Dr Trevor Ahearn

Profession: Clinical scientist

Registration Number: CS17443

Interim Order: Imposed on 06 Apr 2021

Hearing Type: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 28/04/2022 End: 17:00 29/04/2022

Location: This hearing will take place virtually

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Struck off

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

As a registered Clinical Scientist (CS17443) your fitness to practise is impaired by reason of conviction and/or misconduct. In that:

 

1. On 22 March 2021, at Aberdeen Sheriff Court, you were convicted of the following offence:

 

a. To take or make indecent photographs or pseudo-photographs of children contrary to the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 Section 52(1)(a) as amended.

 

2. Between 10 June 2020 and 5 October 2020, you did not inform the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) that you had been charged with the offence to take or make indecent photograph of a child contrary to the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 Section 52(1)(a) as amended.

 

3. Between 12 June 2020 and 5 October 2020, you did not inform the HCPC that you had been suspended by your employer, NHS Grampian.

 

4. You did not inform the HCPC that you had been convicted of the offence in particular 1(a) above.

 

5. You did not inform the HCPC that you had been dismissed by your employer, NHS Grampian.

 

6. Your conduct in relation to particulars 2, 3, 4 and/or 5 was dishonest.

 

7. Your conduct in relation to particulars 2, 3, 4, 5 and/or 6 constitutes misconduct.

 

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

Finding

Preliminary Matters

Service

1. The Registrant was not present at the hearing and was not represented.

2. The Panel was satisfied that the notice of hearing had been sent to the Registrant by email on 8 March 2022, giving notice of the hearing date, details of how to join the virtual hearing, of his right to attend and be represented and of the Panel’s powers at this hearing. 

3. The Panel had sight of confirmation of the Registrant’s email address held by the HCPC to which the notice of hearing was sent, and confirmation of delivery of the email.

4. The Panel was satisfied that there had been proper service of the notice of the hearing in accordance with the HCPC (Conduct and Competence Committee) (Procedure) Rules 2003 as amended by the (Coronavirus Amendment) Rules 2021 (“the Rules”).
Application to proceed in the Registrant’s absence

5. Ms Bernard-Stevenson, on behalf of the HCPC, referred to emails from the Registrant on 27 April 2022 and 7 December 2021, in both of which he stated that he did not intend to attend this hearing.  Ms Bernard-Stevenson’s submission was that an adjournment would not ensure his attendance on a future date and that it was in the public interest that the hearing should proceed today.

6. The Panel considered the submissions on behalf of the HCPC and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel was referred to the HCPTS Practice Note of September 2018, Proceeding in Absence, which sets out guidance from the cases of R v Jones (Anthony) [2004] 1 AC 1HL and GMC v Adeogba and GMC v Visvardis [2016] EWCA Civ 162.  Applying that guidance, the Panel was careful to remember that its discretion to proceed in absence is not unfettered and must be exercised with the utmost caution and with the fairness of the hearing at the forefront of its mind.

7. The Panel was satisfied from the emails from the Registrant of 27 April 2022, the day before the hearing, and 7 December 2021, that he did not intend to attend.  There was no indication that he was unable to attend for any reason, or that he sought an adjournment.

8. The Panel concluded that the Registrant had voluntarily waived his right to attend and that an adjournment would not secure his attendance on a future date.  The Panel was further mindful of the public interest in ensuring that HCPC cases are dealt with as expeditiously as possible.

9. The Panel was mindful that it may not be in the interests of the Registrant for the hearing to proceed in his absence, but was satisfied that any prejudice to him was outweighed by the public interest in proceeding.  The Panel was mindful of its duty to ensure that, in his absence, the hearing should be as fair as circumstances permit and to consider any points in the Registrant’s favour which reasonably appeared from the evidence.

10. The Panel was satisfied it was fair and in the public interest to proceed with the hearing today.

Amendment of the allegation

11. Ms Bernard-Stevenson applied to amend the allegations as set out below, by deleting the struck-through text and adding the bold text:


“As a registered Clinical Scientist (CS17443) your fitness to practise is impaired by reason of conviction and/or misconduct. In that:

  1. On 22 March 2021, at Aberdeen Sheriff Court, you were convicted of the following offence:

    a. on 28/03/2011 or between this date 11/02/2020 you did take or permit to be or make indecent photographs or pseudo-photographs of children contrary to the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 Section 52(1)(a) as amended. To take or make indecent photographs or pseudo-photographs of children contrary to the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 Section 52(1)(a) as amended.

