Mr Lee Lewitt

Profession: Paramedic

Registration Number: PA47740

Interim Order: Imposed on 05 Feb 2021

Hearing Type: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 16/05/2022 End: 17:00 16/05/2022

Location: This hearing is being held virtually.

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Struck off

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Allegation

As a registered Paramedic (PA47740) your fitness to practise is impaired by reason of
conviction in that:


1) On 5 March 2021 in the Crown Court at Truro you were convicted of:

a) 3 counts of Making Indecent Photographs of Children;
b) 1 count of Possessing an Extreme Pornographic Image.

2) By reason of your conviction, your fitness to practice is impaired.

Finding

Preliminary Matters

Service

1. The Registrant was not present at the hearing and was not represented.
2. The Panel was satisfied that the notice of hearing had been sent to the Registrant on 23 March 2022, by email to two email addresses held by the HCPC in respect of the Registrant. The notice set out details of the hearing date; how to join the virtual hearing; the Registrant’s right to attend and be represented; and the Panel’s powers at the hearing. The Panel also had sight of confirmation of the email addresses, a proof of service document and confirmation of email delivery of both emails.
3. The notice of hearing was also sent to the Registrant by a letter dated 23 March 2022, to a postal address for the Registrant which had been obtained by an inquiry agent instructed by the HCPC and notified to the HCPC in a report dated 8 March 2022. The Panel had sight of a proof of posting document.
4. On 14 April 2022 the notice of hearing was also sent by letter to the Registrant’s HCPC registered postal address.
5. The Panel was satisfied in the light of the above that there had been proper service of the notice of the hearing in accordance with the HCPC (Conduct and Competence Committee) (Procedure) Rules 2003 as amended by the (Coronavirus Amendment) Rules 2021 (“the Rules”).

Application to proceed in the Registrant’s absence

6. Mr Corrie, on behalf of the HCPC, confirmed that the HCPC had received no communication from the Registrant in response to the notices of hearing sent to him by email and post. The Registrant had communicated with the HCPC in the period leading up to consideration of his case by the HCPC Case Examiners, but there had been no contact from him since.
7. Mr Corrie submitted that the HCPC had made all reasonable efforts to serve notice of the hearing on the Registrant, as required by Rule 11 of the Rules. His submission was that an adjournment would not ensure the Registrant’s attendance on a future date and that it was in the public interest that the Panel should exercise its discretion to proceed with the hearing today.
8. The Panel considered the submissions on behalf of the HCPC and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel was referred to the HCPTS Practice Note of September 2018, Proceeding in Absence, which sets out guidance from the cases of R v Jones (Anthony) [2004] 1 AC 1HL and GMC v Adeogba and GMC v Visvardis [2016] EWCA Civ 162. Applying that guidance, the Panel was careful to remember that its discretion to proceed in absence is not unfettered and must be exercised with the utmost caution and with the fairness of the hearing at the forefront of its mind.
9. The Panel noted that there was no indication that the Registrant was unable to attend the hearing for any reason, nor that he sought an adjournment. He had communicated with the HCPC at an earlier stage in the process and so was aware that his case was under consideration by the HCPC. In these circumstances, the Panel concluded the Registrant had voluntarily absented himself and had waived his right to be present. The Panel considered that an adjournment would be unlikely to secure the attendance of the Registrant on a future date and therefore it would serve no useful purpose. The Panel was mindful of the public interest in ensuring that HCPC cases are dealt with as expeditiously as possible.
10. The Panel took into account that it may not be in the interests of the Registrant for the hearing to proceed in his absence, but was satisfied that any prejudice to him was outweighed by the public interest in proceeding to deal with the case. The Panel was mindful of its duty to ensure that, in the Registrant’s absence, the hearing should be as fair as circumstances permitted and therefore it would consider any points in the Registrant’s favour which reasonably appeared from the evidence.
11. The Panel was satisfied it was fair and in the public interest to proceed with the hearing today.

Documentation

12. The Panel received the HCPC hearing bundle of 100 pages and a service bundle of 23 pages.

Change of Name Deed

13. The Panel was referred by Mr Corrie to a Change of Name Deed relating to the Registrant, dated 11 April 2021, which appeared in the hearing bundle. This recorded that as from that date the Registrant was to be known by the name of “Jago Lee” and not his former name of “Lee Anthony Lewitt”. Mr Corrie confirmed, as shown in the HCPC Certificate of Registration which appeared in the service bundle, that the Registrant’s name on the HCPC Register is Lee Lewitt.

