Mr Michael Evans

Profession: Practitioner psychologist

Registration Number: PYL33180

Interim Order: Imposed on 13 Nov 2019

Hearing Type: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 28/03/2022 End: 17:00 01/04/2022

Location: Virtual Hearing

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Struck off

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Allegation

(As amended at the final hearing)

As a registered Practitioner Psychologist (PYL33180) your fitness to practise is impaired by reason of misconduct. In that:

1. Between August 2018 and September 2019 you did not maintain professional boundaries with Service User 1 in that you:

a. Took Service User 1 to McDonalds on one or more occasions;

b. On at least one occasion, whilst in McDonalds, told Service User 1 to say that you both “had just bumped into each other” or words to that effect, if asked;

c. Contacted Service User 1 via text and/or telephone on one or more occasions;

d. Drove Service User 1 to Hove on one or more occasions;

e. Offered to take Service User 1 to a DJ Fatboy Slim concert;

f. Asked Service User 1 whether he wanted a ‘blowie’ or words to that effect;

g. Described women as ‘not being good’ for Service User 1, or words to that effect;

h. Asked Service User 1 which gym he attended and then joined the same gym;

i. Offered to pay Service User 1’s electricity bill(s);

j. Attempted to add credit to Service User 1’s mobile phone;

k. Provided Service User 1 with money by bank transfer and/or in cash on one or more occasion;

l. Made unprofessional comments about members of the Croydon Community Forensic Team namely that ‘they are rubbish’ and/or that Service User 1’s ‘new care coordinator is stupid’ or words to that effect;

m. Gave Service User 1 a bicycle as a gift;

n. Gave Service User 1 a television as a gift;

o. Discouraged Service User 1 from seeing his child;

p. Informed Service User 1’s college of his prior convictions when this was not required;

q. Took a photograph of Service User 1 without his permission on one or more occasions.

2. On or around December 2018 you gave a £60 shopping voucher for Service User 1, as a gift.

3. On or around 6 September 2019, after ceasing employment with South London & Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, you attended Service User 1’s home.

4. Between 11 November 2019 and 20 November 2019 you did not notify the University of London City that you were subject to an Interim Suspension Order and/or that you were unable to undertake the work of an external supervisor.

5. The conduct set out in particulars 1(b) and/or 4 was dishonest.

6. The conduct set out in particulars 1(a-q), 2, 3 and/or 5 above was sexually motivated.

7. The matters set out in particulars 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and/or 6 above constitute misconduct.

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

Finding

Preliminary Matters

Service

1. The Panel was satisfied that considerable efforts had been made to effect service on the Registrant at his registered postal address and by email. The Panel found that notice of today’s hearing had been properly served on 27 January 2022 on the Registrant at his registered postal address in terms of the rules of the Health and Care Professions Council (Conduct and Competence Committee) (Procedure) Rules 2003 (“the Rules”). The Rules do not require proof of delivery.

Proceeding in Absence

2. The Panel next considered Ms Manning-Rees’ application to proceed in the Registrant’s absence. She advised that the postal and email notices sent to the Registrant were all returned as undelivered. It is the Registrant’s duty to provide, and keep updated, a registered contact address to the HCPC and that is the only address on which the HCPC may serve notices. Ms Manning-Rees told the Panel that since early December 2021, extensive efforts had been made to trace the Registrant and to contact him. She referred to the chronology of events, which advised that a Tracing Agent had been engaged and considerable efforts made to contact the Registrant.

3. Ms Manning-Rees referred to the Rules, the HCPTS Practice Note on “Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant”, and the case law. She advised the Panel about the efforts made to serve the Notice of Hearing and that it had been sent to the Registrant’s postal address as registered on the HCPC Register. She reminded the Panel that whilst the Registrant had previously engaged with the HCPC, he has not done so for over a year. She submitted that the Registrant had not requested an adjournment or indicated that he would attend. There was a public interest in proceeding and witnesses were in attendance. She submitted that it appeared that the Registrant had chosen not to attend.

4. The Panel was aware that its discretion to proceed in absence is one which should be exercised with care. The Legal Assessor gave advice to the Panel and referred it to the HCPTS Practice Note and to the case of GMC v Adeogba [2016] EWCA Civ 162. This case makes clear that the first question the Panel should ask is whether all reasonable efforts have been taken to serve the Registrant with notice. Thereafter, if the Panel is satisfied on notice, the discretion whether or not to proceed must be exercised having regard to all the circumstances of which the Panel is aware, with fairness to the Registrant being a prime consideration but with fairness to the HCPC and the interests of the public also considered. Adeogba was clear that, “where there is good reason not to proceed, the case should be adjourned; where there is not, however, it is only right that it should proceed”.

5. The Panel agreed to proceed in the Registrant’s absence as it was satisfied that it was fair and in the public interest to do so. In reaching this decision, the Panel noted that the Registrant has not responded to the notice and he has not asked for an adjournment. It concluded that he has chosen to absent himself and waived his right to attend. He is entitled not to attend. The Panel balanced fairness to the Registrant with fairness to the HCPC and the public interest in proceeding. The Panel took account of the fact that this is a substantive hearing. An adjournment would serve no purpose and there were witnesses in attendance. In these circumstances, the Panel was satisfied that it was appropriate and fair to proceed in the Registrant’s absence.

Application to Amend

6. Ms Manning-Rees applied to amend the Allegation. She referred to the amendments proposed to be added to Particular 1. She submitted that these further particularised the Allegation and reflected the evidence of Service User 1 (“SU1”). These proposed amendments were sent to the Registrant by post and email on 28 April 2021 and he has not responded, either to accept or to object.

7. The proposed amendment to Particular 1 was to add the following (including amending the reference to 1(a)-(q) in Particular 6 alleging sexually motivated behaviour):

“m. Gave Service User 1 a bicycle as a gift;

n. Gave Service User 1 a television as a gift;

o. Discouraged Service User 1 from seeing his child;

p. Informed Service User 1’s college of his prior convictions when this was not required;

q. Took a photograph of Service User 1 without his permission on one or more occasions.”

8. In Particular 2, Ms Manning-Rees sought to amend to replace the word “purchased” with “gave” in relation to the £60 gift voucher. She submitted that all of these proposed amendments did not alter the nature or gravity of the Allegation. She referred to the relevant case law and sought to amend the Allegation.

9. The Panel accepted the legal advice of the Legal Assessor, who reminded the Panel of the need to consider fairness and the interests of justice. Notice of the proposed amendments to Particular 1 had been given to the Registrant 11 months ago. The Panel decided that the proposed amendments to Particular 1 served to further particularise the Allegation and did not alter the overall nature and gravity of the Allegation. They fairly reflected the evidence of SU1. Further, the proposed change to Particular 2 reflected the evidence, was not material, and did not alter the nature or the gravity of Particular 2.

10. In the circumstances, the Panel decided that it was fair and appropriate to allow all the proposed amendments which, whilst material in respect of Particular 1, did not give rise to prejudice to the Registrant and did not overall alter the nature or the gravity of the Allegation. The application to amend was granted.

Background

11. The Registrant was a locum Practitioner Psychologist in the Croydon Community Forensic Team (“the CCFT”) from 17 September 2018. The Registrant was responsible for adults with forensic histories who had mental health issues. One of the adults with whom he worked was SU1. The Registrant left the CCFT on 2 August 2019 and his therapeutic relationship with SU1 officially ended.

12. On 8 September 2019, the Registrant’s team manager at the CCFT, IN, received an email from the Registrant expressing concerns about SU1 planning to leave the area to travel to Scotland and then Germany in order to avoid debt. IN was concerned about how the Registrant knew this information about SU1 as the Registrant no longer worked at the CCFT. IN contacted SU1, who raised concerns about an inappropriate relationship between himself and the Registrant. IN then escalated the concerns about SU1 to an Adult Safeguarding process. The HCPC received a referral from the CCFT about these matters on 8 October 2019.

13. The HCPC Investigating Committee (“IC”) imposed an Interim Suspension Order (“ISO”) against the Registrant on 11 November 2019. On 22 January 2020, the HCPC received an email from The University of London, City (“the University”). The University had noticed on the HCPTS website that the Registrant, who had the role of an external supervisor to five students, was subject to an ISO. The Registrant had allegedly at no point made the University aware that he was subject to an ISO.