  2. Between 10 June 2020 and 5 October 2020, you did not inform the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) that you had been charged with the offence to take or make indecent photograph of a child contrary to the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 Section 52(1)(a) as amended.

  3. Between 12 June 2020 and 5 October 2020, you did not inform the HCPC that you had been suspended by your employer, NHS Grampian.

  4. From 22 March 2021, You did not inform the HCPC that you had been convicted of the offence in particular 1(a) above. of: on 28/03/2011 or between this date 11/02/2020 you did take or permit to be or make indecent photographs or pseudo-photographs of children contrary to the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 Section 52(1)(a) as amended.

  5. From 12 April 2021, You did not inform the HCPC that you had been dismissed by your employer, NHS Grampian.

  6. Your conduct in relation to particulars 2, 3, 4 and/or 5 was dishonest.

  7. Your conduct in relation to particulars 2, 3, 4, 5 and/or 6 constitutes misconduct.

  8. By reason of your conviction, conduct and/or misconduct your fitness to practise is impaired.”

 

12. Ms Bernard-Stevenson submitted that no prejudice would be caused to the Registrant by the amendments.


13. The Registrant had been informed of the HCPC’s intention to apply to amend the allegation in the HCPC’s letter of 13 December 2021 and had raised no objection.

14. The Panel took advice from the Legal Assessor.  The Panel accepted that the changes were not substantive but amended the particulars to improve their clarity and accuracy.  No new issues were added to the allegations and the Panel concluded that the amendments sought would cause no prejudice to the Registrant.  It was satisfied that it was fair and in the interests of justice for the amendments sought by the HCPC to be made.

Application for a hearing in private

15. Ms Bernard-Stevenson referred to the Registrant’s email of 27 April 2022 in which he asked that the hearing be in private, as it would refer to matters related to his private life.  She said the HCPC was neutral in relation to the application.

16. The Panel took advice from the Legal Assessor.  It was mindful of the usual position that HCPC hearings take place in public.  However, the Panel was satisfied that, as provided for in rule 10(1)(a) of the Rules, all or part of a hearing may be held in private in the interests of protecting the Registrant’s private life.  The Panel decided to proceed on the basis that were it necessary to refer to such matters, those parts of the proceedings would be in private. 
Documentation

17. The Panel received the HCPC hearing bundle of 130 pages, a service bundle of 9 pages, a bundle of correspondence between the HCPC and the Registrant of 21 pages, a 1-page schedule of correspondence and the written opening submissions of Ms Bernard-Stevenson.
Background

18. The Registrant Trevor Ahearn (‘the Registrant’) is registered with the HCPC as a Clinical Scientist. He commenced his employment as a Principal Clinical Scientist with NHS Grampian (‘the Trust’) in 2011.

19. On 12 June 2020, the Trust informed the HCPC that it had suspended the Registrant pending an internal investigation due to the Registrant being charged with a criminal offence. On 17 June 2020, the Trust submitted a Fitness to Practise referral form to the HCPC.

20. On 22 March 2021, the Registrant appeared at Aberdeen Sheriff Court and was convicted of the offence of taking or making indecent photographs or pseudo-photographs of children contrary to the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 Section 52(1)(a) as amended. The Registrant was sentenced to a community payback order of 200 hours community service and was placed on the sex offender register.
Response of the Registrant to the allegation

21. The Registrant had not responded to the allegations set out in the Notice of Hearing nor put forward any submissions.  In his absence, the Panel proceeded on the basis that the allegations were denied. 

 

The HCPC’s case

22. On behalf of the HCPC, Ms Bernard-Stevenson set out the background facts in the case.  Ms Bernard-Stevenson relied upon the documentary evidence in the hearing bundle, in particular the witness statement of SY, HCPC Registrations Manager, and the exhibited documents, and the Extract of Conviction dated 1 November 2021 from Aberdeen Sheriff Court confirming details of the Registrant’s conviction on 22 March 2021 and sentencing on 17 May 2021.