Background

14. The Registrant is a registered Paramedic. At the time of his conviction, he had been working as a Band 6 Paramedic for South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (“SWAST”).
15. On 5 March 2021, the Registrant appeared at Truro Crown Court. He pleaded guilty to and was convicted of three counts of the offence of making indecent photographs of children and one count of possessing an extreme pornographic image.
16. The Registrant was sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment suspended for 24 months; a 30-day Rehabilitation Requirement; 100 hours of Unpaid Work; Sexual Offenders Registration for 10 years; a Sexual Harm Prevention Order for 10 years; and to pay costs of £535.00.

Response of the Registrant to the allegation

17. The Registrant had not responded to the allegations set out in the notice of hearing nor put forward any submissions.
18. Mr Corrie explained that the Registrant had submitted documentation at the stage of the HCPC Case Examiners’ consideration, namely an undated reflective piece, a reference dated 22 March 2021 from a counselling organisation and the Change of Name Deed.

The HCPC’s case

19. On behalf of the HCPC, Mr Corrie set out the background facts in the case. Mr Corrie relied upon the documentary evidence in the hearing bundle, including a copy of a Certificate of Conviction from Truro Crown Court dated 19 May 2021 confirming details of the Registrant’s conviction on 5 March 2021.
20. Mr Corrie drew the attention of the Panel to information provided by SWAST. This confirmed that the Registrant was employed by SWAST from July 2015, initially as an Emergency Care Assistant and, from 5 July 2019, as a newly qualified Band 6 Paramedic.
21. In respect of the circumstances of the Registrant’s offences, Mr Corrie referred to information provided in the hearing bundle from the Devon and Cornwall Constabulary which confirmed that they had brought this matter to the attention of the HCPC on 3 June 2020, following the Registrant having been arrested on 1 June 2020 and placed under police investigation. The police seized electronic devices belonging to the Registrant including mobile phones, memory sticks, iPads and laptops and details of the Registrant’s Mega NZ account, an encrypted file sharing service account where the images were held. Certain items were forensically examined and were found to show indecent illegal images which the Registrant had accessed on several occasions between, as alleged in the criminal charges, 17 November 2018 and 29 May 2020.
22. The information also confirmed that the Registrant was subsequently summonsed to attend Cornwall Magistrates Court on 4 February 2021 and that the hearing of his case took place at Truro Crown Court on 5 March 2021.
23. The hearing bundle included a transcript of the hearing at Truro Crown Court on 5 March 2021, before His Honour Judge Carr, which provided information about the offences. This confirmed that the images found on the electronic devices following forensic examination by the Police included 7,000 pornographic images, including 3,000 in the highest category. These were:

- 2,721 Category A images;
- 1,456 Category B images
- 3,529 Category C images
- 10 Extreme Pornographic images.

24. The images included still and moving images of children as young as 12 months old. The 10 extreme pornographic images were described in the court proceedings as being “grossly offensive, disgusting or otherwise of an obscene character, and portrayed in an explicit and a realistic way a person performing an act of intercourse or oral sex with an animal”.
25. Mr Corrie explained that Category A related to possession of images containing penetrative sexual activity; Category B related to possession of images containing non-penetrative sexual activity and Category C related to possession of other images not in categories A or B. The categories were set out in the Sentencing Guidance Council guidelines relating to the possession of indecent images of children.
26. Mr Corrie told the Panel that during his police interviews on 1 June 2020 and 19 November 2020, the Registrant made admissions to the offences. He stated that he was addicted to adult pornography and had encountered the illegal images while accessing adult pornography. He denied that he hoarded the illegal images. He said that he had undergone counselling and had engaged with the Lucy Faithfull Foundation.
27. In relation to the factual allegation, Mr Corrie submitted that the conviction and the findings of fact upon which it was based, were proved on the basis of the certificate of conviction from Truro Crown Court, as provided for by Rule 10(1)(d) of the Rules.

Panel decision on Facts.