Evidence

14. The Panel heard evidence from SU1, who was supported by an intermediary who had been appointed at an earlier Preliminary Hearing. It also heard live evidence from:

• IN, CCFT Team Manager and Advanced Social Worker;

• SS, Senior Lecturer.

15. The Panel was provided with the written submissions provided by the Registrant to the IC in 2019 and 2020, which was the only response to the Allegation received from him. Ms Manning-Rees submitted that this was provided to the Panel out of fairness to the Registrant but that it should be treated with some caution given that the Registrant was not attending and not giving live evidence.

The HCPC Witnesses

Service User 1

16. SU1 affirmed and referred to his signed witness statement. He told the Panel about his time with the Registrant. He said he would meet the Registrant in McDonalds and told the Panel about the Registrant trying to persuade him to move to Hove. SU1 said that the Registrant made him feel paranoid and unsure of both himself and the team at the CCFT.

17. SU1 said the Registrant frequently made him feel “uncomfortable” and that he wanted him to be secretive about aspects of the relationship. SU1 said that the Registrant acted in a way that he thought was “sexual”, particularly so when the Registrant would turn up at SU1’s gym and just sit and stare at him. He said the Registrant had twice asked him out of nowhere if he wanted a “blow job”. The Registrant would come to his house unexpectedly and SU1 said he would feel panicked. He said the Registrant’s conduct made the relationship all very awkward. SU1 said that the Registrant had also taken photographs of him for no reason and without his consent. He said that had made him feel “super uncomfortable”. SU1 said that the Registrant had not been at his gym until SU1 had told the Registrant that he was a member there in reply to questions from the Registrant.

18. SU1 told the Panel about the £60 shopping voucher that the Registrant had given him. On being referred to particular text messages exhibited in the HCPC bundle, SU1 said he did not recognise these text messages. However, he explained that there had been a great many text messages exchanged between them and this had been nearly three years ago. SU1 said that the Registrant had wrongly told him that he had to tell a college he had applied to about his spent convictions when he did not think he needed to. SU1 said that he had subsequently learned from the college that he had not needed to disclose his spent convictions.

19. In response to Panel questions, SU1 said that he recalled the Registrant sending him hundreds of texts in the period 2018 and 2019, although he said that he did not recall whether he sent texts to the Registrant about a sore tooth. He said he felt that the Registrant had tried to encourage SU1 to move to a farm in Hove with him. SU1 said he knew there was a LGBTQ+ community there. SU1 explained that he had nothing against gay people; however, he is not gay himself. He said the Registrant told him to keep things about their relationship secret, which he did until after the Registrant had left and SU1 had to explain to IN why he was not engaging with the CCFT. SU1 said the Registrant had also misled him about the reasons why the Registrant had left the CCFT.

20. SU1 said he had discussed women with the Registrant. He said that the Registrant would try to convince him that relationships with women were bad and SU1 thought the Registrant was trying to stop him from having any emotional ties with females. SU1 described how the Registrant had tried to persuade him not to see his child or female acquaintances, including SU1’s mother, because to do so was not good for him. SU1 said he felt “uncomfortable” with the Registrant and that he felt the Registrant was “coming on” to him. SU1 said that he caught the Registrant looking at him “like a man would look at a woman”.

21. SU1 said that the Registrant seemed to be discouraging him from having relationships with women. He said he did not know whether the Registrant was gay or straight, although the Registrant seemed at times to act “like a girl” and seemed jealous. SU1 said that the Registrant “forced” a personal relationship on him and had turned up at his house several times unexpectedly and uninvited. SU1 said the Registrant’s behaviour had “derailed” him and damaged his trust in the CCFT. SU1 said that this trust was still damaged today.

Witness 2 – IN

22. IN affirmed and was referred to her witness statement. She is an Advanced Social Worker and an Advanced Mental Health Professional (AMHP) at the CCFT and was the Team Leader.

23. IN said that she would not expect any contact between the Registrant and SU1 after the Registrant had left the CCFT on 2 August 2019. She told the Panel about the concerns raised by SU1 and the escalation of the concerns to a safeguarding process. She explained that it appeared the Registrant was continuing to have contact with SU1 in September 2019 after the Registrant had left the CCFT, and she told the Panel about the texts from the Registrant that SU1 had showed her on his mobile phone.

24. IN explained that it was not appropriate to take service users on outings at the weekend or outside office hours, such as to McDonalds, and in any case this was not recorded by the Registrant in the case notes, which IN said she had checked. Any trips outside the local area would have had to be “planned activities” and would have necessitated her prior approval. The trips to Hove were not approved and IN had no knowledge of them until SU1 explained what had taken place. She said it was not appropriate for a registrant to lend or give money to or pay bills for a service user. She told the Panel that SU1 had told the Registrant he was leaving the area to try to get him to “leave him alone”.

25. IN told the Panel that the allegations made by SU1 about the tips to Hove, the invitation to the concert, and the money and gifts made by the Registrant crossed professional boundaries and could cause mistrust in the CCFT. She said to that to mention anything sexual to a service user, as alleged, was “very inappropriate”.

26. In response to Panel questions, IN said that she was the Team Leader at the material time, but her senior Psychologist colleague had been the Registrant’s line manager. IN explained that the Registrant’s supervision would have been provided by his senior Psychologist colleague and not by herself and she did not know how often that would have taken place.

27. IN said that she did not know precisely what form of therapy the Registrant undertook with SU1 as she was not a Psychologist. She said that when the Registrant raised with her that SU1 intended to leave the area, this had not initially been a safeguarding issue. Her immediate concern had been that the Registrant had clearly continued to be in contact with SU1 despite leaving the service.

28. IN told the Panel about the policies that applied as regards contact between professionals and service users. The Registrant appeared to be meeting SU1 at weekends and out of hours, which was concerning. IN said that SU1 told her he had felt he was being groomed by the Registrant and that SU1 was angry and confused. IN said that if trips with a service user were planned there would have been a discussion with her about the proper reasons for doing so, but that no such discussions had taken place. Furthermore, there was no record of any discussions or of the trips themselves in the case notes. She said she recalled some but not all of the texts the Registrant had sent to SU1 and that she had felt uneasy and “shocked” by some of them.

Witness 3 - SS

29. SS affirmed and was referred to her witness statement. At the material time she was a Senior Lecturer at the University. She said she had never met or communicated with the Registrant. She retired in 2021 and is no longer practising, although she is still registered with the HCPC.

30. SS said that the Registrant agreed to be an external clinical supervisor for a few of the students on the DPsych course towards the start of the Academic Year 2019-2020. Students are required to complete placements throughout their course and must have supervision throughout their placements from a HCPC-registered Practitioner Psychologist.

31. SS told the Panel in her witness statement about the arrangements for supervision and how in autumn 2019, one of her colleagues had checked the Registrant’s registration on the HCPC website and found that he was subject to an ISO. The Registrant was contacted on 20 November 2019 by email to advise that it had come to their attention that he was subject to an ISO and for that reason, the University were no longer to have students continue their supervisory relationship with him. The Registrant responded to the email saying that he was awaiting a review decision from the HCPC about “readmission” to the HCPC Register having submitted “new information”, which was why he had not said anything to the University yet. He said that he had written to all five students to inform them that he could not carry on supervising them and made arrangements to refund fees where appropriate.

32. SS said in her witness statement that she did not know for sure if the Registrant had ever informed the University that he was subject to an ISO. She said she felt confident that, if the Placements Team were aware that he had, they would have informed her. SS said that the University does not provide any guidance that specifically says that external supervisors must inform them if they are subject to an ISO, but she said that she felt it was implicit that supervisors have HCPC registration.

33. SS told the Panel that her understanding was that supervisors had to enter a HCPC registration number on the application form to the University. She said she was sure that there was nothing explicit to say that the registration be current and nothing to indicate that random checks would be made. However, any new application from a student seeking a supervisor would involve a check of the HCPC Register.

34. SS said that when she learned of the issue about the Registrant’s ISO, she recalled that a colleague had met with the students to advise them of this and to ensure that they were supported.