23. It was the HCPC’s case that the facts were proved by the documentary evidence. It was the HCPC’s submission in relation to particular 6 that the Registrant was dishonest in not declaring his conviction and the further matters referred to in particulars 2 to 5 promptly or, in relation to his dismissal and his conviction, at all. 


24. In relation to the allegation of dishonesty, Ms Bernard-Stevenson reminded the Panel of the obligation imposed on HCPC registrants by Standard 9.5 of the HCPC’s Standards of Conduct Performance and Ethics:


“You must tell us as soon as possible:


 -  if you accept a caution from the police or you have been charged with, or found guilty of, a criminal offence


 - you have had any restriction placed on your practice, or been suspended or dismissed by an employer, because of concerns about your conduct or competence”


25. Ms Bernard-Stevenson referred the Panel to the test in the case of Ivey v Genting Casinos (UK) Ltd. t/a Crockfords (Respondent) [2017] UKSC 67. In the light of the clear obligations on Registrants in the HCPC’s Standards of Conduct Performance and Ethics, she submitted that ordinary decent people would consider that the Registrant’s conduct was dishonest. 

 

Panel decision on Facts.


26. The Panel considered the submissions of Ms Bernard-Stevenson and the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel considered whether the facts were proved according to the civil standard of proof, that is the balance of probabilities, and proceeded on the basis that the burden of proving the facts rests upon the HCPC throughout. 

27. In respect of particulars 2 to 5, the evidence presented by the HCPC in support of the facts was hearsay evidence. The Panel noted that under the Rules, hearsay evidence is admissible in HCPC proceedings.  In this case, the issues which the HCPC was required to prove were factual.  The hearsay evidence was from official professional sources, such as correspondence and documents provided by NHS Grampian and Police Scotland.  There were also two formal signed witness statements from SY, Registrations Manager for the HCPC, and AK, a Legal Assistant from the HCPC’s external solicitors.  These witnesses produced documentation from the HCPC’s records.  The Panel also noted that the evidence had been provided to the Registrant in advance of the hearing and he had raised no objection to its admission.  In the circumstances, the Panel was satisfied there was no unfairness in admitting the hearsay evidence and accepted it. The Panel also bore in mind that it was a matter for the Panel to determine the appropriate weight to be given to the evidence.

 

Particular 1


28. The Panel had sight of a copy of the Extract of Conviction from Aberdeen Sheriff Court dated 1 November 2021, which confirmed that the Registrant pleaded guilty to and was convicted of the offence on 22 March 2021.The Panel accepted this as proof of the conviction and of the findings of fact upon it was based, as provided for by Rule 10(1)(d) of the Rules.

29. The Panel was satisfied that the facts of particular 1 were proved.

 

Particular 2

30. The Panel had sight of letters from Police Scotland dated 19 August 2020 and 4 November 2021 which confirmed that the Registrant was charged with the offence on 10 June 2020.  There was also a telephone attendance note recording a telephone conversation when AR, a Case Manager at the HCPC, contacted the Registrant on 5 October 2020, in which the Registrant confirmed the date of charge.

31. SY of the HCPC produced the HCPC communication log relating to the Registrant which contained no record of the Registrant informing the HCPC that he had been charged with the offence.  

32. The Panel was satisfied that it could attach weight to these documents.   The date of the charge was a matter of fact which was not disputed.  The Panel accepted the evidence of SY that the HCPC had not been informed by the Registrant prior to 5 October 2020.  The Panel was satisfied that particular 2 was proved.

 

Particular 3

 

33. The hearing bundle contained an email dated 12 June 2020 from Dr SM, Service Clinical director, Medical Physics and Head of Radiation Protection for NHS Grampian, to the HCPC in which he confirmed that the Registrant was suspended from his employment on 12 June 2020. This was further confirmed in the HCPC FTP referral form completed by Dr SM, dated 17 June 2020.

34. SY of the HCPC produced the HCPC communication log relating to the Registrant which contained no record of the Registrant informing the HCPC that he had been suspended by his employer.

35. The Panel was satisfied that it could attach weight to these documents.   The date of the suspension was a matter of fact which was not disputed.  The Panel accepted the evidence of SY that the HCPC had not been informed by the Registrant prior to being contacted by AR of the HCPC on 5 October 2020. 