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

Particular 1

29. The copy of the Certificate of Conviction from Truro Crown Court dated 19 May 2021 confirmed that the Registrant pleaded guilty to the offences and was convicted on 5 March 2021. As provided for by Rule 10(1)(d) of the Rules, the Panel accepted this as proof of the conviction and of the findings of fact upon it was based.
30. The Panel noted the further information concerning the circumstances of the offences and about the criminal proceedings as set out in the evidence contained in the hearing bundle and outlined by Mr Corrie.
31. The Panel was satisfied that the facts of particular 1 were proved.

Submissions on ground and impairment of fitness to practise

32. Mr Corrie referred to the serious nature of the criminal offences of which the Registrant had been convicted. Mr Corrie submitted that the Panel should find the ground of impairment, namely criminal conviction, proved.
33. The HCPC’s position was that the Registrant’s fitness to practise was currently impaired in relation to both the personal and public components of current impairment.
34. In relation to the personal component, Mr Corrie submitted that conduct of this nature may be difficult to remedy and that the Registrant had not demonstrated that he had remedied the criminal conduct. He submitted that the comments of the Registrant as recorded in the SWAST letter relating to the disciplinary proceedings and the reflective statement indicated that the Registrant tended to minimise his past conduct and showed little insight into its impact upon the public.
35. In relation to the public component, Mr Corrie submitted that the Registrant’s conduct undermined public confidence in the profession and in the HCPC as its regulator, bearing in mind that the role of a Paramedic involves dealing with vulnerable people and children. The Registrant’s conduct failed to justify public trust and confidence in the profession.
36. Mr Corrie referred to the authority in the case of CRHP v GDC & Fleischmann [2005] EWHC 87 Admin that a practitioner who has not completed their criminal sentence should not usually be allowed to return to practice without restriction. He reminded the Panel that in respect of the conviction, the Registrant was still subject to the sentence of the criminal court.

Panel decision on grounds and impairment of fitness to practise

37. The Panel considered the evidence and submissions and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel was referred to the HCPTS Practice Note, Fitness to Practise Impairment.
38. In respect of particular 1, the Panel was advised that a criminal conviction is a statutory ground of impairment under Article 22(1)(a)(iii) of the Health Professions Order 2001. Having found the conviction proved at the facts stage, this ground was therefore established.
39. The Panel took the view that a conviction for an offence of taking or making indecent images of children is a serious matter as ultimately it involves the exploitation and abuse of children. The Panel noted the information about the number of images and the extremely serious nature of those in the highest categories of pornographic images. The Panel also had regard to the observations of HHJ Carr when sentencing the Registrant, when he told the Registrant:

“…you have pleaded guilty to the downloading of a significant number of child abuse and extreme pornographic images and that is for which you will be sentenced. I appreciate as an intelligent man you have, I hope by now, realised the enormity of what you did. I am going to remind you of that. Every day tens of thousands of children are raped and abused around the world for the entertainment of people like you. It is a business. The people who rape the children, aged 12, 18 months old or older, do not do so because they have any sexual interest in the child, they do it as a business and it is a business funded by you. Many people would conclude, and I would be one of them, that you bear a considerable responsibility for the systemic abuse of those children.”

40. The Panel concluded that an HCPC registrant who is convicted of such an offence undermines public confidence in the profession and in the HCPC as its regulator.
41. The Panel considered the Registrant’s actions were in breach of the HCPC’s Standards of Conduct Performance and Ethics, specifically Standard 9.1: You must make sure that your conduct justifies the public’s trust and confidence in you and your profession.