Closing Submissions for the HCPC on Facts

35. Ms Manning-Rees set out her closing submissions on the facts. She reminded the Panel that the onus of proof, which is on the balance of probabilities, rested on the HCPC. She referred to the witness statements and the oral evidence heard. She referred the Panel to the written submissions made by the Registrant and she reminded the Panel that his submissions were general and not always clear. She referred to the evidence matrix provided by the HCPC.

36. Ms Manning-Rees referred to the evidence of SU1 and IN regarding the text messages in relation to Particular 1(c). She reminded the Panel that SU1 and IN could not remember all of the text messages in the exhibits, but submitted that there was some duplication of those messages and that the exhibits were reliable. The text messages also supported Particulars 1(i), 1(j), 1(k), and 1(l). She submitted that there were clearly many messages between SU1 and the Registrant. Further, it had been admitted that trips were made by SU1 and the Registrant to Hove. She submitted that all of this conduct crossed professional boundaries.

37. Ms Manning-Rees referred to the evidence of SU1 regarding the gym, the shopping voucher, and the Registrant’s attendance on 6 September 2019 at SU1’s home. She submitted that there was no reason for the Registrant to attend at SU1’s home after the Registrant had left the service. Ms Manning-Rees submitted that the Registrant should have told the University about his ISO and he did not do so.

38. Ms Manning-Rees referred to the HCPTS Practice Note on “Making decisions on a registrant’s state of mind”. As regards sexual motivation, Ms Manning-Rees submitted that Particular 1(e), regarding the concert, was conduct which sought to isolate SU1, who said he thought he would be made to get drunk and become vulnerable. Particular 1(h), regarding the gym, was described by SU1 as “troubling” as the Registrant had stared at him and it was “like a man looks at a woman”. SU1 told IN that he felt groomed, that the Registrant’s conduct was intended to isolate SU1, and that SU1 had felt confused and anxious about the alleged conduct, which he felt was sexual. The evidence also indicated that the Registrant was seeking to make SU1 dependent on him and the secrecy the Registrant sought from SU1 supported that.

39. Ms Manning-Rees said that conduct can be both dishonest and sexually motivated, as alleged, and she submitted that the evidence supported that. She invited the Panel to find the whole Allegation proved.

40. The Legal Assessor reminded the Panel that when considering the facts, the standard of proof is the balance of probabilities and that the Panel needs to assess and weigh all the evidence carefully. The burden of proof is on the HCPC. The Registrant need prove nothing.

41. The Legal Assessor referred the Panel to the HCPTS Practice Note on “Making decisions on a registrant’s state of mind”. He also referred to the guidance on sexual motivation in Basson v GMC [2018] EWHC 505 (Admin), Haris v GMC [2021] EWCA Civ 763, and Arunkalaivanan v GMC [2014] EWHC 873 (Admin). He also referred to the guidance on the proper approach to findings of dishonesty in Ivey v Genting Casinos (UK) Ltd t/a Crockfords [2017] UKSC 67.

Decision on the Facts

Particular 1(a) – Proved

1. Between August 2018 and September 2019 you did not maintain professional boundaries with Service User 1 in that you:

a. Took Service User 1 to McDonalds on one or more occasions;

42. The Panel considered the evidence of SU1, who was clear and credible. He stated in both his live evidence and in his witness statement that this took place on two occasions on a Saturday. The Registrant, in his written submissions made to the IC, also stated that this took place. The incident was also reported in the notes of the meeting on 11 September 2019 when SU1 spoke to IN about his concerns shortly after the events. All of that evidence supported the particular that the Registrant took SU1 to McDonalds on one or more occasions.

43. As regards professional boundaries, the Panel noted that it had not had sight of any case notes maintained by the Registrant in respect of SU1. IN said that these matters were not recorded in SU1’s case notes and she was emphatic about that. She recalled being concerned about the meetings taking place on a Saturday and she expressed a view in her live evidence that this conduct was therefore a breach of professional boundaries. The Panel accepted that evidence.

44. The meetings in McDonalds both took place on a Saturday and SU1 said that it happened twice. The meetings were not recorded by the Registrant in the case notes, as they should have been. On balance, the Panel formed the view that these meetings represented a breach of professional boundaries and found this particular proved.

Particular 1(b) – Proved

b. On at least one occasion, whilst in McDonalds, told Service User 1 to say that you both “had just bumped into each other” or words to that effect, if asked;

45. SU1 was clear and credible in respect of his recollection of this event. He was thoughtful and consistent in his answers. To an extent this was supported by what was reported to IN by the Clinical Service Lead, who saw the Registrant and SU1 in McDonalds and had noticed that the Registrant looked “very uncomfortable”. Whilst that is hearsay, it supports the credible and cogent evidence of SU1 about what the Registrant had said to him at the time. Notably SU1 recalled feeling uncomfortable at the time about the request. The Panel accepted SU1’s evidence and found this also supported the alleged failure to maintain professional boundaries, as the Registrant had asked SU1 to lie. The Panel found this particular proved.

Particular 1(c) – Proved

c. Contacted Service User 1 via text and/or telephone on one or more occasions;

46. The evidence of SU1, IN, and the Registrant in his written submissions all stated that texts were sent and received in the period alleged. IN said she recalled seeing some of them on SU1’s mobile phone when she interviewed him, and she told the Panel that she had taken some of the photographs of the texts which appeared in the HCPC bundle at Exhibits 2 and 4. SU1 did not recall the specific texts he was taken to. IN said that she recalled some but not all of the texts she was taken to.

47. The Panel considered the texts in Exhibits 2 and 4 of the HCPC bundle. The photographs of the texts on SU1’s mobile phone in Exhibit 2 were provided by IN to the HCPC, as she explained in her evidence. Ms Manning-Rees told the Panel that she understood the texts in Exhibit 4 were provided to the IC by the Registrant from his mobile phone, as stated in his written submissions at that time: “I then received a string of texts messages which I submit in evidence”. The Panel noted that some of the texts in Exhibit 4 were duplicated in Exhibit 2. The Panel considered that, on balance, there was sufficient evidence to enable the Panel to find that all of the text messages exhibited were those sent and received by the Registrant and SU1 in the period alleged.

48. The Panel next considered the texts with regard to professional boundaries. The Panel considered, given their content, that the following texts in particular demonstrated a failure by the Registrant to maintain professional boundaries:

a. SU1’s text to the Registrant which told him that he was planning to move away, to which the Registrant replied, “All the support you have here will not be there anymore”; SU1 replied, “What support you are the only support I have I’m causing shit and feeling like a ponce and leach I am so sorry mike”; the Registrant replied, “I get it [SU1] I have never felt that way about you The reason I have helped you beyond what is usual is because you have no one and I know what that feels like ... I have felt like a parent to you [SU1]”.

b. Further texts from the Registrant stated: “I have felt like a parent to you [SU1] and any parent wants the best for their family I understand what it feels like to feel alone and no one is there to care or support you I think that is why I have crossed professional boundaries with you I have helped because I wanted to I was going to talk to you today about how we manage that on the future but I have wanted you to feel that you had at least someone there [SU1]”; to which SU1 replied, “I no that Mike and I’m sorry I’d never sell you out…you’ve been closing thing to a dad to me I’ve said this but I am always indeed of some help some how and I just feel like I am becoming a burden more than anything Mike I’m very upset and depressed atm things aren’t good uno this”.

c. The text at 19:23 on 4 September 2019 (a date after the Registrant had left the CCFT and was no longer SU1’s clinician) from the Registrant to SU1, which stated: “Hello mate. Here's my new number. I'll use it instead of the other one from now. Never forget you are [SU1] Survivor, resilient and still caring. That my friend is golden go for that walk ... clear your lungs and your head. I’ll see you on Saturday ... only 3 days away. Call or text if you need owt. Mike [smiley emoji]”.

d. The text from the Registrant at 09:09 on 7 September 2019, which stated: “[SU1] listen carefully You are not getting me into trouble You are not responsible for what’s happening. I made the choice to keep seeing you ... they have to ask those questions ... sometimes people do get into unhealthy relationships with. Clients. It's not ok But that's not what is happening here. All we have done is tried to help you carry on move forwards. Running away is going to make you feel more isolated”.

e. The texts discussing an investigation and police involvement where the Registrant said: “[SU1] I’m not sure you get how serious it is when health professionals see people out of team”; SU1 replied, “That has nothing to do with my personal phone unless they arrest me..”; the Registrant replied: “If they think I have been behaving badly with you they could involve the police. So that’s not about you or whether I trust you”; SU1 later in the discussion texted, “behaving badly whats that mean”; the Registrant replied, “They might be thinking all sorts of things are going on between us. You should expect them to ask you about this on Wednesday”; SU1 in that discussion later asked the Registrant: “Are you under investigation I’m asking you mike as that how they putting it across if so I’ll delete my number today”; to which the Registrant replied, “It seems that way, Although I haven’t heard from them yet. So how will you explain how we kept in contact this is my issue not yours I will deal with it”; SU1 then asked, “I want to know what is going on mike tell me the truth”; SU1 ended the discussion stating: “uno forget it anyway I’m not going back there ever again”

49. The Panel found that these texts variously sought to befriend SU1, some occurred after the professional relationship ended on 2 August 2019, and some expressed secretive discussions about an investigation involving the Registrant. It was apparent from SU1’s responses that some of the texts concerned, confused, and upset him, to the point he stated that he would no longer engage with the CCFT.