36. The Panel was satisfied that particular 3 was proved.

 

Particular 4

 

37. The Panel has found the conviction on 22 March 2021 proved under particular 1.  

38. SY of the HCPC produced the HCPC communication log relating to the Registrant which contained no record of the Registrant informing the HCPC of his conviction on 22 March 2021.

39. The Panel was satisfied that it could attach weight to these documents.   The Panel accepted the evidence of SY that the HCPC was not informed of the conviction by the Registrant. 

40. The Panel was satisfied that particular 4 was proved.

 

Particular 5

 

41. The Panel had sight of a letter dated 12 April 2021 from CM, Interim Deputy Chief Officer, Acute Services, NHS Grampian, to the Registrant informing the Registrant that following the disciplinary hearing on that date (which the Registrant did not attend) he was dismissed for gross misconduct.   

42. SY of the HCPC produced the HCPC communication log relating to the Registrant which contained no record of the Registrant informing the HCPC that he had been dismissed by his employer.

43. The Panel was satisfied that it could attach weight to these documents. The date of dismissal was a matter of fact which was not disputed.  The Panel accepted the evidence of SY which confirmed that the HCPC had not been informed by the Registrant.

44. The Panel was satisfied that particular 5 was proved.

 

Particular 6


45. The Panel next considered whether the Registrant’s actions in particulars 2, 3, 4 and/or 5 were dishonest.

46. The Legal Assessor referred the Panel to the test for dishonesty as laid down by the Supreme Court in the case of Ivey v Genting Casinos (UK) Ltd. t/a Crockfords (Respondent) [2017] UKSC 67, in which it was stated that:


 “When dishonesty is in question the fact-finding tribunal must first ascertain (subjectively) the actual state of the individual’s knowledge or belief as to the facts.  The reasonableness or otherwise of the belief is a matter of evidence (often in practice determinative) going to whether he held the belief, but it is not an additional requirement that his belief must be reasonable; the question is whether it is genuinely held.  When once his actual state of mind as to facts is established, the question of whether his conduct was honest or dishonest is to be determined by the fact-finder by applying the (objective) standards of ordinary decent people.  There is no requirement that the defendant must appreciate that what he has done is, by those standards, dishonest.”


47. In considering this issue, the Panel applied the test from the Ivey case. The Panel considered the Registrant’s state of knowledge and belief as to the facts. The Registrant had not attended the hearing or provided any written submissions giving his account or reasons why he had not notified the HCPC of the matters relating to his employment and his conviction, as referred to in particulars 2 to 5.

48. The Panel took into account the general obligation in the HCPC’s Standards of Conduct Performance and Ethics upon all HCPC registrants to be open and honest.  There is a specific requirement in Standard 9.5 stating a Registrant must notify the HCPC of these matters and that this must be done “as soon as possible”.  The Panel was mindful that all registrants must be aware of and comply with the HCPC’s Standards.  It was satisfied that the requirements for a registrant to inform the HCPC, as his/her regulator, of these important matters concerning criminal charge and conviction, and issues concerning their employment status, are well known. The Registrant did not do so, promptly or at all,    

49. The Panel also noted that the HCPC Referral form submitted by NHS Grampian dated 17 June 2020 indicated that the Registrant was expressly told that he should inform the HCPC of these matters. 

50. The Panel further noted that, even after he had been contacted by AR of the HCPC regarding his employment situation on 5 October 2020, and advised of the need to keep the HCPC informed, he nevertheless did not tell the HCPC when he was subsequently convicted of the offence at Aberdeen Sheriff Court on 22 March 2021. 

51. The Panel was satisfied, based on these facts, that on the balance of probabilities, the Registrant was aware of his obligation to inform the HCPC and deliberately decided not do so. The offence in question was of a very serious nature.   The Panel was in no doubt that ordinary decent people would consider the Registrant’s actions to be dishonest.   

52. The Panel found particular 6 proved. 

 

Submissions on ground and impairment of fitness to practise

 

53. Ms Bernard-Stevenson referred to the serious nature of the criminal offence of which the Registrant had been convicted.  In respect of particulars 2 to 6 the Panel had found that the Registrant was dishonest. Ms Bernard-Stevens submitted that the facts found proved represented a serious falling short of the standards expected of an HCPC Registrant and that the Panel should find the grounds of impairment proved.