Decision on Impairment

42. The Panel next considered whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired by his conviction. The Panel received and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.
43. The Panel was aware that the question of impairment is a matter for its own judgement. In reaching its decision, the Panel had regard to the conduct of the Registrant, the nature, circumstances and gravity of the findings and the critically important public policy issues, in particular the need to maintain public confidence in the profession as well as declaring and upholding the proper standards of conduct and behaviour which the public expects.
44. The Registrant did not take the opportunity to engage with this hearing or to provide any written representations or evidence to the Panel. The Panel noted the information provided by the Registrant at the Case Examiner stage, but was mindful that this was not sworn evidence and had not been tested in cross-examination. The Panel therefore gave limited weight to this information. The Registrant had not provided any information about his current circumstances and he appeared to have disengaged from the HCPC proceedings.
45. In considering the personal component of current impairment, the Panel considered that conduct of the nature in question in this case was difficult to remedy. In reading the documents submitted by the Registrant, the Panel took the view that the Registrant had tended to minimise his past actions, had not fully accepted personal responsibility for them and had not demonstrated true insight into the impact of his actions upon the victims. The Panel concluded that in referring to the “normalisation” of the use of pornography in society, the Registrant failed to acknowledge that the illegal images he accessed involved the abuse and exploitation of extremely young children and he failed to recognise his role in perpetuating this systemic form of abuse, as described by HHJ Carr.
46. The Panel concluded that if it were possible to remedy conduct of the nature in question in this case, the Registrant was far from having done so.
47. Considering the four factors identified by Dame Janet Smith in The Shipman Inquiry as indicating current impairment, the Panel concluded that the Registrant posed a continuing risk of harm to patients and the public. The Panel concluded that the Registrant’s conviction has brought the profession into disrepute and breached fundamental tenets of the profession. The Panel further considered that the Registrant has acted in such a way that his integrity can no longer be relied upon.
48. Accordingly, the Panel concluded there remained a risk of harm to the public and found that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired in respect of the personal component.
49. In relation to the public component of current impairment, the Panel considered whether wider public confidence would be undermined in this case if a finding of current impairment were not made. The Panel took the view that a criminal conviction for taking or making indecent images of children is a serious matter, as ultimately it involves the exploitation and abuse of children. In this case, the number and nature of the images were extremely serious. Some images involved the rape and abuse of some children as young as twelve months. An HCPC registrant who holds such a conviction undermines public confidence in the profession and in the HCPC as its regulator. The Panel was satisfied a member of the public who was aware of the circumstances of this case would be horrified if this Registrant’s fitness to practise were not found to be currently impaired.
50. The Panel concluded that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired by his criminal conviction in respect of both the personal and public components of impairment.

Submissions on Sanction

51. Mr Corrie reminded the Panel of the purpose of regulatory sanctions and of the appropriate approach to considering the sanction stage. He referred the Panel to the HCPC’s Sanctions Policy and to a number of specific paragraphs relevant to this case: those concerning criminal convictions; allegations involving sex offenders; and offences related to indecent images of children.
52. Mr Corrie identified such mitigating and aggravating factors as the Panel might consider were present. He drew attention to the very serious nature of the offences in question. He reminded the Panel that the Registrant was still subject to the different elements of the sentence of the criminal court.
53. Taking into account all the relevant factors, Mr Corrie said the HCPC’s position was that the appropriate sanction in this case would be a Striking Off Order.

Decision on Sanction

54. The Panel took account of the submissions from Mr Corrie on behalf of the HCPC. It accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and referred to the HCPC Sanctions Policy in reaching its decision on sanction.
55. In considering sanction, the Panel was mindful that a sanction is not intended to be punitive, although it may have that effect. The Panel must consider the risk the Registrant may pose in the future and determine what degree of public protection is required. The Panel must also give appropriate weight to the wider public interest which includes the deterrent effect on other registrants, the reputation of the profession and public confidence in the regulatory process.
56. The Panel considered that the following aggravating factors were present:

a. The serious nature of the criminal conviction which concerned pornography involving the exploitation and abuse of infant children;
b. The Registrant had not engaged with the HCPC proceedings.
c. The written information which the Registrant had provided at the earlier stage of the process demonstrated very limited evidence of remorse, insight or attempt to remedy his past actions.

57. In relation to mitigation, the Panel noted:

a. The information from the criminal proceedings which indicated that the Registrant had made admissions and pleaded guilty to the offences;
b. The Judge had taken account of the Registrant’s previous good character and the indication of some developing insight into his offending behaviour. He had been receiving treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and had engaged with the Lucy Faithfull Foundation; and
c. The Registrant had no previous disciplinary or fitness to practise history.