50. The Panel found that there was nothing to suggest that these texts were appropriate, professional, or clinically justified. The Panel found that these texts did not maintain professional boundaries and the particular was proved.

Particular 1(d) – Proved

d. Drove Service User 1 to Hove on one or more occasions;

51. SU1 stated in his evidence that the Registrant drove him to Hove on one or more occasions. The Registrant accepted in his written submissions to the IC that he drove SU1 to Hove on one occasion. He stated that he had the authority to do so. IN said she did not see these visits recorded in SU1’s case notes and that such visits had not been authorised and were not made on a properly understood and appropriate clinical basis. She said that she was the person who would have been required to authorise such an activity. She was not approached by the Registrant and did not give her permission.

52. The Panel accepted the evidence of IN and preferred it to the untested evidence of the Registrant’s written submissions to the IC. The Panel concluded that the activity was not authorised by IN, was not recorded, and was not clinically justified. Therefore, the Panel was satisfied that the Registrant did not maintain proper professional boundaries and found this particular proved.

Particular 1(e) – Proved

e. Offered to take Service User 1 to a DJ Fatboy Slim concert;

53. There was no dispute that this offer took place. SU1 confirmed this in his evidence and the Registrant did not deny it, although he stated in his written submissions that the idea came from SU1. However, SU1 was clear that the Registrant offered to do this unsolicited and SU1 said that he did not want to go. SU1 said to the Panel that he thought it was an odd suggestion to make. There was no evidence that this activity was authorised and that it had any proper clinical or therapeutic basis. In the absence of any such evidence, the Panel concluded that this particular was proved and that the offer by the Registrant did not maintain proper professional boundaries.

Particular 1(f) – Proved

f. Asked Service User 1 whether he wanted a ‘blowie’ or words to that effect;

54. SU1 was clear and cogent in his evidence about this particular. He recalled clearly what the Registrant said, when he had said it, and what they had been doing at the time. SU1 was clear that he was surprised by the statement and recalled the Registrant then told him to “calm down”. SU1’s recollection was detailed and he understood that the reference to “blowie” was a reference to oral sex. The Panel accepted SU1’s evidence. It did not accept the explanation offered by the Registrant in his written statement, where he claimed it was not sexual but was a reference to something else. He did not deny it was said. The Panel found that in no circumstances would such a suggestion to a service user ever be appropriate, and it decided that this particular was proved and that the Registrant did not maintain proper professional boundaries.

Particular 1(g) – Proved

g. Described women as ‘not being good’ for Service User 1, or words to that effect;

55. SU1 was clear in his recollection of this statement by the Registrant. He also recalled discussions initiated by the Registrant about the issue of relationships with women. The Registrant stated that this was raised in part of a discussion when SU1 said he enjoyed sex with women. The Panel accepted SU1’s evidence and found that this particular was proved. Further, it concluded that this was inappropriate and seemed to be an attempt by the Registrant to instil distrust in others. The Panel decided that this comment was indeed made and that the Registrant did not maintain proper professional boundaries.

Particular 1(h) – Proved (“asked”); Not Proved (“joined”)

h. Asked Service User 1 which gym he attended and then joined the same gym;

56. SU1 told the Panel that the Registrant asked him what gym he attended. SU1 understood that the Registrant was a member of the same gym franchise. SU1 said in his witness statement that he attended the gym early at 05:00 and that the Registrant then started attending the same gym location at the same time. The Registrant stated in his written submission that he was already a member of the same gym location and that SU1 told him he was a member of that gym. The Panel preferred the evidence of SU1 and found that the Registrant asked SU1 which gym location he attended. SU1 did not know when the Registrant joined the gym.

57. The Panel found this particular proved in part, to the extent only of the Registrant having asked SU1 which gym he attended. For the avoidance of doubt, the Panel did not find that the Registrant did not maintain proper professional boundaries in that regard.

Particular 1(i) – Proved

i. Offered to pay Service User 1’s electricity bill(s);

58. SU1 stated that on one occasion the Registrant offered to pay his electricity bill, but did not say when that took place. The Registrant stated in his written submissions that he gave SU1 £40 to get some food, electric, and gas about five weeks after the Registrant left the CCFT on 2 August 2019. That was consistent with SU1’s evidence. The Panel concluded that this particular was proved.

59. As regards professional boundaries, the Panel noted this offer took place after the Registrant left the CCFT. Nonetheless, the Registrant remained a professional Practitioner Psychologist and the timing of this offer was when the Registrant was actively continuing contact after his professional duty to SU1 had ended. The Panel decided that to make such an offer to pay SU1’s electricity bill was a breach of professional boundaries. In offering to do so, the Registrant did not maintain proper professional boundaries. The Panel found this particular proved.

Particular 1(j) – Proved

j. Attempted to add credit to Service User 1’s mobile phone;

60. SU1 stated that the Registrant frequently topped up SU1’s mobile phone without asking him. The Registrant was silent on this matter. The Panel accepted SU1’s evidence and found that the Registrant not only attempted, as alleged in Particular 1(j), but in fact did add credit several times to SU1’s mobile phone. This would necessarily include the lesser “attempt” to add credit as alleged. Accordingly, the Panel found this proved. As regards maintaining professional boundaries, whilst there may be exceptional occasions to add credit to a service user’s mobile phone when they are at risk, that situation did not arise here. In any event, such occasions should be recorded in a service user’s case notes. SU1 stated that he thought the Registrant’s actions were “weird” and that he did not ask the Registrant to add credit to his mobile phone. The Panel decided that this conduct did not maintain proper professional boundaries.

Particular 1(k) – Proved

k. Provided Service User 1 with money by bank transfer and/or in cash on one or more occasion;

61. SU1 was clear in his evidence that this took place more than once, by both bank transfers and cash. SU1 stated in his witness statement that the Registrant gave him cash “sometimes” and that money was paid to him from the Registrant’s own bank account on more than one occasion. The Registrant did not dispute this, or that he told SU1 that he did not want the money to be repaid. The Registrant stated in his written submission: “I agreed that I would send him £40 so that he could eat and get some electric and gas. The following morning [SU1] told me that they had been taken from a pending direct debit at his bank. I agreed to send it again as he was still in the same position: I questioned his reasoning but knew that sometimes banks will keep payments pending unless they are cancelled. I considered the boundary to be appropriate· given the fact that the relationship between us was no longer formal or therapeutic. I told him I did not want the money back. I also told him that I would need to talk to him about managing any further requests in the future which he agreed to.”

62. The Panel decided that to provide cash and to transfer money to a service user was a breach of professional boundaries. It is not appropriate to make gifts, including financial gifts, to a service user as it risks creating dependency. In addition, IN told the Panel that there were procedures in place for service users who were short of funds and that the CCFT would assist them in accessing this service when necessary. The Panel found this particular proved.

Particular 1(l) – Proved

l. Made unprofessional comments about members of the Croydon Community Forensic Team namely that ‘they are rubbish’ and/or that Service User 1’s ‘new care coordinator is stupid’ or words to that effect.;

63. SU1 stated that this discussion took place in general terms. He said that the Registrant told him the care team at CCFT were “useless” and not to be trusted. At SU1’s interview with IN on 11 September 2019, SU1 was reported as stating that the Registrant told him that, “[SU1’s] new care coordinator was stupid”. SU1 also told IN at that interview that the Registrant had said to him, “you don't have to go to see the team … they are rubbish”.

