Mr Christopher Barlow

Profession: Paramedic

Registration Number: PA39732

Hearing Type: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 24/09/2021 End: 17:00 24/09/2021

Location: Virtual via video conference

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Suspended

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Allegation

As a registered Paramedic (PA39732) your fitness to practise is impaired by reason of conviction. In that:

1. On 25 February 2020, you were convicted at Avon and Somerset Magistrates Court of assault thereby occasioning actual bodily harm x 2, Contrary to section 47 of the offences Against the Person Act 1861

2. By reason of your conviction your fitness to practise is impaired.

Finding

Preliminary Matters

Procedure

1. The Panel decided to consider the facts and impairment as a single stage. Then, if appropriate, to consider sanction separately.

Service and Proceeding in Absence

2. The Panel has seen the Notice of today’s hearing dated 09 August 2021 which the HCPC sent by email to the Registrant at his registered email address. The Notice of Hearing made clear that this hearing would take place today as a virtual hearing. The Notice informed the Registrant of the time and date of this hearing.

3. Having heard Ms Lankester on behalf of the HCPC and having heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor, the Panel was satisfied that good service of the Notice of Hearing has taken place.

4. The Panel has seen an email dated 6 July 2021 from the Registrant. This email was in the following terms:

Thank you for your email. I was under the impression that the hearing had already occurred.

I am afraid that my position has not changed. I am accepting of any decision made by the HCPC and do not plan to appeal any decision.

I would like to be removed from the HCPC register even if the decision is taken to not be removed.

Kind regards

Christopher Barlow

5. The Registrant’s email of 6 July 2021 was in response to one dated 2 July 2021 from an HCPC Scheduling Officer which included the following:

I note from an email you submitted dated 04 February 2021 that you do not wish to attend your Hearing. Is this still your position?. If not, please can you provide me with any dates to avoid you have over the period August - October 2021. Your hearing will be held via video conference rather than in person

I would be grateful if you could get back to me by Friday 09 July 2021.

6. In his email dated 4 February 2021 the Registrant stated:

It is my intention to not attend the hearing as I do not challenge the allegation and I do not wish to continuing practicing [sic] as a Paramedic at any point in the future.

7. The Panel has seen the Response Pro-Forma and Pre-Hearing Information Form. In his response dated 4 February 2021, the Registrant stated that he did not contest either particular1 or particular 2 as set out in the Allegation.

8. Ms Lankester informed the Panel that the email from the Registrant dated 6 July 2021 was the last communication that the HCPC has received from the Registrant.

9. Ms Lankester on behalf of the HCPC, submitted that the Panel should consider the case in the absence of the Registrant.

10. The Panel heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

11. The Panel was aware that a decision to proceed in the absence of the Registrant was one to be taken with great care and caution. However, the Panel has decided to proceed in the absence of the Registrant. Its reasons are as follows:

• Service of the appropriate notice of this hearing has been properly effected.

• The Registrant has not applied for an adjournment.

• It appears from the two emails from the Registrant that are identified above that the Registrant has decided not to engage with this or any hearing.

• The Panel has kept in mind the guidance contained in the Practice Note issued by the HCPTS.

• There is no reason to suppose that an adjournment would result in the future attendance of the Registrant.

• There is a public interest in proceeding in order to bring these proceedings to a conclusion.

• In these circumstances it is right to conclude that the Registrant has voluntarily absented himself.

Background

12. The Registrant was at all material times employed as a Paramedic by the South Western Ambulance Service Foundation Trust [the Trust]. He was first employed by the Trust in November 2013.

13. On 24 December 2019 the Registrant self-referred to the HCPC. He informed the HCPC that he had been arrested following an incident on 22 December 2019. He also referred to another incident which had taken place on 26 February 2019.

14. In his self-referral document the Registrant described the two incidents in the following terms:

I have been charged with two cases of ABH and one case of destruction of property following an incident at my registered home address, to which I have pleaded not guilty and I have been released on bail, awaiting trial on the 25th February 2020 at Bristol Magistrates Court.

On the 22nd December 2019, following an argument with my wife and my suspicions behind her using her phone in an adulterous manner I tried to forcefully take her phone from her. Following this occurrence I have had the charge of ABH raised against me.

On the 22nd February 2019, following an argument with my wife she blocked my exit from the room and I kicked her leg, causing bruising. This incident was not reported to Police at the time, it was reported following the occurrence on the 22nd December 2019. Following this occurrence I have had the charge of ABH raised against me.

On the 22nd December 2019, following an argument with my wife I stamped repeatedly on a hair dryer. Following this occurrence I have had the charge of destruction of property raised against me.

The case is being investigated by Avon and Somerset Police Force. I do not know/have the information about the police officer in charge of the investigation.

Conditions of my bail are to not attend the street [NAME DELETED] or to make contact with my wife.