54. The HCPC’s position was that the Registrant’s fitness to practise was currently impaired in relation to both the personal and public components of current impairment. Ms Bernard-Stevenson submitted that dishonest conduct was difficult to remedy and the Registrant had provided the Panel with no evidence of insight, remorse or remediation.  The Registrant’s conduct failed to justify public trust and confidence in the profession.

55. Ms Bernard-Stevenson reminded the Panel that in respect of the conviction, the Registrant had been issued with a Community Payback Order for 18 months, which it was likely had not yet been completed, and had been registered as a sex offender.  She referred to the authority in the case of CRHP v GDC & Fleischmann [2005] EWHC 87 Admin that a practitioner who has not completed their criminal sentence should not usually be allowed to return to practice without restriction.


56. The were no submissions from the Registrant.  He had not provided any written representations for the hearing. 

 


Panel decision on grounds and impairment of fitness to practise

57. The Panel considered the evidence and submissions and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.  The Panel was referred to the HCPTS Practice Note, Fitness to Practise Impairment.

58. In respect of particular 1, the Panel was advised that a criminal conviction is a statutory ground of impairment under Article 22(1)(a)(iii) of the Health Professions Order 2001.  Having found the conviction proved at the facts stage, this ground was therefore established. The Panel took the view that a conviction for an offence of taking or making indecent images of children is a serious matter as ultimately it involves the exploitation of children. Information from Police Scotland about the circumstances of the offence referred to 110 indecent images of children being found on the Registrant’s laptop.  An HCPC registrant who is convicted of such an offence undermines public confidence in the profession and in the HCPC as its regulator. 

59. The Panel considered whether the Registrant’s actions in particulars 2 to 6 amounted to misconduct. The Panel was mindful that this is a matter for its own judgement, rather than the application of the legal standard of proof, and before making a finding of misconduct, the Panel must be satisfied that there has been a serious falling short of the HCPC’s Standards of Conduct Performance and Ethics.

60. In its findings of fact, the Panel found that the Registrant had disregarded the clear obligation in the Standards of Conduct Performance and Ethics to inform the HCPC that he had been charged with and convicted of a criminal offence.  The Registrant was also required to inform the HCPC of his suspension and dismissal from his employment with NHS Grampian and did not do so. The Panel had found that in failing to disclose these matters to the HCPC, the Registrant had been dishonest. 

61. The obligations placed upon HCPC registrants by paragraph 9.5 are important.  Registrants are under a duty to be open and honest with their regulator about such matters.  The Registrant’s non-disclosure of these matters frustrated the HCPC’s ability to regulate the profession and so undermined public confidence and trust in the HCPC.

62. The Panel considered the Registrant’s actions were in breach of the following paragraphs of the HCPC’s Standards of Conduct Performance and Ethics:


Standard 9: Be honest and trustworthy

9.1: You must make sure that your conduct justifies the public’s trust and confidence in you and your profession.

9.5: You must tell us as soon as possible if:


 -   you accept a caution from the police or you have been charged with, or found guilty of, a criminal offence;


 - you have had any restriction placed on your practice, or been suspended or dismissed by an employer, because of concerns about your conduct or competence.


9.6: You must co-operate with any investigation into your conduct or competence, the conduct or competence of others, or the care, treatment or other services provided to service users.

63.  The Panel was of the view that the Registrant’s conduct in particulars 2 to 6 fell seriously short of the standards expected and the Panel was in no doubt that it would be regarded as deplorable by fellow professionals. Taking all of these matters into account, the Panel determined that particulars 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 were serious and amounted to misconduct.

 

Decision on Impairment

64. The Panel next considered whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired by his conviction and by his misconduct. The Panel received and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. 

65. The Panel was aware that the question of impairment is a matter for its own judgement.  In reaching its decision, the Panel had regard to the conduct of the Registrant, the nature, circumstances and gravity of the findings and the critically important public policy issues, in particular the need to maintain public confidence in the profession as well as declaring and upholding the proper standards of conduct and behaviour which the public expects.