64. The Datix record on 10 September 2019 stated that, “service user says that former staff member told him that his current care coordinator was not capable to doing her job. He told former staff member that my new care coordinator was stupid”. The text on 7 September 2019 at 08:51 from the Registrant to SU1 stated: “With everything that's happening with the team right now it's them I don't trust. They have proved they will sell me down the river and that’s what’s making me feel anxious”.

65. There was also a text message from SU1 to the Registrant stating, “you tell me how bad the team is …”. The Registrant did not appear to contradict this.

66. The Panel accepted this evidence and found that the Registrant made unprofessional comments about members of the CCFT and used the words quoted and, therefore, words to that effect as stated in the Allegation. These were the words recalled by SU1 and recorded in the notes of interview on 11 September 2019 with IN, when SU1 reported his concerns in detail to her. To have such a conversation about the team with SU1, and for the Registrant to undermine and criticise the CCFT and SU1’s trust in that team, was unprofessional and inappropriate. The Registrant’s conduct did not maintain proper professional boundaries and the Panel found this particular proved.

Particular 1(m) – Proved
Particular 1(n) – Proved

m. Gave Service User 1 a bicycle as a gift;

n. Gave Service User 1 a television as a gift;

67. SU1 stated in his witness statement that the Registrant gave him a brand new red specialized bike and a new TV, which was delivered to SU1’s home. The bike and a TV are also discussed in texts between them. The Panel accepted that evidence and found these two particulars proved. The Panel found that this conduct was unprofessional. Making gifts to service users, particularly high value items, is not appropriate and breaches professional boundaries and risks creating dependency. The Panel found both these particulars proved as to the making of the gifts and professional boundaries.

Particular 1(o) – Proved

o. Discouraged Service User 1 from seeing his child;

68. SU1 referred to this particular and said that the Registrant had tried to persuade SU1 not to see his child, who had some difficulties. SU1 said that the Registrant had told him contact with his child would not be good for him. SU1 stated in his witness statement that this made him feel upset and bad about having a child who was “different”. SU1 said in his live evidence that it was as if the Registrant did not want him to have any emotional ties. The Panel accepted that evidence and it found this particular proved. It found that it was highly unprofessional for the Registrant to do so and that the Registrant did not maintain proper professional boundaries. The Panel found this particular proved.

Particular 1(p) – Not Proved

p. Informed Service User 1’s college of his prior convictions when this was not required;

69. SU1 stated that the Registrant “made him” disclose his spent convictions to the college he was applying to. SU1 further stated in his witness statement that the college later informed him he did not need to disclose spent convictions. However, the evidence before the Panel did not support the allegation that the Registrant informed SU1’s college. The Registrant advised SU1, but the Registrant did not inform the college. The Panel did not find evidence to support this particular and found it not proved.

Particular 1(q) – Proved

q. Took a photograph of Service User 1 without his permission on one or more occasions.

70. SU1 stated in his live evidence and his witness statement that the Registrant had taken a photograph of him without asking him, and that he had previously told the Registrant not to do so, but the Registrant took another photograph anyway. SU1 also stated in his witness statement that the Registrant took photographs of him several times without his permission. This issue was also discussed and recorded in the notes of the Safeguarding Adults Planning meeting on 4 November 2019.

71. The Panel found this particular proved. It found that to take photographs of a service user without consent undermined the professional relationship of trust and was highly unprofessional and breached professional boundaries. The Panel found this particular proved.

Particular 2 – Proved

2. On or around December 2018 you gave a £60 shopping voucher for Service User 1, as a gift.

72. SU1 stated in his live evidence that he had received a £60 Sainsbury’s voucher from the Registrant. This was consistent with SU1’s witness statement, which described the gift in some detail. The voucher was also discussed at the interview with IN in September 2019. The Registrant, in his written submissions, stated it was £10. The Panel preferred the evidence of SU1 and found this particular proved.

Particular 3 – Proved

3. On or around 6 September 2019, after ceasing employment with South London & Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, you attended Service User 1’s home.

73. SU1 stated in his witness statement that the Registrant attended his home, stating he “would often turn up my house”. The Metropolitan Police summary in the HCPC bundle also reported that they attended SU1’s home regarding a complaint of harassment, stating:

“On Friday 4th October 2019, Police attended a scheduled appointment at 1100 hours regarding harassment …

The informant … a mental health nurse has raised concerns with the Police regarding the victim, [SU1]. [The nurse] states that SU1 has complained of receiving unwanted attention from a former staff member, named [the Registrant]. It is alleged that [the Registrant] turned up at [SU1’s] flat at early hours on 06th September 2019 for no reason. He continually calls [SU1] who does not feel comfortable about this. Furthermore, states that [the Registrant] asked him to move house so he could continue to see him.

This has been reported to the Police by [the Nurse] as [SU1] did not want to report it.”

74. This concern was also discussed and was recorded in the notes of the second Adult Safeguarding meeting about SU1 on 13 March 2020. The Panel accepted this evidence, which is consistent with SU1’s evidence, and found this particular proved.

Particular 4 – Proved

4. Between 11 November 2019 and 20 November 2019 you did not notify the University of London City that you were subject to an Interim Suspension Order and/or that you were unable to undertake the work of an external supervisor.

75. The Panel considered the emails exhibited by SS from the University and a number of the students. Those emails enquired about the Registrant’s supervision of students and make clear that three students did not know about the ISO until contacted by the University on 20 November 2019. A further student said that their supervision did not take place once they were told by the University about the issue on 20 November 2019.

76. The Registrant, in his written statement, stated that he had contacted all the students he was supervising. He did not state that he contacted the University and he did not state that he was unable to undertake work as an external supervisor. There was no evidence which indicated that he notified the University, and the evidence before the Panel in the emails from the University and the students indicated that the Registrant did not do so. The Panel found this particular proved.

Particular 5 – Proved (1(b)); Not Proved (4)

5. The conduct set out in particulars 1(b) and/or 4 was dishonest.

77. The Panel found Particular 1(b) proved. The Panel was mindful of the guidance in Ivey on dishonesty. The Panel considered the circumstances, which were that SU1 and the Registrant were seen together in McDonalds by a colleague of the Registrant. The Registrant has been found to have told SU1 in those circumstances, if he was asked about it, to say that they “had just bumped into each other” or words to that effect. This comment was not true.

78. The Registrant knew that the comment was not true as he had not just “bumped into” SU1. As regards to the circumstances of their meeting, the Panel preferred the evidence of SU1, who said that the Registrant would frequently ask SU1 to meet him at McDonalds so that he could buy him a meal. The Registrant therefore knew that what he asked SU1 to say as regards to “bumping into” each other was untrue, yet he nonetheless tried to persuade SU1 to lie in order to protect the Registrant’s position.

79. Viewed objectively, the Panel decided that an ordinary decent person would consider the Registrant’s conduct in this regard to have been dishonest. The Panel concluded that Particular 1(b) was dishonest.

80. The Panel next considered whether its finding at Particular 4 was dishonest. The Panel considered the Placement Approval Form, which asks for an HCPC registration number and requires a supervisor to have clinical accountability. SS said that it was implicit in the engagement, but not clearly stated, that a supervisor must inform the University about a restriction on their practice. The Registrant was suspended on 11 November 2019 and by 20 November 2019, when the University checked his registration, he had not by that date told them about the ISO. The Registrant did not undertake any supervision in that period.

81. The Panel considered the written submissions from the Registrant, who stated that he had contacted the students and was arranging to refund them. The emails showed that some students did not know about the issue when contacted by the University on 20 November 2019.

82. The Panel considered that there was insufficient evidence to show that the Registrant was being dishonest. SS was clear that the Registrant was not explicitly required to report his ISO to the University. The Panel found that the Registrant ought, nonetheless, to have done so promptly. However, viewed objectively, the Panel decided that the Registrant’s behaviour, whilst ill-advised and reflecting poor judgement, was not dishonest. Whilst the Registrant ought to have advised the University promptly, the Panel decided that his failure to do so was not dishonest.

Particular 6 – Proved (in relation to the factual particulars found proved)

6. The conduct set out in particulars 1(a-q), 2, 3 and/or 5 above was sexually motivated.

83. The Panel accepted the Legal Assessor’s advice. It was mindful of the HCPTS Practice Note on “Making decisions on a registrant’s state of mind” and the guidance in the cases of Basson, Haris, and Arunkalaivanan. It also considered the Professional Standards Authority’s “Clear sexual boundaries between healthcare professionals and patients: guidance for fitness to practise panels” (2008). It considered the central question arising from the guidance in Basson, which states, “A sexual motive means that the conduct was done either in pursuit of sexual gratification or in pursuit of a future sexual relationship.”

84. The Panel examined all the evidence and the circumstances, including the facts, the history, the Registrant’s explanation such as it was in his written submissions to the IC, and the evidence as to his character, and it considered whether the alleged state of mind of sexual motivation could reasonably be inferred from the evidence. It was also mindful of the need to consider whether any plausible alternative motive for his actions and conduct could be found in the evidence.

85. The Panel took account of the previous good character of the Registrant. There was no evidence before the Panel that the Registrant has any previous fitness to practise history or any previous concerns about his professional practice. The Panel considered the reflective piece submitted by the Registrant to the IC, where he expressed regret and remorse. He acknowledged that he was engaged in “rescuing” behaviour and had lost his objectivity.

86. The Panel has found that on the occasions as alleged in Particulars 1(a) to 1(q) (except for 1(h) in part and 1(p)), the Registrant did not maintain proper professional boundaries. The Panel was required to decide whether all, or any, of these particulars, as well as particulars 2, 3, and 5, were sexually motivated. The central question for the Panel was whether the Registrant’s conduct was undertaken either in pursuit of sexual gratification or in pursuit of a future sexual relationship with SU1.

87. The Panel considered the circumstances and the evidence in the round. The findings in respect of the sub-particulars at Particular 1 and at Particulars 2, 3, and 5 built a picture of what the Panel concluded was an increasingly inappropriate out-of-hours and non-professional relationship with SU1. Professional boundaries were repeatedly breached in an escalating course of conduct by the Registrant towards SU1, a vulnerable service user. The Registrant was one of the health professionals whose role was to support him. It was not the Registrant’s role to befriend SU1.

88. The Panel took account of the following factors:

• SU1 was highly vulnerable and the Registrant knew that to be the case;

• The dishonesty and encouragement by the Registrant of SU1 to lie about their meetings in McDonalds;

• The Registrant taking photographs of SU1 without SU1’s consent despite SU1 having asked him not to do so;

• The Registrant’s comments to SU1 about women not being “good”;

• The Registrant’s comments to SU1 about the CCFT team being useless and untrustworthy;

• The Registrant discouraging SU1 from having contact with his child;

• The financial matters, namely the Registrant giving SU1 cash, money, a shopping voucher, mobile phone credit, a bike, and a TV.

• The presence of the Registrant at SU1’s gym,

• SU1’s evidence that the Registrant stared at him at the gym and made him feel uncomfortable;

• SU1’s evidence that the Registrant often made him feel uncomfortable and “weird”;

• The Registrant's attendance, uninvited, at SU1’s house on more than one occasion, resulting in such concern by a mental health nurse that she contacted the police and reported the Registrant for harassment.

• The many texts sent and received between SU1 and the Registrant, some sent at unsocial hours (the texts being those provided by the Registrant to the IC and those photographed by IN from SU1’s mobile phone in September 2019).

• SU1’s text to the Registrant in which told him that he was planning to move away, to which the Registrant replied, “All the support you have here will not be there anymore”; SU1 replied, “What support you are the only support I have I’m causing shit and feeling like a ponce and leach I am so sorry mike”; the Registrant replied, “I get it [SU1] I have never felt that way about you The reason I have helped you beyond what is usual is because you have no one and I know what that feels like...I have felt like a parent to you [SU1]”.

• The further texts from the Registrant stating, “I have felt like a parent to you [SU1] and any parent wants the best for their family I understand what it feels like to feel alone and no one is there to care or support you I think that is why I have crossed professional boundaries with you I have helped because I wanted to I was going to talk to you today about how we manage that on the future but I have wanted you to feel that you had at least someone there [SU1]”; to which SU1 replied, “I no that Mike and I’m sorry I’d never sell you out … you’ve been closing thing to a dad to me I’ve said this but I am always indeed of some help some how and I just feel like I am becoming a burden more than anything Mike I’m very upset and depressed atm things aren’t good uno this”.

• The text at 09:23 on 4 September 2019 (a date after the Registrant had left the CCFT and was no longer SU1’s clinician) from the Registrant to SU1, which stated, “Hello mate. Here's my new number. I'll use it instead of the other one from now. Never forget you are [SU1] Survivor, resilient and still caring. That my friend is golden go for that walk ... clear your lungs and your head. I’ll see you on Saturday ... only 3 days away. Call or text if you need owt. Mike [smiley emoji]”.

• SU1 apologising to the Registrant for wanting to leave and move to Scotland. The Registrant responded by text to SU1 stating, “Running away rarely helps. Initially you feel better but after the newness wears off then I think you will feel worse”; SU1 responded, “You have helped me more than anyone but I feel like your just getting yourself in a shit situation becoz of me Mike and I hate doing this to people I’ve let you down”.

89. The Registrant, in the text conversations, talked about his relationship with SU1. The Panel recognised that the Registrant did eventually raise a safeguarding concern with CCFT on 8 September 2019 about SU1’s plans to leave the area; however, by this point the Registrant had already repeatedly undermined SU1’s trust in the CCFT. This was to the extent where SU1 was already disengaging from the CCFT’s services. The Registrant did not previously concern himself appropriately, as he should have, with SU1’s vulnerability and risks or any clinical needs by encouraging SU1’s engagement with the CCFT. The Registrant repeatedly breached professional boundaries and the Panel found that there was no proper clinical basis for these text conversations. These discussions resulted in SU1, the vulnerable service user, expressing guilt and remorse and apologising to the Registrant.

90. It was significant that, in fact, SU1 never intended to leave the area. He told IN that he had made up the story about going to Germany and to Scotland in order to persuade the Registrant to leave him alone. This evidence gave considerable weight to the Panel’s conclusion that SU1 was uncomfortable and “weirded out” by the Registrant’s conduct and behaviour towards him, as found proved. It supported the Panel’s conclusion that the Registrant was seeking to manipulate SU1.

91. The Panel found SU1 compelling, consistent, and clear in his live evidence and it found he did not seek to embellish or exaggerate his evidence. In respect of all of the Registrant’s conduct which has been found proved, SU1 was open, honest, and authentic when he described that it made him repeatedly feel “uncomfortable” and “weird”. He was clear that the Registrant’s reference to “a blowie” was an overtly sexual comment. He said that he felt the Registrant had at times “come on” to him sexually and that he would find the Registrant looking at him “like a man looks at a woman”.

92. Despite his evident anger and confusion about the Registrant’s conduct towards him, the Panel noted that SU1 was not harsh or overly critical of the Registrant and was balanced and fair in his evidence.

93. The Panel accepted the compelling evidence from SU1 about the sexual overtones he felt in the Registrant’s behaviour, most obviously in the reference to the “blowie”, in the Registrant’s behaviour at the gym, and in the taking of photographs without consent. The Panel accepted SU1’s evidence about the Registrant making him feel uncomfortable and weird.

94. The Panel took account of all the circumstances of the case and the above factors it identified in the evidence. It inferred that the Registrant undertook a deliberate course of conduct directed at SU1, which sought to manipulate SU1 so as to make him more isolated, more vulnerable, and dependent on the Registrant.

95. The Panel found that SU1 did become more vulnerable. The Registrant achieved this by undermining SU1’s trust and confidence in the CCFT team and thereby distancing SU1 from support. He also encouraged SU1 to distance himself from his own child and from women generally. The texts demonstrated the guilt and confusion felt by SU1, which the Panel found was created and stoked by the Registrant to gain a level of control over SU1 who, as a result, was progressively more vulnerable.

96. The Panel found that the factual particulars found proved in 1, 2, 3, and 5 provided cogent evidence that the Registrant was seeking to render SU1 increasingly isolated, vulnerable, and dependent on him. This was consistent with SU1’s evidence that he felt like he was being “groomed”. The Panel found that all of this conduct and behaviour by the Registrant demonstrated a graduated and escalating pathway seeking to isolate SU1 and to develop a co-dependent relationship with him.

97. The Panel concluded that the meetings in McDonalds, the trips to Hove, the money, and the gifts all played a part in seeking to render SU1 dependent on the Registrant, as was the uninvited attendance of the Registrant at SU1’s home in September 2019 at a time after the Registrant had left the CCFT and the professional relationship with SU1 had ended.

98. The lie which the Registrant encouraged SU1 to tell about “bumping” into one another in McDonalds was an attempt by the Registrant to disguise his true motives towards SU1.

99. Having carefully considered all the evidence and the factors it identified, the Panel concluded that the findings of fact were all part of a deliberate course of conduct by the Registrant designed to isolate SU1, make him more vulnerable, and make him dependent on the Registrant. The Panel inferred from all the circumstances that the Registrant’s conduct as found proved was all done in pursuit of a future sexual relationship with SU1. It found all of that conduct was sexually motivated in pursuit of that goal.

100. The Panel found no proper evidential basis for any plausible alternative motive for this conduct.

101. For the avoidance of doubt, the Panel also found that Particular 1(b) was both dishonest and was sexually motivated, being part of the course of conduct by the Registrant in pursuit of a sexual relationship with SU1.

Decision on Grounds & Impairment

Submissions

102. Ms Manning-Rees invited the Panel to find that the Allegation was serious and amounted to misconduct. She submitted that Standards 1, 6, and 9 of the HCPC “Standards of conduct, performance and ethics” (2016) were engaged. She submitted that Standards 2 and 13 of the HCPC “Standards of Proficiency - Practitioner psychologists” (2015) were also engaged. She referred to Roylance v GMC (No. 2) [2001] and submitted that the Registrant’s behaviour found proved fell seriously short of that expected of a professional.

103. On impairment of fitness to practise, Ms Manning-Rees referred the Panel to the HCPTS Practice Note on “Fitness to Practise Impairment” and to the case of CHRE v NMC and Grant [2011] EWHC 927 (Admin). She reminded the Panel of the public and personal components of impairment and the importance of the wider public interest. She submitted that the Registrant had not attended the hearing and he had not demonstrated any current insight or remorse, or any remediation. She submitted that the Registrant’s actions had destroyed SU1’s trust in the CCFT.

104. The Legal Assessor reminded the Panel of the definition of misconduct in Roylance v GMC (No. 2) [2001] 1 AC 311. On the issue of impairment, he reminded the Panel of the guidance in the HCPTS Practice Note “Fitness to Practise Impairment”; in CHRE v NMC and Grant [2011] EWHC 927 (Admin); and in Cohen v GMC [2008] EWHC 581. He reminded the Panel of the central importance of considering the Registrant’s insight, remediation, and the risk of repetition, as well as the wider public interest, including maintaining public confidence in the profession and upholding proper standards. These matters were for the Panel’s professional judgement and there was no onus or burden of proof.

Panel’s Decision on Misconduct

105. The Panel was mindful of the guidance in the Roylance case and accepted the legal advice. It exercised its own professional judgement in assessing misconduct. The Panel carefully considered the HCPC “Standards of conduct, performance and ethics” (“the Standards”) and the HCPC “Standards of Proficiency - Practitioner psychologists” (“the Standards of Proficiency”).

106. The Panel has found proved a serious Allegation involving fundamental breaches of professional duties and responsibilities. The Panel has found proved conduct that was an abuse of trust in respect of a very vulnerable service user, which was exacerbated by the Registrant’s deliberate and sexually motivated behaviour. The Registrant caused enduring harm to SU1.

107. The Panel found that the Registrant breached the following Standards:

1. Promote and protect the interests of service users and carers

Treat service users and carers with respect

1.1 You must treat service users and carers as individuals, respecting their privacy and dignity.

1.7 You must keep your relationships with service users and carers professional.

9. Be honest and trustworthy

Personal and professional behaviour

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

108. The Panel found that the following Standards of Proficiency were breached:

2. be able to practise within the legal and ethical boundaries of their profession

2.1 understand the need to act in the best interests of service users at all times

2.2 understand what is required of them by the Health and Care Professions Council

2.3 understand the need to respect and uphold the rights, dignity, values and autonomy of service users including their role in the assessment, treatment and intervention process and in maintaining health and wellbeing

2.4 recognise that relationships with service users should be based on mutual respect and trust, and be able to maintain high standards of practice even in situations of personal incompatibility

2.7 be able to exercise a professional duty of care

2.8 understand the complex ethical and legal issues of any form of dual relationship and the impact these may have on service users

2.9 understand the power imbalance between practitioners and service users and how this can be managed appropriately

2.10 be able to recognise appropriate boundaries and understand the dynamics of power relationships

109. The Panel concluded that the Registrant’s conduct found proved was serious and fell far below what would have been proper in all the circumstances. The Panel therefore found that it amounted to misconduct.

Panel’s Decision on Impairment

110. The Panel next considered whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired. It accepted the legal advice and it kept in mind the central importance of the protection of the public, the wider public interest, and the guidance in the case of Grant.

111. The Panel considered and took account of the Registrant’s reflective piece dated 20 October 2020, as submitted to the IC. In this document, the Registrant acknowledged to a limited extent the impact on SU1 and he expressed some remorse and regret for his actions. He effectively admitted breaching professional boundaries with SU1. However, in the reflective piece the Registrant expressed the impact of his conduct in generic terms. He did not acknowledge the significant harmful impact on SU1 and the damage caused to him by the Registrant. The Registrant did not offer an apology to SU1.

112. In the documentation submitted by the Registrant in November 2019, he did not address the derogatory comments made in his texts to SU1 about the CCFT. When addressing the concerns around the meetings in McDonalds and the comments of a sexual nature, he laid the blame on SU1, saying that these events were initiated by him. Furthermore, the Registrant suggested that it was in fact he who was vulnerable and that it was SU1 who was trying to isolate and exploit the Registrant. He denied dishonesty, refuting SU1’s account that the Registrant asked him to lie about the reason for them being in McDonalds.

113. The Registrant denied completely any sexual motivation. The Registrant did not mention the impact of his conduct on SU1 in undermining trust in the CCFT. The Registrant failed to acknowledge the vulnerability of SU1, whom he exploited. The reference from Dr H dated 24 June 2020 was not of assistance, as it was centred on alleged mismanagement within South London and Maudsley NHS Trust (“SLAM”), within which the CCFT sits, rather than on the Registrant’s conduct. Further, the Panel noted that there has been no engagement with the HCPC since this reflective piece, despite the Registrant having had some further 18 months to reflect and, indeed, to consider SU1’s witness statement. The Panel concluded that the Registrant’s insight was very limited. There was no evidence of any remediation.

114. The Panel considered the dishonesty aspect of the findings. It found that the Registrant’s dishonesty was part of a graduated pathway of sexually motivated conduct and, given the context, was of the most serious nature. That dishonesty was entirely self-serving, designed by the Registrant to use a vulnerable service user, SU1, to provide cover for the Registrant, who knew at the time that he was breaching professional boundaries.

115. Further, the Panel has found that the Registrant’s conduct was sexually motivated. He manipulated and abused SU1, a vulnerable service user, for his own sexually motivated ends. The Registrant attempted to isolate SU1 from other members of his family and from therapeutic services and render SU1 increasingly dependent on him. In the process, he caused SU1 significant anxiety, distress, and enduring harm.

116. The Panel had no up-to-date evidence as to the Registrant’s current circumstances and it had no current evidence about his insight or remorse, or any steps he has taken to remediate his practice. In all these circumstances, the Panel found that there remains a risk of repetition of the conduct found proved. Indeed, given the serious lack of insight and remediation, the Panel found that the Registrant presents a high risk of repetition and presents a real risk of significant harm to the public.

117. The Panel considered that all four limbs of the test regarding current impairment in Grant were engaged:

“Do the finding show that fitness to practise is impaired in the sense that:

a) Has the Registrant in the past acted and/or is liable in the future to act in a way so as to put service users at unwarranted risk of harm;

b) Has the Registrant in the past brought and/or is liable in the future to bring the profession into disrepute;

c) Has the Registrant in the past breached and/or is liable in the future to breach one of the fundamental tenets of the profession?

d) Has in the past acted dishonestly and/or is liable to act dishonestly in the future.”