15. The Case Summary which has been submitted on behalf of the HCPC describes the incidents in the following terms:

The incidents concerned domestic related assault between the Registrant and his wife. During the February 2019 incident, the Registrant kicked his wife whilst she was holding their chair. The force of the kick caused her to fall to the floor.

In December 2019 during an argument, the Registrant sought to wrestle his wife’s phone out of her pocket whilst she was holding their child. In an effort to do so, he pulled his wife’s hair and slapped her body. He then pushed her on the bed before dragging her by her hair and placing one hand around her throat. Later in the exchange, the Registrant forced his wife off the floor by grabbing her hair and continually shaking her.

16. On 23 December 2019 the Registrant pleaded not guilty to the offences and the matter went to trial on 25 February 2020. The Registrant was found guilty of both the offences with which he had been charged.

17. On 14 May 2020, the Registrant was sentenced at Bristol Magistrates Court and received a custodial sentence, totaling 38 weeks, suspended for 18 months. In addition, he is subject to a restraining order which is in place until 13 May 2023. He was ordered to pay compensation of £500 and was made subject to an unpaid work requirement of 60 hours. The Panel has seen the formal Memorandum of Conviction [Certificate of Conviction] dated 3 November 2020. The Panel is not aware whether the Registrant has complied with the orders made by the court.

Summary of the evidence and other material before the Panel

18. The HCPC did not call any live witnesses in support of the allegation against the Registrant but have submitted a substantial bundle of documents which, in addition to the communications from the Registrant referred to above, include the following:

• The self-referral document from the Registrant.

• The Certificate of Conviction dated 15 May 2020.

• Various witness statements.

• Various documents relating to the health of the Registrant.

• Documents generated by the Trust in the course of the Trust’s investigation into the incidents including the minutes of an Investigation Meeting conducted on 04 May 2020 and the Investigation Report dated 05 June 2020.

• A Pre-Sentence Report dated 24 March 2020.

Summary of the evidence and other material placed before the Panel by the Registrant

19. The Registrant has not submitted any material for the consideration of the Panel. However, the Panel has read the emails from the Registrant dated 6 July 2021 and 04 February 2021 and his Pro Forma response also dated 4 February 2021.

Submissions of the HCPC

20. The Panel considered the submissions of Ms Lankester in respect of the facts and impairment. In summary, she submitted as follows:

• The facts alleged in particular 1 of the Allegation are proved by the Certificate of Conviction which the Panel has seen.

• That the Registrant is in breach of Standard 9 of the HCPC Standards of conduct, performance and ethics which provides “[The Code] You must make sure that your conduct justifies the public’s trust and confidence in you and in your profession”.

• That in the circumstances of this case the Panel was entitled to conclude that the Registrant’s present fitness to practise was impaired. She submitted that the Registrant’s integrity could no longer be relied upon. The risk of some repetition of violent conduct by the Registrant could not be excluded and thus the ‘personal component’ was engaged. She also submitted that public confidence in the profession and the need to uphold proper standards of conduct and behaviour within the profession would be undermined if a finding of impairment was not made; consequently the “public component” was also engaged.

21. The Panel heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor as to facts and Impairment.

Decision on Facts

22. The Panel was aware that on matters of fact the burden of proof rests on the HCPC and that the standard of proof is the civil one, namely on the balance of probabilities.

23. Having considered all the evidence that it has received and the submissions that it has heard, the Panel makes the following findings.

With regard to Particular 1 of the Allegation

Proved

24. The Panel has seen the Certificate of Conviction which is relevant to particular 1 and regards that Certificate as conclusive proof of the matters that are set out in the particular. The Panel noted that the Registrant does not challenge, but has accepted the fact of the conviction. In this context the Panel has in mind the Registrant’s email of 4 February 2021 and his Pro Forma Response.

Decision on Impairment

25. The Panel next considered, whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired by reason of the conviction.

26. The Panel took account of the submissions that it had received from Ms Lankester. The Panel heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel had regard to the cases which had been cited. The Panel is aware that any findings of Impairment are matters for the independent judgement of the Panel and that, in respect of this issue, there is no burden or standard of proof.

27. The Panel is aware that what is to be assessed is the Registrant’s current fitness to practise. In considering this issue, the Panel considered and applied the principles stated by Mrs Justice Cox in the case of the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence v Nursing and Midwifery Council; Paula Grant [2011] EWHC 927 [Admin]. The Panel also had regard to the observations of Mr Justice Silber in the case of Cohen v General Medical Council [2008] EWHC 581 (Admin). In particular, the Panel considered whether there was a risk that the Registrant would in the future act in a way similar to that found proved. The Panel also considered whether public confidence in the profession, in the HCPC as its regulator and the need to maintain proper standards of conduct, would be prejudiced if a finding of current impairment was not made. The Panel also took into account the guidance contained in the case of The Council for the Regulation of Health Care Professional v General Dental Council and Fleischmann [2005] EWHC 87 (Admin)

28. The Panel has concluded that the Registrant’s current fitness to practise is impaired by reason of the conviction. In coming to its conclusion, the Panel had regard to the following considerations:

• The Registrant had not engaged with the present proceedings. There is therefore no recent evidence before the Panel of insight or remediation. Moreover, the Panel is not aware whether the Registrant has complied with all the requirements of the sentence imposed on 14 May 2020. In these circumstances the Panel could not exclude the possibility that the Registrant might in the future exhibit a pattern of violent behaviour. The “personal component” is therefore engaged.

