the future to breach a fundamental tenet of the profession in not acting in the best interest of service users. It disregarded Dame Janet Smith’s final test as it is not relevant to these proceedings.

57. The Panel carefully considered the personal component of impairment and considered the Registrant's level of insight, whether his misconduct was capable of remediation, whether it had been remedied and the risk of repetition.

58. In respect of the level of insight that the Registrant has shown into his misconduct, its seriousness, and its consequences, the Panel was of the view that the Registrant has thus far shown no insight. The Registrant has not explained why he acted as he did, and the Panel has not been provided with any evidence of reflection that demonstrates the Registrant’s understanding of how his actions could have impacted on the service users involved and their families as well as the impact on public confidence in his profession.

59. The Panel considered that, in theory, the misconduct was capable of remediation through meaningful reflection. However, the Panel has not been presented with any evidence that the Registrant has remedied his misconduct or attempted to do so. Given the absence of this evidence, the Panel was satisfied that there remains a real risk that his misconduct might be repeated.

60. Turning to the public interest component of impairment, the Panel next reminded itself of the public component in Cohen v General Medical Council [2008] EWHC 581: “the need to protect the individual and the collective need to maintain confidence in the profession as well as declaring and upholding proper standards of conduct and behaviour which the public expect…and that the public interest includes, amongst other things, the protection of service users and the maintenance of public confidence in the profession.” The Panel was mindful of its findings and was satisfied that the Registrant's misconduct would substantially undermine the trust and confidence the public could have in the profession. Given the nature of its findings and their seriousness, the Panel was satisfied that the need to promote and maintain public confidence in the profession and the need to promote and maintain proper professional standards and conduct for members of the profession would be undermined if a finding of impairment were not made in this case.

61. The Registrant’s fitness to practise is therefore impaired on both the personal and public components.


Sanction

62. The Presenting Officer referred the Panel to the HCPC Sanctions Policy of March 2019, including the sections: 40,48, 52, 53, 61, 62, 101, 106, 131.

63. The Panel heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor who reminded it that the purpose of sanction was not to be punitive. Rather, the primary function of a sanction is to address public safety issues although there will also be secondary considerations in the form of a deterrent effect on other professionals and in maintaining the reputation of the profession and public confidence in the regulatory process. She advised the Panel to firstly consider whether any sanction was necessary and, if it was, to consider sanctions in ascending order, settling on the least restrictive sanction that satisfied the Panel’s concerns. The Legal Assessor advised the Panel to bear in mind the principle of proportionality, at all times balancing the Registrant’s interests with the public interest.

64. No submissions in relation to sanction or any references or testimonials had been submitted by the Registrant.

65. The starting point for the Panel was that the Registrant’s misconduct was serious and had not, on the information before the Panel, been addressed. As such, the Panel concluded that the Registrant continued to pose a current risk to the wider public interest.

66. The Panel considered that there were no specific mitigating factors in this case.

67. The Panel identified the following aggravating factors:

a) The absence of any apology or expression of regret

b) The misconduct found proved in this case was repeated

c) The Registrant has not engaged with the Regulator throughout these proceedings

d) The misconduct occurred in the course of the Registrant’s professional work

e) The Registrant has not evidenced any steps taken by him to address his conduct

f) The Registrant has provided no evidence of any reflection and lacks insight, especially in relation to the impact of his actions on service users and the wider public.

68. The Panel considered what sanction, if any, should be applied, and considered its powers in ascending order of seriousness. The Panel had in mind the HCPC Sanctions Policy and the principle of proportionality when considering sanctions.

69. The Panel paid careful attention to the section in the Sanctions Policy called “Serious cases”.

70. The Panel concluded that the misconduct in this case was too serious to refer for mediation or to take no action. There is a risk of repetition and taking no action would fail to meet the public interest in declaring and upholding proper professional standards and maintaining confidence in the profession and the regulatory process.

71. The Panel next considered whether to make a Caution Order. A Caution Order is appropriate in cases where the failing is isolated, limited, relatively minor in nature, or where the Registrant has undertaken appropriate remediation. This was a repeated lapse, it was not minor in nature, as the proved Allegation involved not acting in service users best interests and not communicating effectively. The Panel considered the conduct to be serious and there had been no demonstrated insight or any remediation. In light of there being a risk of repetition of the misconduct found proved, a Caution Order would not be appropriate or sufficient to protect the public in its broadest sense.