118. The Panel found that the Registrant has and is likely in the future to put service users at unwarranted risk of harm; has and is likely in the future to bring the profession into disrepute; has and is likely in the future to breach fundamental tenets of the profession, namely trust and integrity; and that he has and is likely in the future to act dishonestly. Consequently, the Panel concluded that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired with regard to the personal component.

119. The Panel was also mindful of the guidance in Grant and Cohen on the central importance of the wider public interest and the need to safeguard public confidence both in the profession and the HCPC. It considered what a member of the public would make of the Registrant’s conduct and the effect which this would have on the reputation of the profession.

120. The Panel determined that the public would be appalled by the conduct of the Registrant. The Panel determined, given the nature and gravity of the misconduct found, that in order to declare and uphold proper standards and to maintain confidence in the profession and the regulator, that a finding of impairment is required on public interest grounds. The Panel therefore also concluded that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired on the public component.

Decision on Sanction

Submissions

121. Ms Manning-Rees invited the Panel to give consideration to the HCPC’s Sanctions Policy (“the Policy”). In particular, she drew attention to the paragraphs in relation to dishonesty (paragraphs 56-58); abuse of professional position (paragraphs 67-69); former service users (paragraph 70); predatory behaviour (paragraphs 71-72); vulnerability (paragraph 73-75); and sexual misconduct (paragraph 76-77). She submitted that the Panel would note these paragraphs all fell under what is described in the Policy as serious cases, and conduct of this kind was therefore likely to attract the most serious sanctions.

122. Ms Manning-Rees reminded the Panel that the purpose of fitness to practise proceedings is not to punish registrants but to protect the public. However, in reaching decisions, the Panel must also give appropriate weight to the wider public interest, which includes:

• The deterrent effect to other registrants;

• The reputation of the profession;

• Public confidence in the Regulator.

123. Finally, she submitted that it was incumbent upon her to remind the Panel that, should it choose to deviate from the Policy, it needed to provide clear and cogent reasons for doing so.

124. The Legal Assessor referred the Panel to the Policy and reminded it to act proportionately. He advised the Panel to consider sanction in ascending order and to apply the least restrictive sanction necessary to protect the public. It should also consider any aggravating and mitigating factors, and be mindful of the public interest and that the primary purpose of sanction is protection of the public.

125. The Panel found there were few mitigating factors in this case. It identified the following factors, to all of which it attached limited weight:

• No evidence of the Registrant having any previous fitness to practise history;

• Some limited evidence of the Registrant’s difficult personal circumstances in 2016, prior to the time of the Allegation;

• Some limited recognition by the Registrant that he had breached professional boundaries;

• Some limited insight by the Registrant in 2020 into the less serious aspects of his misconduct;

• An indication from the sole referee, Dr H, that in 2020 he would have employed the Registrant as a Practitioner Psychologist irrespective of the outcome of the hearing.

126. The Panel identified the following aggravating factors, all of which it found were serious:

• A calculated and deliberate course of conduct by the Registrant over a prolonged period to isolate and exploit a vulnerable service user;

• Enduring, actual harm caused to SU1;

• No insight by the Registrant into his dishonesty or sexual motivation;

• No evidence from the Registrant of remediation;

• An abuse of trust and his professional position of power by the Registrant;

• The Registrant sought to apportion blame to a vulnerable service user;

• Damage to the reputation of the profession and public confidence;

• A lack of meaningful engagement by the Registrant with his Regulator since 2020.

127. The Panel found that these were powerful aggravating factors. The Panel took account of the Policy and it found that all of the following aggravating factors were engaged:

• breach of trust (paragraphs 45 – 47);

• lack of insight or apology (paragraphs 51 and 52);

• lack of remediation (paragraph 53)

• harm to service users (paragraphs 54 and 55)

• dishonesty (paragraphs 56 – 58)

• predatory behaviour (paragraph 71)

• vulnerability (paragraphs 73 – 75)

• sexual misconduct (paragraphs 76 and 77)

128. The Panel approached sanction beginning with the least restrictive first, bearing in mind the need for proportionality. Taking no further action and the sanction of a Caution Order would not reflect the gravity of the Allegation found proved and the finding of impairment. The Panel has found limited insight and no remediation by the Registrant. These sanctions would not be adequate to protect the public or to satisfy the wider public interest in maintaining confidence in the profession and the regulatory process. Neither order was appropriate nor proportionate in the circumstances of this case.

129. The Panel next considered a Conditions of Practice Order. The Allegation found proved was of the most serious nature and gravity. The dishonesty and sexual motivation found were attitudinal and there was no evidence that the Registrant has insight into these matters. There has been limited engagement and there was no evidence of remediation. The Panel has found that there is a high risk of repetition. The Panel had no information before it as to the Registrant’s current circumstances.

130. In these circumstances the Panel could not formulate sufficient, workable, realistic, or proportionate conditions of practice that would appropriately manage the risks identified. Further, given the seriousness of the misconduct, conditions of practice would not be appropriate or sufficient to protect the public and would fail to maintain public confidence in the profession and the Regulator.

131. The Panel next considered a Suspension Order. The Registrant has shown only limited insight into some aspects of his misconduct. He has shown no insight into his dishonesty and his sexually motivated and manipulative conduct towards a highly vulnerable service user, SU1. He has provided no evidence of any remediation in respect of his behaviour. He has chosen not to engage with his Regulator since November 2020.

132. The Panel found, given the nature and gravity of the misconduct found, that there was nothing to indicate that the Registrant is able or willing to resolve or remedy his serious failings. The misconduct strikes at the heart of the fundamental tenets of the profession; trust and integrity. The Panel had no evidence before it that the Registrant has acknowledged and recognised the full extent of the seriousness of his conduct, and the harm he caused to SU1 and to the reputation of the profession.

133. In all these circumstances, the Panel determined that a Suspension Order would not adequately protect the public or the wider public interest.

134. The Panel next considered the sanction of Striking Off. The Allegation found proved involved the most serious, persistent, and deliberate misconduct by the Registrant, which involved the abuse and manipulation of a vulnerable service user and was sexually motivated. The Panel has found that there are powerful aggravating factors in this case, including abuse of trust, sexual misconduct, and dishonesty.

135. The Panel determined that in all the circumstances of this case any sanction less than Striking Off would not adequately protect the public. The Panel further determined that due to the gravity of the Allegation, any lesser sanction would lack the necessary deterrent effect and would undermine public confidence both in the profession and the Regulator.

136. The Panel therefore decided, in all the circumstances, that the only sanction that would adequately and proportionately protect the public, the wider public interest, and uphold proper standards and public confidence in the profession and the regulator is a Striking Off Order.

137. The Panel accordingly orders that the name of the Registrant be struck from the HCPC Register.

Order

That the Registrar is directed to strike the name of Dr Michael Evans from the Register on the date this order comes into effect.

Notes

Interim Order Application

1. In light of its findings on sanction, the Panel next considered an application by Ms Manning-Rees for an Interim Suspension Order to cover the appeal period before the Striking Off Order becomes operative.

2. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor, who referred it to the HCPTS Practice Note on “Interim Orders” and on “Proceeding in the absence of the Registrant”. He reminded the Panel that it should once again consider the issues of proceeding in absence and that an Interim Order must be necessary to protect the public or be otherwise in the public interest. The Panel must act proportionately and balance the interests of the Registrant with the need to protect the public. The Registrant was warned in the Notice of Hearing of the possibility that an interim order would be imposed if a sanction was imposed at the hearing.

3. The Panel was mindful of its earlier findings and concluded that an Interim Order was necessary to protect the public in the appeal period. The Panel decided that that it would be wholly incompatible with its earlier findings and with the Striking Off Order imposed to conclude that an Interim Suspension Order was not necessary for protection of the public or otherwise in the public interest.

4. Accordingly, the Panel concluded that an Interim Suspension Order should be imposed on both public protection and public interest grounds. It determined that it is appropriate that the Interim Suspension Order be imposed for a period of 18 months to cover any appeal period. When the appeal period expires, this Interim Order will come to an end unless there has been an application to appeal. If there is no appeal, the Striking Off Order shall apply once the 28-day appeal period expires.

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Mr Michael Evans

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
28/03/2022 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Struck off