• The Registrant has not yet completed the 18 months suspended sentence imposed by the Court on 14 May 2020.

• The Panel considered that whilst the Registrant’s conviction did not arise out of his conduct in a clinical setting, the circumstances surrounding the offence were serious in nature. The Panel noted from the witness statements that the Registrant’s conduct took place over a significant period of time whilst he was a paramedic. Therefore, the Panel cannot conclude that this was an isolated incident. The sentence imposed combined with a restraining order, which in itself suggests the likelihood of repetition, requires the need for public protection. Therefore, public confidence in the profession of a Paramedic and in the HCPC, as its regulator would be undermined if a finding of impairment was not made. Such a finding was also required to maintain and uphold proper standards of conduct on the part of Paramedics. The ‘public component” is therefore engaged.

• As a result of the conviction and of the conduct to which it relates, the Registrant was in breach of Standard 9 of the Code.

Decision on Sanction

29. Having concluded that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is presently impaired, the Panel considered what sanctions should be imposed.

30. In considering the appropriate sanction the Panel took into account the principle of proportionality. It is aware that it should not impose a sanction which was more restrictive or longer than is necessary, in order to address the risks which it has identified.

31. The Panel has also taken into account the guidance issued by the HCPC as set out in the Sanctions Policy updated in March 2019 [the Sanctions Policy].

32. The Panel has considered both mitigating and aggravating factors.

33. In the Panel’s view the following are mitigating factors:

• Prior to the convictions now before the Panel, the Registrant had an unblemished character with no previous fitness to practise proceedings recorded against him.

34. In the Panel’s view the following are aggravating factors:

• The degree and nature of the violence shown to the victim and the fact that at the time of that violence the victim was holding a child. In this context the Panel has taken account of the description of the two incidents as appears in the Case Summary set out above.

• The absence of any evidence of remorse, remediation or apology on the part of the Registrant.

• The fact that there were two incidents separated by 9 months is suggestive of a pattern of conduct.

35. In the present case all the sanctions identified in the Sanctions Policy are available. The Panel is aware that it should start by considering the least restrictive, working upwards only where necessary. The Panel is aware that because of the proportionality principle, the final sanction should be the minimum required to protect the public.

36. In its determination the Panel has taken into account the submissions of Ms Lankester and the advice of the Legal Assessor. Ms Lankester did not express any view as to the sanction that the Panel should impose. She indicated that this was essentially a matter for the Panel to determine. She did, however, and by reference to the Sanctions Policy, identify the considerations relevant to each sanction.

37. The Panel did not think that this was a case for mediation.

38. Having regard to the gravity of the conviction, to take no action or to impose a caution order would be wholly inappropriate. Such an outcome would provide no protection to the public or address the public interest considerations that arise in this case.

39. The Panel did not consider that a Conditions of Practice Order would be appropriate. Having regard to the absence of information as regards the Registrant’s present circumstances and his statement that he did not wish to practise as a Paramedic, the Panel did not consider that there were any enforceable conditions that could be formulated that would protect the public or address the relevant public interest considerations. Moreover, as the Registrant has not engaged with this hearing or provided any information as to his present circumstances, the Panel has no confidence that he would comply with any conditions that it might impose.

40. The Panel next considered a Suspension Order. It has concluded that a Suspension Order would not be appropriate in the present case. The Panel has decided that in all the circumstances, the only appropriate, proportionate and sufficient order, that will protect the public and address the public interest considerations that arise, is a striking off order. In coming to this conclusion, the Panel gave careful attention to the relevant paragraphs of the Sanctions Policy. In particular the Panel noted:

• That there was a serious breach of the Code.

• The Panel has received no evidence of remorse, insight, apology or remediation on the part of the Registrant.

• The Registrant has clearly expressed that he no longer wishes to practise as a paramedic and that he wants to be removed from the register.

• There is evidence that the Registrant might repeat his violent behaviour.

• The degree and nature of the violence, and the level of aggression conducted on a victim who was holding a child.

41. Accordingly and for the reasons set out above, the Panel has decided to make a striking off order.

Order

 

ORDER: The Registrar is directed to suspend the name of Mr Christopher Barlow from the Register on the date this order comes into effect.

Notes

Interim Order
The Panel makes an Interim Suspension under Article 31(2) of the Health Professions Order 2001, the same being necessary to protect members of the public and being otherwise in the public interest.
This 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 Mr Christopher Barlow

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
24/09/2021 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended