Dr Paul Curran

Profession: Practitioner psychologist

Registration Number: PYL23198

Hearing Type: Review Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 25/04/2022 End: 17:00 25/04/2022

Location: This hearing is being held remotely.

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Struck off

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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

Service

1. The original Notice of Hearing was sent on 22 March 2022. However, this erroneously suggested that the review would be conducted on the papers only.

2. However, there is also an email dated 31 March 2022, in the main bundle. Ms Sampson wrote to the Registrant, asking whether he would be attending the hearing and or whether he would be represented? The email invited the Registrant to respond and to provide any written representations by 21 April 2022. There has been no response.

3. A revised Notice of Hearing was sent by email to the Registrant’s registered email address, giving notice of today’s hearing on the 12 April 2022. The revised Notice of Hearing confirmed that the review was to proceed as a hearing, but the 14-day period required by the rules, does not expire until tomorrow, 26 April 2022.

4. Both notices were sent electronically only, because the HCPC has closed its offices in the light of the current Covid-19 pandemic and employees are unable to send anything by post. The Panel has seen a delivery confirmation email.

5. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. It concluded that the Registrant was aware that the hearing was proceeding today. The Panel considered that when the original Notice of Hearing and the email of 31 March 2022 are considered together, it is satisfied that there have been good service of the Notice of Hearing in accordance with the Rules.
Proceeding in Absence

6. The Registrant has not attended the hearing today. There has been no contact from the Registrant. He has not made any written submissions.

7. Ms Sampson, applied for the hearing to proceed in the absence of the Registrant. She reminded the Panel that it can proceed to hear the matter in the absence of the Registrant pursuant to Rule 11 of the Conduct and Competence Committee Procedure Rules, if satisfied that all reasonable steps have been taken to serve the Notice of Hearing on the Registrant in accordance with the HCPTS Practice Note on Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant. A Panel must first consider whether notice of the proceedings have been served on the Registrant. The Panel must also have consideration of all the circumstances of the case when taking the decision to proceed in absence, balancing fairness to the Registrant with fairness to the HCPC and the interests of the public.

8. Ms Sampson submitted that the Registrant has not made any application to adjourn the hearing and that the Registrant appears to have voluntarily absented himself from attending the hearing, and has hence, deliberately waived his right to attend. He has not engaged with the HCPC at all throughout these proceedings. There have been a number of unsuccessful attempts to contact the Registrant in the days before the hearing, which are detailed below.

9. Furthermore, she submitted that, as this is a mandatory review of the current Suspension Order, it is in both the Registrant’s interests and in the public interest for a review to take place as scheduled. The consequences of not proceeding would be that the Order would lapse on expiry on 23 May 2022 and the Registrant would be automatically restored to the HCPC Register in circumstances where it has not been determined that he is fit to return to practice.

10. The Panel considered whether it ought to exercise its discretion to continue with this hearing in the absence of the Registrant. The Panel heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor who advised that the Panel’s discretion to proceed in the Registrant’s absence should only be exercised with the utmost care and caution. The Panel concluded that it was in the public interest to do so, having considered the HCPC Practice Note on Proceeding in the Registrant’s Absence, and having considered the guidance in R v Jones [2002] UKHL 5 and GMC v Adeogba, R v Hayward [2001] EWCA Crim 168, GMC v Visvardis [2016] EWCA Civ 162 and Sanusi v GMC [2019] EWCA Civ 1172, for the following reasons:

(a) The Panel is satisfied that the Registrant had notice of the hearing.
(b) The Panel considered that the Registrant is aware of the hearing today, having found that Notice of Hearing was served in accordance with the Rules, and in light of the email dated 31 March 2022 from Ms Sampson.
(c) The Registrant has not requested an adjournment. Further, the Panel was of the view that even if these proceedings were adjourned there was very little likelihood that the Registrant would attend on a subsequent occasion. In coming to this conclusion, the Panel took account of the fact that the Registrant did not attend the substantive hearing in October 2021 and has not responded to any of the emails or attempts to contact him by telephone, as set out in the Telephone Attendance File notes which are detailed below.
(d) The Panel concluded that the Registrant has deliberately chosen not to attend this hearing and is hence satisfied that he has voluntarily absented himself.
(e) The Panel recognised that there was a public interest in conducting a mandatory review of the substantive order currently in place prior to its impending expiry. It has therefore decided to proceed in the Registrant’s absence.

Bundle

11. The Panel has been provided with a substantive bundle of documents which runs to 35 pages and a service bundle of 15 pages. There were two additional documents provided at the outset of the hearing. A Telephone Attendance Note dated 22 April 2022, with Ms Sampson’s email to the Registrant dated 22 April attached and Ms Shah’s Telephone Attendance File Note dated 25 April 2022.

