Edward Watters

Profession: Paramedic

Registration Number: PA35034

Hearing Type: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 03/05/2022 End: 17:00 03/05/2022

Location: Virtual via video conference

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Caution

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Allegation

As a registered Paramedic (PA35034) your fitness to practise is impaired by reason of conviction. In that:

1.On 17 August 2020, you were convicted at Newcastle under Lyme Magistrates Court of driving a motor vehicle after consuming so much alcohol that the proportion of it in your breath, namely 122 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath, exceeded the prescribed limit. Contrary to section 5(1)(a) of the Road Traffic Act 1988 and Schedule 2 to the Road Traffic Offences Act 1988.


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

Finding

Preliminary matters

Service and proceeding in absence

1. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel had sight of an email dated 14 March 2022, sent to the Registrant at his registered email address, giving notice of the hearing. There was also an email receipt proving delivery. It therefore determined that service had been complied with in accordance with the Health and Care Professions Council (Conduct and Competence Panel) (Procedure) Rules 2003.

2. With the Registrant not present, Ms Khorassani made an application to proceed in his absence.

3. The Panel heard and accepted the legal advice from the Legal Assessor, who referred it to the case of the GMC v Adeogba [2016] EWCA Civ 162, and the principles to be considered when deciding whether or not to proceed in the absence of a Registrant. The Panel had in mind the need to exercise its discretion to proceed with the utmost care and caution, particularly because the Registrant was not represented.

4. The Panel noted the content of an email sent by the Registrant dated 15 March 2022, in which he said he would not be attending the hearing today because it was being dealt with by way of consent. He did not request an adjournment.

5. In light of that clear indication the Panel was satisfied that the Registrant had voluntarily absented himself from the hearing and thereby waived his right to be present. There was nothing to be gained by adjourning the matter and no adjournment had been requested. There was a clear public interest in the matter proceeding and the Panel was satisfied that it was fair to both parties to do so, notwithstanding the Registrant’s absence.
Application for part of the hearing to be in private

6. At the outset of the hearing Ms Khorassani made an application under Rule 10 of the HCPC Practice Committee Rules, for part of the hearing to be in private. She indicated that some reference might be made to the Registrant’s health and if so those should be dealt with in private.

7. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor that, although hearings are usually heard in public, the Rules allow for the hearing to be heard in private where matters pertaining to the health, or private matters, of the Registrant are to be referred to. The Panel therefore agreed that given the nature of the case, and the link between the matters alleged and the Registrant’s health, it was appropriate to hear those parts of the case relating directly to his health in private in order to protect the private life of the Registrant. However, the rest of the case could be dealt with in public in the usual way.

Background

8. The Registrant is a registered Paramedic with the HCPC.

9. On 19 August 2020, the Registrant emailed a referral to the HCPC in relation to an incident which took place on 16 August 2020, where he had been stopped for drink driving.

10. The Registrant was charged and appeared at Newcastle under Lyme Magistrates Court on 17 August 2020, where he entered a guilty plea.

11. He was sentenced on 7 September 2020 as follows:

a) Community Order to be complied with by 6 September 2021, which included:
• Rehabilitation activity requirement, up to a maximum of 20 days; and
• 100 hours of unpaid work.
b) Payment of a £95.00 surcharge to Victim Services.
c) Payment of £135.00 to the Crown Prosecution Service.
e) Disqualification order from 17 August 2020 for 29 months, with a 29 week reduction if an approved course is completed. The Registrant’s driving record was also endorsed.

12. On 17 September 2020, the Registrant further emailed the HCPC with details surrounding the incident. He said:

“I travelled to Carlisle to pick up a Border Collie Puppy from my home in Shoreham by Sea and stayed in a hotel overnight. The next day I was travelling down the M6 when I was stopped by the police and breathalysed. Unfortunately I was still over the drink drive limit from the night before. I have a completely clear record criminally and Driving Licence previous to this over a 34 year driving period.”

13. The Registrant went on to say:

“I appreciate the severity of what had happened and I am devastated and very remorseful about this situation, however I would very much like to keep my registration if that is at all possible as this was a total one off error “the day after” which is why I stayed in a hotel to avoid this particular event.”

14. On 6 January 2021, the Registrant emailed the HCPC Case Manager (CM) informing them that he had stopped practising as a Paramedic since the incident and would not resume practice until this matter has been resolved. In another email on the same date, to the CM, the Registrant said “I know there is no defence for what has occurred.”

15. On 18 March 2021, the Registrant sent an email to the HCPC entitled ‘Reflective Statement’ in which he said he has been a proud member of the HCPC since 2012 and he was “extremely remorseful of the events that have occurred and the possibility that I may lose my HCPC registration.” He provided some background about how he had been working at private events, rather than the NHS Ambulance Service. He also set up a Medical Recruitment company, which started very well but which suffered dramatically due to Covid-19. He added that he accepted full responsibility for his actions. He said that when he went to pick up the puppy he stayed overnight in a hotel and drank far too much into the early hours.

16. The Registrant went on to say that this event had been a “massive wake up call” for him. He said he had found the monthly support meetings with his Probation Officer to have been extremely helpful.

17. The Registrant said he had completed a Drink Driving course over three weeks with IAM Roadsmart (the Institute of Advanced Motorists) and had learnt a lot. Going forward he was determined that once he had his driving licence back he would pursue a zero tolerance to alcohol when driving. He added that with his wife’s help they had been able to build the business up again and that it was getting quite successful.

18. He concluded by saying, “I totally recognise my failing with the HCPC and bringing the organisation into disrepute by association and would like to apologise to the HCPC for this incident.”

19. The Registrant provided references from his two employers, his wife and two friends, all of whom spoke very highly of him.

20. On 1 April 2021, an Investigating Committee Panel (ICP) determined that there was a case to answer and a Notice of Allegation was sent to the Registrant.

21. On 10 June 2021, the Registrant wrote to the HCPC, confirming that his Fitness to Practise is currently impaired due to his conviction.

22. On 14 June 2021, an amended Notice of Allegation was sent to the Registrant, as reflected above.

23. The Registrant sent a copy of his DVLA driving course completion dated 16 February 2021.

24. On 3 March 2022, the Registrant emailed the HCPTS Scheduling Officer confirming that he will abide by the Panel’s decision for the Hearing today.

25. A Consent Order proposing the Registrant be subject to a two-year Caution Order was sent to the Registrant for consideration. The Registrant agreed to the proposed Consent Order. In this Order the Registrant makes it clear that he accepts the allegation and that he agrees to be subject to a Caution Order for a period of two years from the Operative Date.

26. Before considering the facts, statutory ground, impairment and proposed sanction the Panel heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

Decision on Facts

27. The Panel accepted the Registrant’s admissions to the facts alleged, which were supported by the Memorandum of Conviction, and found the facts proved.

Decision on Grounds

28. The Panel found the statutory ground to be made out by virtue of the Memorandum of Conviction.

Decision on Impairment

29. The Panel noted the Registrant’s acceptance that his fitness to practise was currently impaired by virtue of his conviction. Notwithstanding that acceptance, the Panel reached its own independent conclusion, which was that his fitness to practise was indeed impaired by virtue of the conviction. The Panel noted that the Registrant’s alcohol reading had been significantly over the legal limit, as reflected by the court sentence of a 12-month community order and the long driving ban he had received. By driving whilst under the influence of such an amount of alcohol he clearly put himself and others at risk of injury. However, the Panel did not consider he represented on ongoing risk to the public because: this was an isolated incident; he had shown significant insight and taken effective steps to ensure there would be no repetition (these included attendance on a three week advanced driving course, and he was able to say what he had learned from the course); he had expressed genuine remorse and said he would never drink and drive again; there was no history of such behaviour and the Panel was satisfied that the risk of repetition was very low.

30. The Panel did not, therefore, find the Registrant’s fitness to be impaired on public protection grounds. It did, however, find him to be impaired on public interest grounds. Those registered with the HCPC are expected to understand the need to maintain high standards of personal and professional conduct. On this occasion he failed in this regard and thereby brought the profession into disrepute. By driving whilst under the influence of alcohol, particularly when so far over the legal limit, the Registrant behaved in a way which was likely to undermine public confidence in the profession. In such circumstances, the Panel was satisfied that a finding of current impairment was necessary on public interest grounds.

Decision on Sanction

31. In reaching its decision on whether the proposed sanction of a Caution Order for two years was appropriate and proportionate, the Panel took into account the submissions made by Ms Khorassani together with all the written evidence and all matters of personal mitigation. The Panel also referred to the HCPTS Practice Note on Consent Orders as well as the guidance issued by the Council in its Indicative 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 had already indicated that it did not consider there to be any public protection concerns in this case.

32. The Panel noted that the Registrant has been transparent and forthright in his admission of the allegations throughout the fitness to practise process. In his email dated 10 June 2021 the Registrant said that he considered his fitness to practise is currently impaired due to the above events. In his reflections submitted to the ICP, the Registrant demonstrated insight and remorse for his actions and an understanding of the impact of his behaviour. He has provided a number of positive testimonials from people who speak very highly of him.

33. Based on the evidence available, the Panel was satisfied that the incident of 16 August 2020 was isolated in nature and the Registrant had outlined some mitigating personal circumstances which he indicated may have contributed to his lapse in judgement at the time of the conviction. In completing his drink driving course, complying with the conditions of the Court and going on a 3-week advance motorists’ course, the Registrant had also demonstrated evidence of remediation. In addition, he has demonstrated insight into his behaviour, together with genuine remorse and has taken action to help avoid any repetition.

34. In all the circumstances, the Panel was satisfied that a two-year Caution Order would mark that the Registrant’s conduct was serious, had the potential at the time to cause harm to members of the public and also brought the Paramedic profession into disrepute. The Panel considered the public interest would be satisfied by a two-year Caution Order and that resolving the case in this way would not, in the Panel’s view, be detrimental to the wider public interest. The Panel considered two years was the minimum necessary to satisfy public confidence in the profession, particularly in light of the very high alcohol reading and the risk the Registrant posed to the public at the time of the offence.

35. The Panel did not consider a more onerous sanction was necessary or proportionate in this case.

36. Accordingly, the Panel agrees with the proposed Consent Order.

Order

ORDER: That the Registrar is directed to annotate the register entry of Mr Edward Watters with a caution which is to remain on the register for a period of two years from the date this order comes into effect.

Notes

No notes available

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Edward Watters

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
03/05/2022 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Caution