66. The Registrant did not take the opportunity to engage with this hearing or to provide any written representations to the Panel.  The Panel had no information or evidence from the Registrant to demonstrate that he had insight into his past misconduct or the impact of his criminal conviction upon his profession and his former employer.  He had not had demonstrated any remorse for these matters nor provided evidence of any attempt to remedy his past actions.  The Registrant had not provided any information about his current circumstances and he appeared to have disengaged from the HCPC proceedings.  In all the circumstances the Panel could not be satisfied there was no, or a low risk of repetition in the future. 

67. Considering the four factors identified by Dame Janet Smith in The Shipman Inquiry as indicating current impairment, the Panel bore in mind that there was no evidence indicating that the Registrant’s actions posed a risk of direct harm to patients. There was no indication of any concerns about the Registrant’s clinical practice. The information the Panel had seen regarding the circumstances of the offence indicated that it did not take place in the Registrant’s workplace.

68. However, in respect of the other three factors, the Panel concluded that the Registrant’s conviction and his misconduct have brought the profession into disrepute.  He has breached a fundamental tenet of the profession, the requirement to be honest and trustworthy.  The Panel further considered that the Registrant has acted in such a way that his integrity can no longer be relied upon. 

69. In relation to the public component of current impairment, a criminal conviction for taking or making indecent images of children is a serious matter as ultimately it involves the exploitation of children.  An HCPC registrant who holds such a conviction undermines public confidence in the profession and in the HCPC as its regulator.

70. The Panel considered that the Registrant’s dishonest failure to inform the HCPC of action taken by his employer and of the criminal charge and conviction undermined the HCPC’s ability to fulfil its regulatory function. The HCPC could have been deprived of its ability to assess whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise was in question.   This in itself could undermine public confidence in the profession and in the HCPC as its regulator.  The Panel was satisfied that wider public confidence would be undermined in this case if a finding of current impairment were not made.

71. The Panel concluded that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired by his criminal conviction and his misconduct.

 

Submissions on Sanction

72. Ms Bernard-Stevenson told the Panel that the HCPC was neutral as to the appropriate sanction in this case.  She referred the Panel to the HCPC’s Sanctions Policy. She reminded the Panel of the appropriate approach when considering the issue of sanction.

73. In relation to mitigating circumstances, Ms Bernard-Stevenson submitted an email dated 29 June 2021 which the Registrant had sent to the HCPC at the time of the Investigating Committee’s consideration of his case. This was submitted at this stage as a matter of fairness to the Registrant in his absence.

 

Decision on Sanction


74. The Panel took account of the submissions from Ms Bernard-Stevenson. It accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and referred to the HCPC Sanctions Policy in reaching its decision on sanction.

75. In considering sanction, the Panel was mindful that a sanction is not intended to be punitive, although it may have that effect.  The Panel must consider the risk the Registrant may pose in the future and determine what degree of public protection is required. The Panel must also give appropriate weight to the wider public interest which includes the deterrent effect on other registrants, the reputation of the profession and public confidence in the regulatory process.

76. The Panel considered that the following aggravating factors were present: 


a. The nature of the criminal conviction concerned pornography which involved the exploitation of children;

b. The misconduct was not an isolated incident but involved four occasions over an extended period of time;

c. The Registrant had demonstrated very limited insight and no remorse for the effects of his actions on his profession, his former employer and colleagues;

d. There was no evidence of attempts to remedy his past actions.

 

77. The Panel considered the following mitigating factors were present:

a. The Registrant’s email of 29 June 2021, submitted when his case was being considered by the Investigating Committee, referred to the presence of difficult circumstances in his personal life. The Panel took note of these but was able to give little weight to them as they were not supported by independent evidence.  In particular, the reference to health issues was not supported by any medical evidence.  Further, the information was not current, as the Registrant had not provided any information for this hearing. 

 

78. In considering sanction, the Panel also bore in mind paragraph 82 of the Sanctions Policy, which reflects the guidance from the Fleischmann case, that where the Registrant has been convicted of a serious criminal offence and is still serving the sentence a panel should not normally allow the Registrant to return to unrestricted practice until the sentence has been satisfactorily completed. The Panel had been informed that the Registrant is likely still to be subject to the Community Payback Order and has been registered as a Sex Offender.