72. The Panel next considered a Conditions of Practice Order. The Panel noted the guidance in the Sanctions Policy that Conditions “will only be effective in cases where the registrant is genuinely committed to resolving the concerns raised and the panel is confident they will do so.” The Sanctions Policy also provides that Conditions are “less likely to be appropriate in more serious cases.” In this case there has been no engagement from the Registrant and no demonstrated insight; the Panel has no information about the Registrant’s current circumstances, save for the fact that in 2019, Person B understood the Registrant planned to work in Bermuda. Accordingly, the Panel concluded that even if appropriate conditions could be formulated to address the misconduct and the ongoing risk presented by the Registrant, in the absence of further information from him, it could not be satisfied that those conditions would be workable, or that the Registrant would comply with them. It was clear to the Panel that Conditions of Practice were therefore not an appropriate or sufficient sanction to protect the public or the public interest.

73. The Panel carefully considered whether a period of suspension would be an adequate response in this case. In so doing, the Panel referred to the HCPC Sanctions Policy as to when a Suspension Order is appropriate. The Panel concluded that the Registrant may be able to resolve or remedy his misconduct if he engages and undertakes some professional development.

74. The Panel concluded that a suspension order may be appropriate in the circumstances of its findings. The Panel went on to consider carefully whether the ultimate sanction, a Striking Off Order, was required in this case. The Panel considered paragraph 130 of the Sanctions Policy in relation to a Striking off Order and noted that this is “a sanction of last resort for serious, persistent, deliberate or reckless acts involving (this list is not exhaustive): dishonesty…” The Panel concluded after careful consideration that whilst the concerns found proved were serious, a Striking Off Order would be disproportionate in the context of the Registrant’s previously unblemished record and the concerns found proved in these two cases relating to a short time period.

75. The Panel concluded that a short period of suspension would appropriately mark the seriousness of the concerns, whilst ensuring that the public was protected and that public confidence was maintained.

76. In these circumstances, the Panel concluded that a period of suspension of six (6) months is the appropriate and proportionate sanction which would protect the public interest and demonstrate the seriousness of the matter to the profession and the public.

77. Before the end of the period of suspension there will be a review hearing where the Registrant will be given the opportunity to demonstrate that he has remediated his failings. The Panel noted that it may be helpful for a future Panel to have:

a) The attendance of the Registrant

b) A Reflective piece including, reflecting on what led to the events now subject of these proceedings and the findings of this Panel

c) Evidence of remediation

d) Evidence of any paid/unpaid work

e) Continuing Professional Development

f) Testimonials

78. Whilst this Panel cannot bind any future panel, the Registrant should be aware that in the absence of being able to show that he has reflected upon, and begun steps to remediate his past misconduct, it would be open to that future panel to make a Striking Off Order.

79. The Panel was mindful of the significant impact that such an order may have on the Registrant in terms of financial, personal and professional hardship. In any event, the Panel determined that the protection of the public and the wider public interest outweigh the Registrant’s interests in this regard.


Order

Order: That the Registrar is directed to suspend the registration of Mr Paul Curran from the HCPC Register for a period of 6 months from the date this order comes into effect.

Notes

Interim Order

80. The Panel considered whether an immediate order should be imposed in terms of Article 31(3) of the Health Professions Order 2001.

81. The Panel heard submissions from the Mr Lloyd as to whether an immediate order should be imposed.

82. Mr Lloyd submitted that in view of the Panel's finding of misconduct relating to not acting in the best interests of two service users and ineffective communication an interim Order of Suspension was necessary in the wider public interest.

83. The Panel heard and accepted the legal advice from the Legal Assessor and referred to the guidance in the Sanctions Policy on Interim Orders.

84. The Panel assessed the risk to the public and the wider public interest and considered whether an order was necessary and proportionate.

85. The Panel had regard to the nature of the Allegation found proved and the identified risk of repetition. The Panel decided that there was a real risk of harm to the public including service users from the Registrant's misconduct. The Panel was satisfied that confidence in the profession would be seriously harmed if the Registrant was allowed to remain in unrestricted practice.

86. The Panel determined that an Interim Order of Suspension was necessary to protect the public and in the wider public interest.

87. The Panel determined that an immediate Interim Order of Suspension should be imposed for a period of eighteen months to protect the public and in the wider public interest.

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Dr Paul Curran

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
25/04/2022 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Struck off
25/10/2021 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended