Dr Robert Lambert-Simpson

Profession: Practitioner psychologist

Registration Number: PYL34515

Hearing Type: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 25/07/2022 End: 17:00 29/07/2022

Location: HCPTS, Park House, 184-186 Kennington Park Road, London, SE11 4BU

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Suspended

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Allegation

As a registered Practitioner Psychologist (PYL34515) your fitness to practise is impaired by reason of misconduct. In that:

1. You posted inappropriate and/or offensive comments and/or posts on your social media account:

a. On 22 May 2019, you posted a picture of a fire-damaged van with the caption ‘Look a Van-b-que on probably the busiest street in Europe. I think it was full of Asians. So it was a Korean Van-b-que’ on your social media account.

b. On or around 8 October 2019, you responded to a comment on your photograph stating, ‘Had to look good for the 87 year old kiddie diddler I saw today’ on your social media account.

c. On or around 26 February 2020, you responded to a comment on your post sharing your location at a Latin American restaurant stating that it was ‘Weirdly white people good’ on your social media account.

d. On 29 February 2020, you posted ‘I have decided to self-isolate. Not because of any chink based “it’s got a pulse let’s eat it” stuff but mainly because I really hate people’ on your social media account.

2. Your posts and/or comments in allegations 1a, 1c and/or 1d above were racially motivated.

3. The matters set out in allegations 1a-d and/or 2 above constitute misconduct.

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

Finding

Preliminary Matters
Hearing partly in private
1. Whilst giving evidence, the Registrant made reference to his health and the Panel agreed that all such references should be dealt with in private, in accordance with Rule 10(1)(a) of the Health and Care Professions Council (Conduct and Competence Committee) (Procedure) Rules 2003.

Special Measures
2. Special measures had been agreed in advance of the hearing allowing for the evidence of KL to be provided via a video-link and for Counsel Mr Craig Barlow to conduct the cross-examination of KL on behalf of the Registrant, who appeared unrepresented.

Background
3. The Registrant is a Practitioner Psychologist registered with the HCPC.

4. The complainant, KL, is a Consultant Clinical and Forensic Psychologist. She first became aware of the Registrant in November 2018 when she was sent a bundle for a family court case in which she was instructed as an expert witness. The bundle contained four CVs from Psychologists acting as expert witnesses, including her own. One of those CVs was that of the Registrant.

5. When looking for information about the Registrant's work history, as a result of information she had read in his CV, KL did a Google search. A link to his Facebook page appeared and she clicked on it and was able to see the Registrant’s posts because the page was on 'open access’. KL said she found some of the posts to be mildly offensive due to the language used.

6. In May 2020, the British Psychological Society produced a document entitled ‘Adaptations to psychological practice: Interim guidance during Covid-19 pandemic.’ In that guidance there was a section about using social media professionally and a link to the HCPC’s guidance on the use of social media. Seeing this guidance prompted KL to look at the Registrant’s Facebook page again. Once more it was on 'open access’ and she was able to see the Registrant’s posts. KL emphasised that she and the Registrant were not ‘Facebook friends’ and she had been able to access his posts simply by clicking on the Facebook link that came up when searching under his name.

7. KL said that her attention was drawn to a number of posts which she considered were inappropriate. She took screen shots of the posts and subsequently made a formal complaint to the HCPC, providing the screenshots as evidence of what she had seen. Those screenshots are reflected in Particulars 1(a) to 1(d) above.

8. In an email sent to the HCPC on 15 July 2020, the Registrant said:

“In response to your email ref: FTP78422. I wish for this to be put on the file:
I have reviewed the following:
I am aware of the “top tips on Social media” dated 14/05/2020 from
Katherine Timms, HCPC Head of Policy and Standards. This could be a helpful reference point and therefore the link is:
https://www.hcpc-uk.org/news-and-events/blog/2020/top-tips-professionalism-social-media-covid-19/
I appear to have followed this.
The group I had a discussion on was a private group that required I give my licence type and number and had to be approved. This implies it is a private group for peers only. The posting was a discussion and had no identifying names.
On the basis of the above advice, I am now refusing to engage on any social media and I am now very isolated.
The person making this claim has harassed and targeted me before and continues to do so. Previously I complained about her conduct and she has sought to undermine my professionalism. This process and the HCPC need to be aware of her conduct and consider her motivations for raising this concern.
Based on my prior interactions with the HCPC I have tried extremely hard to conduct myself appropriately, professionally and with concern for others at all times. Yet, here I am being punished for having a private conversation with peers. It is disappointing and it saddens me greatly.
Many thanks,
Dr R Lambert-Simpson”

Decision on Facts
9. In reaching its decisions on the facts the Panel took into account all the evidence provided, including the oral evidence of KL and that provided by the Registrant. The Panel took into account the Registrant’s good character.

10. The Panel also took into account the submissions made by Mr Ferson on behalf of the HCPC and those made by the Registrant. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and bore in mind that it was for the HCPC to prove its case on the balance of probabilities. It was not for the Registrant to disprove the Allegation.

11. The Registrant admitted that he posted the comments and pictures on his Facebook page as detailed in Particulars 1(a) to 1(d) above. He accepted that it was his Facebook account, but said it had been set up by his partner. He said he had 22 ‘Facebook friends’. He maintained that he had believed he was posting to a closed group of just his friends and not the public at large. He said that in light of his profession he would never have posted such comments on a public forum. The Panel was satisfied on the evidence from KL that the posts were readily accessible following her Google search using the Registrant’s name and that whatever the belief of the Registrant, the posts were publicly available. However, having heard his evidence and in particular the answers he gave to Panel questions, the Panel was satisfied that the Registrant genuinely believed he had been posting to a closed group and not to anyone who might access his account on Facebook. The Registrant said in closing, “In my mind I am still adamant the profile was private, if it was open it was not by my doing. They were never meant to be seen in public and I apologise for that wholeheartedly.”

12. The Panel was provided with screenshots of each of the posts detailed in Particulars 1(a) to 1(d) and in light of the evidence of KL indicating where she obtained them, the fact that they contained the Registrant’s name (and in one instance his picture) and the Registrant's admissions, the Panel was satisfied that he made all four posts. However, the Panel had then to consider the stem of Particular 1 to determine whether the posts were inappropriate and/or offensive in order to find them proved and also Particular 2, to decide whether some of them were racially motivated.

Particular 1(a) – Found Proved
Particular 2, in relation to 1(a) Found Not Proved
13. In relation to 1(a), the Panel considered that comparing a vehicle crash resulting in a fire, with the potential for people to have been burnt, with a barbecue was highly inappropriate and deeply offensive. To have referred to an ethnic and racial group made it even more inappropriate and offensive. The Registrant accepted that this post was inappropriate and said he would definitely not write something like that now. He said it was not written for public consumption but accepted that Korean people might find it offensive. He was adamant he was not racially motivated when making the post. He said that the term ‘Korean Van-b-que’ he had not made up, but rather was a term used by a news channel in America, where he had lived for much of his life. He said the post was meant as an “observational joke", it did not mean anything and he was sorry for writing it. He said he had mentioned Koreans as there was “a bunch of them [Asians] standing by the van”.

14. When cross-examined by Mr Ferson, the Registrant largely refused to engage and answered no comment to much of what was put to him. However, in questions from the Panel he did respond. He talked of the distress caused by these proceedings. He also said he was “hyper aware” of the guidance on social media. He said he was never on Facebook from the beginning and had only had the account to access pictures of his deceased partner. He said he hardly ever used social media then (and never uses it now) and his posts were few and far between. He added that he only had 22 friends on Facebook and he had believed all his posts were only going to those friends. He also said, “Is my sense of humour offensive outside of anyone who knows me? Probably, maybe.” The Registrant said that with hindsight he would not have made the posts.

15. The Panel accepted that this was meant to be an attempt at humour and for the benefit of a closed group of friends. However, it was in extremely poor taste and at the expense of an ethnic and racial group. Whilst most distasteful, reprehensible and with racist connotations, the Panel was not satisfied that in making this post the Registrant had been racially motivated. There was no evidence of any hostility towards Asians or Koreans and, in contrast to Particular 1(d), no use of racial terminology.

16. Accordingly, the Panel found Particular 1(a) proved on the basis that the post was both inappropriate and offensive. However, the Panel found Particular 2, insofar as it related to Particular 1(a), not proved for the reasons given above.

Particular 1(b) – Found Proved
17. When giving evidence, the Registrant said that he should not have used the term ‘kiddy diddler’ and that it was “just a joke to the few people who I know, many of who are Psychologists”. He said he would never (knowingly) have written that in the public domain and that outside of his 22 friends he did not want anyone else to be reading his posts. He agreed that it would be seen as offensive in a public domain.

18. In answer to Panel questions, the Registrant referred to the person as a client but later referred to him as someone he was asked to carry out a court assessment on. He said he was not even sure if the person was 87 years old, but that any term used to describe someone who touches children is likely to be offensive. He said the term had been taken out of context and that it was “just boy humour” again aimed at only his Facebook friends and not the public at large. He said there was no intended malice and that he would never use such a term again and he regretted having used it.

19. The Panel concluded, on any view, the use of the word ‘kiddy diddler’ to describe someone, particularly someone the Registrant had seen on a professional basis, was wholly inappropriate and highly offensive. There was also the chance that someone might have been able to identify the person had they accessed this post, given the detail provided by the Registrant. Accordingly, the Panel found Particular 1(b) proved.

Particular 1(c) – Found Not Proved
20. The Registrant explained at length how he had eaten in restaurants all over the world and that in his experience Latin American food was best cooked by Latin Americans. He said he was surprised, therefore, when he went to the Latin American restaurant in Portsmouth, the food was very good and it had not been cooked by Latin Americans but rather by white people. He said he had been on his own and got talking to the owners and asked them who had cooked the food, expecting to hear it was Latin Americans (who he wanted to thank for a nice meal). However, the owners, who were white, said it was them and hence his comment on Facebook with the restaurant tagged was meant to be a compliment, not some sort of racist slur.

21. The Panel considered this post to be somewhat ambiguous, with many possible interpretations, the Registrant's account being one of them. It could equally be a suggestion that the food in the Latin American restaurant was good enough for white people to eat, which would be inappropriate, offensive and potentially racist. However, the Panel was not able to determine how this comment should be interpreted and given the Registrant’s potentially plausible explanation, the Panel could not be satisfied, on the balance of probabilities, that the HCPC had proved this Particular.

22. The Panel therefore found Particular 1(c) not proved.

Particular 1(d) – Found Proved
Particular 2, in relation to 1(d) – Found Proved
23. In evidence, when asked if he thought the use of the word ‘chink’ was racist, the Registrant said, “I don't know, maybe it was culturally insensitive.” He said that he cringed when he read it, but it was at a time when he was ill and there was a “lot of stuff going around about where it had come from and why it happened” and that influenced what he wrote. He accepted it was wholly inappropriate. He added that he had been to rural China and had a poor experience as he came back with health issues. He said his post was not racially motivated but was just him being inappropriate and he should not have posted it. He said he objected to being called racist as he works with people from all walks of life, his best friend is Guatemalan and his best friend growing up was a black Caribbean.
24. The Panel was in no doubt that the word ‘chink’ was a racial slur used to describe Chinese people. It was a wholly inappropriate word to have used and clearly offensive to right-minded people. Furthermore, referring to the Chinese as people who will eat anything that has a pulse is derogatory, inappropriate and offensive. The Panel thus found Particular 1(d) proved on the basis that the post was both inappropriate and offensive.

25. The Panel then considered whether these comments were racially motivated. Unlike Particular 1(a), in 1(d) the Registrant had used a combination of a blatantly racist description with a highly derogatory remark, depicting all Chinese people effectively as uncivilised, who will eat anything. The Panel was in no doubt that the Registrant had posted these comments in an attempt at humour and that his intention had been to use race as a cheap way of getting a laugh. That behaviour, in the Panel’s view, suggested his actions were racially motivated and the Panel therefore found Particular 2 proved in relation to 1(d).