79. Taking all these factors into account, the Panel considered whether it was necessary to impose a sanction.  The Panel had in mind that the allegations proved were serious matters and that its decision must uphold public trust and confidence in the profession. The Panel concluded that in this case, neither mediation nor taking no action would be appropriate.  The Panel concluded that a sanction was necessary in the public interest.

80. The Panel considered the sanctions available to it in ascending order of severity. The Panel first considered the factors in the Sanctions Policy in relation to a Caution Order.  It concluded that the issues in this case were not minor in nature. This was not an isolated matter in that it concerned both a criminal conviction and repeated incidences of misconduct.   Whilst there was no information suggesting that there has been any repetition of the Registrant’s past conduct, the Registrant has not provided the Panel with any information showing remorse, insight or attempts to remedy his past actions.  The Panel could not be reassured that there is not a risk of repetition in the future. The Panel concluded that a Caution was not appropriate in this case.

81. The Panel also considered that a Conditions of Practice Order would not be appropriate given the nature of the findings. The Panel was not satisfied that conditions would address the seriousness of the issues or wider public interest concerns.  Moreover, in the absence of engagement by the Registrant with this process the Panel could not have any confidence that the Registrant would be willing to comply with conditions of practice.  

82. The Panel carefully considered whether a period of suspension would be the proportionate and appropriate sanction, applying the factors in the Sanctions Policy. The breach of the Standards in this case was serious.  The Registrant had demonstrated only limited insight.  The Panel could not have confidence that the issues were unlikely to be repeated and it had no evidence that the Registrant was likely to be able to or, given his apparent disengagement with the HCPC process, would seek to, remedy his failings.  

83. The Panel concluded that the factors indicating a Striking Off order were present.  The case involved dishonesty and a criminal conviction involving sexual conduct in that it concerned taking or making indecent images of children. There was a lack of insight and any indication of willingness to resolve the issues on the part of the Registrant.  The Panel concluded that only a Striking Off order would be sufficient to protect the public, public confidence in the profession and in the regulatory process and to declare and uphold proper standards of conduct in the Clinical Scientists’ profession.

Order

ORDER: The Registrar is directed to strike the name of Dr Trevor Ahearn from the Register on the date this Order comes into effect

Notes

Application for an Interim Order:

 

1. The Notice of Hearing dated 8 March 2022 informed the Registrant that if the Panel found the case against him to be well founded and imposed a sanction removing, suspending or restricting his right to practise, it may decide to impose an interim order with immediate effect to cover the period of possible appeal.

 

2. Ms Bernard-Stevenson made an application for an Interim Suspension Order to cover the appeal period, on the ground that it was necessary for the protection of the public and was otherwise in the public interest. 

 

3. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. It bore in mind that an interim order in these circumstances is discretionary.  The Panel must consider whether an interim order is required, applying the test set out in Article 31(2) of the Health Professions Order 2001, and if it so decides, must act proportionately.  This means balancing the public interest with the interests of the Registrant, and imposing the lowest order which will adequately protect the public.

 

4. The Panel was referred to the guidance in respect of immediate interim orders in the Sanctions Policy and the HCPTS Practice Note, Interim Orders. 

 

5. The Panel considered the issue of proportionality and balanced the interests of the Registrant with the public interest.  The Panel had determined to impose a substantive Striking Off Order in this case. Given the gravity of its findings and the sanction imposed, the Panel considered it would be inconsistent not to impose an immediate interim order of suspension to address the residual risk and public interest issues. 

 

6. The Panel considered whether interim conditions of practice would be appropriate, but concluded that conditions which would address the Panel’s concerns could not be formulated. 

 

7. Accordingly, the Panel determined that an interim order of suspension was necessary to protect the public and in the wider public interest.    

 

8. The Panel concluded that the appropriate and proportionate duration of the interim suspension order was 18 months. The interim order would continue to be required pending the resolution of an appeal in the event of the Registrant giving notice of an appeal with the 28-day period. 

 

Interim Order:

The Panel makes an Interim Suspension Order 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; or, if an appeal is made against the Panel’s decision and Order, upon the final determination of that appeal, subject to a maximum period of 18 months.

 

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Dr Trevor Ahearn

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
28/04/2022 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Struck off