Background

12. The Registrant is a Practitioner Psychologist.

13. “Person B” 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.

14. 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.

15. 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.

16. 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.

17. 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.

18. 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.


Substantive Hearing: 25-26 October 2021

19. The Registrant was referred to the HCPC, and a substantive hearing took place between 25-26 October 2021. At that hearing, the Registrant was neither present nor represented. He had not engaged in the regulatory process at all from the very outset.

20. The substantive hearing panel found the facts of the Allegation proven. The Registrant failed to provide the Educational Psychology reports, despite several requests, although he had undertaken the assessments. That caused 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.

21. The substantive hearing panel also found that the Registrant had failed to provide the assessment data to Person B despite several requests between 24 May and 28 June 2019:

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.

22. The substantive hearing panel also found the Registrant had failed to communicate effectively with Person B as between 13 August and 23 August 2019, responding to the requests for the “reports or the raw assessment data.”

23. The substantive hearing panel also found the Registrant’s actions amounted to misconduct:

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.

24. The substantive hearing panel also found the Registrant’s fitness to practise was impaired:

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.

25. The substantive hearing panel imposed a suspension order for six months.

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.

Substantive Review

HCPC Submissions

26. Ms Sampson submitted that the Panel’s role is to review the matter on the basis of the evidence available today, and to decide whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired, and if so, to decide what the appropriate sanction should be.

27. Ms Sampson submitted that given that there has been no contact from the Registrant either before or since the substantive hearing, the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired. She submitted that he had not taken any of the steps which the substantive panel had recommended.

28. Ms Sampson submitted that the Registrant could not discharge the persuasive burden placed on him by the case of Abrahaem v GMC [2008] EWHC 183 (Admin). It remains the case that:

(a) The Registrant has not demonstrated any insight;
(b) The Registrant has not provided any evidence of steps taken to remediate his misconduct;
(c) There must therefore remain a risk of repetition of similar misconduct.

29. Ms Sampson further submitted that in light of the Registrant’s lack of engagement and the fact that he has not undertaken any of the steps suggested by the previous substantive panel, that the appropriate sanction was a striking off order, as this is a case based on a finding of misconduct.

30. The Panel was specifically referred to paragraph 121 of the HCPC Sanctions Policy. This states that a suspension order is likely to be the appropriate order where the Registrant has demonstrated insight, the issues are unlikely to be repeated and there is evidence to suggest that the Registrant is likely to be able to resolve or remedy their failings. It was submitted that none of these criteria applied to the Registrant.
31. It was further submitted that there is some, albeit limited, evidence to suggest that the Registrant might be working in breach of the Suspension Order.

32. Ms Sampson drew the Panel’s attention to a Telephone Attendance File Note dated 22 April 2022. The note records Ms Sampson’s attempts to make contact with the Registrant. On the first occasion, she was put through to a voicemail which announced the caller was through to “Paul Curran Associates”. She left a voicemail. She rang a second number and again left a message for “Paul Curran Associates.” Ms Sampson then rang the first number again. The call was answered by a “receptionist” who stated that this was the “Harley Street office.” The “receptionist” told her that the Registrant, “consults at Harley Street but also consults at other locations.” She told Ms Sampson that the Registrant might be back that day.

33. Ms Sampson sent the Registrant a follow up email on 22 April, in which she expressed concern that the information she had obtained raised concerns that he may be in breach of his Suspension Order and requested that he respond as soon as possible. The Registrant did not reply.

34. The Panel has also seen a further Telephone Attendance File Note dated today, 25 April 2022, created by Sheha Shah. Ms Shah telephoned the Harley Street receptionist. In her first call she was put through to the Registrant’s voicemail and the call was cut off. In her second call, she was told that there was no office manager for the Registrant. The Registrant works on his own and rented rooms at the premises.

35. In the alternative, Ms Sampson submitted that if the Panel did not consider Striking off to be the appropriate and proportionate sanction, that the Panel might extend the Suspension Order for a short period. She suggested three months. This would provide the Registrant with one final opportunity to engage and take the steps suggested by the substantive hearing panel. She noted that the misconduct occurred over a relatively short time scale and that there was no evidence of any previous issues with his regulator.


Registrant’s Submissions

36. No submissions have been provided either by, or on behalf of the Registrant.

Legal Advice

37. In undertaking this review today, the Panel has reminded itself of the following matters, having accepted the advice from the Legal Assessor:

(a) A proper exercise of the review process must involve a comprehensive re-consideration of the initial order, in the light of all circumstances, which are before the Panel today. However, it is not the Panel’s role to go behind the previous Panel’s findings.

(b) The Panel’s role is to exercise its own judgement in determining whether the Registrant’s current fitness to practice remains impaired, and if so, what the least restrictive sanction is to meet the level of public protection which the Panel identifies as being required.

(c) The Panel in its deliberations applied the principle of proportionality and balanced the rights of the Registrant with the rights of the public.

(d) The Panel has, under Article 30(1) of the Health Professions Order 2001, the power to:

(i) With effect from the date on which the order would, but for this provision, have expired, extend, or further extend the period for which the order has effect,

(ii) With effect from the expiry of the order, make an order which it could have made at the time it made the order being reviewed,

(iii) With effect from the expiry of a suspension order, make a conditions of practice order with which the practitioner must comply if he resumes the practice of his registered profession after the end of his period of suspension.

(e) The Panel has also had regard to the HCPC Sanctions Policy document.

38. The Panel has comprehensively reviewed all the documentary evidence before it, relating to the period since the imposition of the original Suspension Order.

Decision

Fitness to Practice

39. The Panel noted that the Registrant has failed to engage in the review process and has not submitted the piece of reflective writing or evidence of paid/unpaid work, CPD or any evidence of remediation, as suggested by the previous substantive panel.

40. The Panel noted that the original incident took place in May-June 2019. The final hearing did not take place until October 2021, giving the Registrant a period of over two years to take steps to reflect upon and remediate his misconduct. The Panel is of the view that had the Registrant engaged with the regulator at that point, and attended the final hearing, the likelihood is that a sanction short of a suspension order was entirely feasible.

41. However, the Registrant’s lack of engagement to date, has resulted in there being no evidence upon which it could conclude that the Registrant has adequately or sufficiently remediated his misconduct or reflected on his behaviour and developed any insight since the substantive hearing.

42. The Panel, in these circumstances, could not be satisfied that the proven misconduct would not be repeated.

43. The Panel further noted there is some evidence to suggest that the Registrant is working at Harley Street premises, although it is unclear in what capacity.

44. In the circumstances, the Panel concluded that the Registrant’s current fitness to practice remains impaired, in relation to the personal component of impairment for the same reasons as the previous substantive panel.

45. The Panel is also satisfied that the Registrant’s current fitness to practice remains impaired, having regard to the public component of impairment for the same reasons as the previous substantive panel. Further, in light of the Registrant’s continued non-engagement, the risk of repetition of the misconduct remains, which would undermine public confidence in the profession and the regulatory process.
Sanction

46. The Panel has carefully considered what type of order should be imposed, starting with the least restrictive order. It has taken into account the principle of proportionality, and balanced the rights of the public and the rights of the Registrant to practice in his chosen profession. It has concluded that it would not be appropriate to take no action or to impose a caution order in light of the serious concerns that led to the previous substantive panel making findings of misconduct.

47. The Panel went onto consider whether to impose a Conditions of Practice Order but concluded that this was not practicable or workable, given the lack of engagement by the Registrant and the nature of his proven misconduct. In addition, the Panel has seen no evidence as to the Registrant’s current employment and there is no evidence he has developed adequate insight into his failings.

48. The Panel next considered whether to impose a further Suspension Order for a short period, say three months, as was suggested by Ms Sampson. However, the Panel concluded that this was inadequate and inappropriate in all the circumstances, for the following reasons:

(a) The Registrant has not engaged with the HCPC. The Panel has no confidence that a further period of suspension would likely result in any greater degree of engagement.

(b) The Panel was driven to conclude that there was no evidence of remediation or insight. The Registrant appeared to be unwilling or unable to take any steps to remedy his proven misconduct. The Registrant has not taken any of the steps identified as likely to be of assistance by the previous substantive panel, such that the Panel could consider a further suspension order.

(c) The Panel had regard to the Sanctions Policy (and in particular paragraph 121) and concluded that a further suspension order was not appropriate, as there simply was no evidence that the Registrant is likely to be willing to resolve or remedy his failings.

49. The Panel next considered a striking off order and concluded that this was the only appropriate and proportionate sanction. The Panel had regard to the HCPC Sanctions Policy. Paragraph 131, which states that a striking off order is likely to the appropriate order when the nature and gravity of the concerns are such that any lesser sanction would be insufficient to protect the public, public confidence in the profession, and public confidence in the regulatory process. This includes cases where the registrant lacks insight or is unwilling to resolve matters.

50. The Panel concluded, in all the circumstances, that despite the misconduct originally being capable of remediation, the Registrant’s persistent lack of engagement, means that a Striking Off Order is now appropriate. The Registrant has not demonstrated any or any adequate insight and appears unwilling to engage with his regulator or to take steps to resolve matters. In addition, given his unwillingness to engage with the regulatory process, any lesser sanction would undermine public confidence in the profession, and in the regulatory process.

Order

Order: That the Registrar is directed to strike the name of Dr Paul Curran from the registrar on the date this order comes into effect.

Notes

The order imposed will apply from 23 May 2022.

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