Decision on Ground
26. The Panel next considered whether the facts found proved amounted to misconduct. In so doing it took into account all the evidence and the submissions made by Mr Ferson and those made by the Registrant. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

27. The Panel took into account the HCPC’s guidance on social media, which states:

You must use all forms of communication appropriately and responsibly, including social media and networking websites.

When using social media you should apply the same standards as you would when communicating in other ways. Be polite and respectful, and avoid using language that others might reasonably consider to be inappropriate or offensive. Use your professional judgement in deciding whether to post or share something. Remember that comments or posts may be taken out of context, or made visible to a wider audience than originally intended.

28. The Panel noted that this guidance was not restricted or limited to social media entries that were available to the public at large, but covered all use of social media.

29. The Panel found there to be the following breaches of the 2016 Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics applicable to all HCPC registrants, namely:

Standard 2.7 You must use all forms of communication appropriately and responsibly, including social media and networking websites.

Standard 5.1 You must treat information about service users as confidential.

Standard 5.2 You must only disclose confidential information if:
– you have permission;
– the law allows this;
– it is in the service user’s best interests; or
– it is in the public interest, such as if it is necessary to protect public safety or prevent harm to other people.
Standard 9.1 You must make sure that your conduct justifies the public’s trust and confidence in you and your profession.

30. The Panel indicated in its decision on the facts that it accepted the Registrant’s account that he believed he was only sharing his posts with his Facebook friends, a closed group of 22 people. However, it was his responsibility to ensure that his posts were not available to all and sundry and furthermore it was his duty to comply with the HCPC guidance on social media, whether he was posting publicly or within a closed group. He failed in both regards. The posts that he made, as found proved in Particulars 1(a), 1(b) and 1(d), were all inappropriate, all offensive and, in the case of 1(d), racially motivated.

31. The Panel considered that whilst offensive and reprehensible, the post detailed in Particular 1(a) would not, on its own, be sufficiently serious to amount to misconduct. It was clearly meant as a joke, albeit one in extremely poor taste. However, the Panel was concerned with the Registrant’s overall behaviour and thus had also to take into account the other two posts found proved.

32. In relation to Particular 1(b), in the Panel's view it is wrong for a Registrant to ever refer to a person on social media that he has seen in a professional capacity and even more so to do it in a derogatory manner. The term he used, ‘kiddy diddler’ was particularly offensive and aggravated by the fact that it may have been possible to identify who he was referring to by virtue of the detail he had provided, some of which was confidential. This included the age of the client, the date he was seen by the Registrant, the type of client (paedophiliac) and the Registrant’s full name as the attending clinician. The Panel considered this post would be considered deplorable by other members of the profession and the public and was sufficiently serious to amount to misconduct, whether considered in isolation or in conjunction with the other posts.

33. The Panel acknowledged that the post detailed in Particular 1(d) was in early 2020. At that stage there was speculation within the media that the virus originated in a street market in China and it was within that context that the Registrant said he had made this post. However, it is wholly unacceptable for a professional registered with the HCPC to use racial slurs, whether in public or private, whatever the context. Furthermore, the use of the word ‘chink’ was aggravated by the derogatory comment that followed about if it has a pulse they would eat it. As stated above, it was this combination of racial slur and derogatory comment that resulted in the Panel concluding that the comments were racially motivated. It is wholly unacceptable to engage in such behaviour and this post would, in the Panel’s view, be considered deplorable by other members of the profession. As with the post detailed in 1(b), the Panel was satisfied that this post amounted to misconduct, whether considered in isolation or in conjunction with the other posts.

34. The Panel then revisited 1(a) and concluded that these three posts represented a pattern of inappropriate and offensive behaviour over a period of time and, when considered in the round, were sufficiently serious to amount to misconduct.

Decision on Impairment
35. Having found the statutory ground of misconduct to be well founded, the Panel went on to consider whether the Registrant’s current fitness to practise was impaired as a result of that misconduct. In doing so it took into account the submissions made by Mr Ferson and those made by the Registrant. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

36. The Panel considered that the matters found proved were capable of remedy, although it can be difficult to remedy attitudinal issues, which were apparent in this case. The Panel was encouraged to see that the Registrant had taken and completed courses in Islamic Awareness, Cultural Awareness and Race and Ethnicity Inclusion. However, when asked what he had learned as a result of attending these courses, he was unable/unprepared to say. The Panel noted the Registrant’s acceptance that his posts were inappropriate, although he was ambivalent about whether they were offensive and maintained that he was not a racist person, a term which he said he found to be abhorrent. He did emphasise that he regretted making the posts and that in hindsight he should not have made them. He apologised and said he would never make such posts again and he had essentially stopped using social media. He said he was aware of the importance of communicating appropriately and complying with the HCPC's guidance on social media.

37. The Registrant accepted that the posts were appalling and that his behaviour fell below the professional standards expected and he said he understood the consequences of his actions. He said that the posts did not look good, whether they involved a Psychologist or not, but that they were made worse by the fact that he was in a caring profession. Whilst demonstrating some insight into his conduct, the Panel was concerned that the Registrant failed to mention the impact of his posts on others and instead focused on the impact of these proceeding on himself.

38. The Panel was also concerned about the unstable behaviour demonstrated by the Registrant during these proceedings. He repeatedly stated that he was emotionally overwhelmed by the referral and the resulting proceedings. He became very agitated when being asked perfectly proper questions by Mr Ferson. He refused to answer most of the questions asked and on more than one occasion got up and walked out of the room. On one occasion he resorted to banging his fist on the desk and called Mr Ferson an offensive name. This behaviour added to the concerns the Panel had about the underlying attitudinal issues identified in making the various posts.

39. In all the circumstances, the Panel could not be satisfied that it was highly unlikely the Registrant would engage in such behaviour, as detailed in the facts found proved, in the future.

40. The Panel considered whether a finding of current impairment was warranted on the grounds of public protection. Although it could be argued that behaving in racially motivated behaviour might impact upon the way in which one treated particular service users, the Panel considered this to be too tenuous a leap to make when considering jokes made in poor taste. However, divulging confidential information about a person he had seen on a professional basis risked that person being identified. The Panel considered this raised public protection issues and, given the concern that he might repeat such behaviour, the Panel concluded a finding of current impairment was therefore justified on public protection grounds.

41. The Panel was satisfied that all three posts brought the profession into disrepute and that the Registrant's behaviour breached one of the fundamental tenets of the profession, namely the need to ensure that his conduct justified the public’s trust and confidence in him and his profession. Given his limited insight the Panel was concerned that the Registrant might repeat such behaviour.

42. The Panel then went on to consider whether this was a case that required a finding of impairment on public interest grounds in order to maintain confidence in the profession and also to maintain standards within the Psychologist profession. The Registrant's behaviour fell far short of the standards expected of a registered Psychologist. He posted comments on social media that were inappropriate and offensive and, in one instance, racially motivated. Whilst the Registrant believed he was only posting to a closed group, he should have ensured that was the case. In such circumstances, the Panel considered that members of the public would be shocked and appalled and that they would have their confidence in the profession and the HCPC undermined if a finding of impairment were not made. This was particularly so given the concerns about underlying attitudinal issues that had yet to be addressed.

43. The Panel therefore found the Registrant’s current fitness to practise to be impaired on both public protection and public interest grounds for the reasons given above.

Decision on Sanction
44. In reaching its decision on sanction, the Panel took into account the submissions made by Mr Ferson and those made by the Registrant, together with all the relevant written evidence and all matters of personal mitigation. The Panel also referred to the guidance issued by the Council in its Sanctions Policy. The Panel had in mind that the purpose of sanctions was not to punish the Registrant, but to protect the public, maintain public confidence in the profession and maintain proper standards of conduct and performance. The Panel was also cognisant of the need to ensure that any sanction is proportionate. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

45. The Panel considered the aggravating factors in this case to be:
• repeated posts of an inappropriate and offensive nature over a period of time
• limited insight

46. The Panel considered the following mitigating factors:
• no previous regulatory findings
• admissions to some of the matters alleged
• apology and remorse
• relevant courses attended

47. In addressing the Panel the Registrant was adamant that he would never use social media again. He spoke of the overwhelming impact of what he described as the “vendetta” against him by KL and these proceedings. He said, “I have jeopardised myself on the basis I honestly believed those were private conversations. The postings are embarrassing and horrid. I cannot understand why I did it and the effect on other people is so far-reaching. I just apologise.” He added, “In terms of sanctions I think my professional life is now over. I have spent my entire life helping people and that has been taken away from me.”

48. In light of the seriousness of the conduct, which included a racially motivated post, the Panel did not consider this was an appropriate case to take no further action or consider mediation, since neither would protect the public from the risks identified by the Panel. Nor would such an approach satisfy the public interest.

49. The Panel then considered whether to caution the Registrant. However, the Panel was of the view that such a sanction would not reflect the seriousness of the misconduct in this case nor protect the public. The Registrant’s behaviour suggested some underlying attitudinal concerns that needed to be addressed before he could be allowed to return to unrestricted practice. The Panel was also of the view that public confidence in the profession, and the HCPC as its regulator, would be undermined if such failings were dealt with by way of a caution.

50. The Panel next considered whether to place conditions on the Registrant’s registration. The sanction guidance states that a conditions of practice order is likely to appropriate in cases where:
• the registrant has insight;
• the failure or deficiency is capable of being remedied;
• there are no persistent or general failures which would prevent the registrant from remediating;
• appropriate, proportionate, realistic and verifiable conditions can be formulated;
• the panel is confident the registrant will comply with the conditions;
• a reviewing panel will be able to determine whether or not those conditions have or are being met; and
• the registrant does not pose a risk of harm by being in restricted practice.

51. As already indicated, the Panel considered the behaviour to be remediable and the Registrant had indicated that he was “more than willing to do additional courses or seek supervision” and in answer to a question about that said he was “more than willing to do whatever it takes.” However, whilst many of the above factors are present in this case, the Panel was of the view that due to the limited insight shown by the Registrant it would not be possible to formulate appropriate, proportionate, realistic and verifiable conditions.

52. The Panel therefore considered whether a suspension order would be appropriate. The guidance states that a suspension order is likely to be appropriate where there are serious concerns which cannot be reasonably addressed by a conditions of practice order, but which do not require the registrant to be struck off the Register. These types of cases will typically exhibit the following factors:
• the concerns represent a serious breach of the Standards of conduct, performance and ethics;
• the registrant has insight;
• the issues are unlikely to be repeated; and
• there is evidence to suggest the registrant is likely to be able to resolve or remedy their failings.

53. The Panel was satisfied that the concerns in this case do represent a serious breach of the Standards of conduct, performance and ethics, as detailed in its findings on misconduct above. The Registrant does have insight, albeit limited. The Panel considered it was unlikely the Registrant would post such offensive material again or breach patient confidentiality, although it could not rule out the possibility entirely. There is evidence to suggest the Registrant is likely to be able to resolve or remedy his failings as indicated by his willingness to “do whatever it takes.”

54. Before deciding on the sanction of a Suspension Order, the Panel considered whether a Striking-Off Order was justified in this case and concluded that it was not. A striking off order is the sanction of last resort and reserved for the most serious case where a registrant’s behaviour is fundamentally incompatible with continued registration. That was not the case here. It was important the misconduct was seen in context and the sanction imposed proportional. What the Registrant had done was make three posts on social media which he believed were only going to a closed group of his Facebook friends. Those posts were all inappropriate, as he readily acknowledged. They were also offensive which, inferentially, he acknowledged by referring to them as “horrid”. One of them the Panel found was racially motivated. Whilst abhorrent, the behaviour was not, in the panel’s view, fundamentally incompatible with continued registration.

55. The Panel therefore decided to make a Suspension Order. The order would be for four months to reflect the seriousness of the misconduct. The order will be reviewed before its expiry and the reviewing panel will be assisted by the following:
• the Registrant’s continued engagement with the process;
• a reflective piece whereby the Registrant demonstrates:
- what he has learned from this process and the Panel's findings;
- the potential impact of his social media posts on service users, the public, his colleagues, the wider profession and the HCPC as regulator;
- what he learned from the relevant courses he has already attended and from any other relevant courses he might consider attending before the order is reviewed.

Order

The Registrar is directed to suspend the Registrant’s registration for a period of 4 months from the date this Order comes into effect.

Notes

Right of Appeal
You may appeal to the High Court in England and Wales against the Panel’s decision and the order it has made against you.

Under Article 29(10) of the Health Professions Order 2001, any appeal must be made within 28 days of the date when this notice is served on you. The Panel’s order will not take effect until the appeal period has expired or, if you appeal, until that appeal is disposed of or withdrawn.

Interim Order
1. The Panel heard submissions from Mr Ferson on proceeding to hear an application for an Interim Order in the absence of the Registrant and also on the need for an Interim Order to cover the period during which an appeal may be made and, if one is made, whilst that appeal is in progress. Although he had hitherto been present, the Registrant had terminated the live video link when told of the Panel’s decision on sanction. Since he was no longer present the Panel had, in accordance with the HCPTS Practice Note, first to decide whether to proceed to consider the Interim Order application in the absence of the Registrant. The Panel heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

2. The Panel decided that it was appropriate to consider the Interim Order application in the absence of the Registrant. In reaching this conclusion the Panel took into account the contents of the Notice of Hearing sent to the Registrant on 13 May 2022, where it is stated under the heading “Interim Orders”, “Please note that if the Panel finds the case against you is well founded and imposes a sanction which removes, suspends or restricts your right to practise, it may also impose an interim order on you (under Article 31 of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001). An interim order suspends or restricts a registrant’s right to practise with immediate effect.” The Panel was satisfied this meant the Registrant was on notice that this was a possible outcome at this hearing.

3. The Panel also noted that the Hearings officer had spoken to the Registrant after he had terminated the video call and the Registrant had said he was not going to return. The Registrant was sent an email explaining the application that was to be made and enclosing a copy of the HCPTS Practice Note on Interim Orders. Further contact was made with the Registrant and the Legal Assessor spoke with him on speaker-phone in the presence of Mr Ferson and the Hearings Officer. The nature of the application the HCPC would be making was explained to the Registrant and he was encouraged to attend. However, he remained adamant that he would not be returning to the hearing, although he said he understood the nature of the application. The Registrant said it was his intention to appeal the decision made by the Panel. The Panel had sight of two telephone attendance notes covering the above communications.

4. In light of the Registrant's clear indication that he would not be returning, the Panel was satisfied that he had waived his right to be present at this remaining part of the hearing. The Panel could see no reason to adjourn the hearing in order to allow the Registrant to participate on a later date because there was no indication that he would do so on any other occasion. The Panel took into account the fact that it had identified there to be a continuing risk to the public if the Registrant were allowed to practise without restriction and decided it was clearly in the public interest to consider the Interim Order application today, even if that meant it was conducted in the absence of the Registrant.

5. The Panel concluded, for the same reasons as given above when reaching its decision on sanction, that an Interim Order was necessary to protect the public from the risks it had identified during the 28 day appeal period, or the time taken to conduct any appeal, in the event that one is made.

6. The Panel was also of the view that, given the nature and seriousness of the misconduct in this case, public confidence in the regulatory process would be undermined if the Registrant were allowed to remain in practice on an unrestricted basis during any appeal period. The Panel therefore determined that an Interim Order is otherwise in the public interest.

7. The Panel first considered whether a Conditions of Practice Order would be sufficient. However, for the same reasons as dealt with at the sanction stage, the Panel concluded that conditions would not be appropriate or proportionate in this case.

8. The Panel therefore decided to make an Interim Suspension Order under Article 31(2) of the Health and Care Professions Order 2001, the same being necessary to protect members of the public and being otherwise in the public interest. The Panel decided that this Order should be for the maximum period of 18 months to allow sufficient time for any appeal to be made. 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) upon the final determination of that appeal, subject to a maximum period of 18 months.

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Dr Robert Lambert-Simpson

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
25/07/2022 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended
27/05/2022 Conduct and Competence Committee Interim Order Review Interim Suspension
07/10/2021 Investigating Committee Interim Order Application Interim Suspension
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