58. Whilst the Panel took these matters into account, it considered that the mitigating factors carried limited weight in the context of these, regulatory, proceedings and the mitigation was outweighed by the gravity of the offences and the strong public protection and public interest factors present in this case.
59. In considering sanction, the Panel referred to the HCPC Sanctions Policy and also had regard to the specific paragraphs concerning criminal convictions; allegations involving sex offenders; and offences related to indecent images of children. The Panel bore in mind paragraph 82 of the Sanctions Policy, which reflects the guidance from the Fleischmann case, that where the Registrant has been convicted of a serious criminal offence and is still serving the sentence a panel should not normally allow the Registrant to return to unrestricted practice until the sentence has been satisfactorily completed. The Panel had been informed that the Registrant is still subject to the period of the suspended prison sentence. He will also be registered as a Sex Offender and subject to a Sexual Harm Prevention Order for 10 years.
60. Taking all these factors into account, the Panel considered whether it was necessary to impose a sanction. The Panel had in mind that the allegations proved were very serious and that its decision must uphold public trust and confidence in the profession. The Panel concluded that in this case, neither mediation nor taking no action would be appropriate. The Panel concluded that a sanction was necessary in the public interest.
61. The Panel considered the sanctions available to it in ascending order of severity, applying the guidance as to the factors relevant to each of the available sanctions.
62. The Panel first considered a Caution Order but concluded that the issues in this case were not minor in nature. Whilst there was no information suggesting that there has been any repetition of the Registrant’s past conduct, the Registrant has not provided the Panel with any up-to-date information showing remorse, insight or attempts to remedy his past actions. The Panel could not be reassured that there is not a risk of repetition in the future. The Panel concluded that a Caution was not appropriate in this case.
63. The Panel also considered that a Conditions of Practice Order would not be appropriate in light of the ongoing sentence of the criminal court and given the nature of this Panel’s findings. The Panel was not satisfied that conditions could address the seriousness of the issues or wider public interest concerns.
64. The Panel carefully considered whether a period of suspension would be the proportionate and appropriate sanction, applying the factors in the Sanctions Policy. The breach of the Standards in this case was serious. The Registrant had demonstrated only limited insight. The Panel could not have confidence that the issues were unlikely to be repeated and it had no evidence that the Registrant was likely to be able or, given his apparent disengagement with the HCPC process, would seek, to remedy his failings.
65. The Panel concluded that the factors indicating a Striking Off order were present. The case involved a criminal conviction involving sexual conduct in that it concerned taking or making indecent images of children. The volume and nature of the illegal images were of a high degree of seriousness. The limited information of insight showed a lack of real understanding of the Registrant’s past actions or their actual impact on the victims, his profession and the wider public. The Panel concluded that only a Striking Off order would be sufficient to protect the public, public confidence in the profession and in the regulatory process and to declare and uphold proper standards of conduct in the Paramedic profession.

Order

ORDER: The Registrar is directed to strike the name of Lee Lewitt (also known as Jago Lee) from the Register on the date upon which this Order comes into effect

Notes

Application for an Interim Order:

66. The Panel having made a substantive Striking Off Order in respect of the Registrant, Mr Corrie made an application for an Interim Suspension Order for a duration of 18 months to cover the appeal period or the period whilst an appeal, if lodged, was dealt with. The grounds of the HCPC’s application were that in the light of the seriousness of the Panel’s findings and of its decision to make a Striking Off Order, an Interim Suspension Order was necessary for the protection of the public and was otherwise in the public interest.
67. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. It bore in mind that an interim order in these circumstances is discretionary. The Panel must consider whether an interim order is required, applying the test set out in Article 31(2) of the Health Professions Order 2001, and if it so decides, must act proportionately. This means balancing the public interest with the interests of the Registrant, and imposing the lowest order which will adequately protect the public.
68. The Panel considered the issue of proportionality and balanced the interests of the Registrant with the public interest. The Panel had determined to impose a substantive Striking Off Order in this case. Given the gravity of its findings and the sanction imposed, for the reasons explained in full in its substantive decision, the Panel considered it would be inconsistent not to impose an immediate interim order to address the residual risk and public interest issues.
69. The Panel considered whether interim conditions of practice would be appropriate, but concluded that conditions are not appropriate and would not provide the necessary level of protection for the public or satisfy the wider public interest.
70. Accordingly, the Panel determined that an interim order of suspension was necessary to protect the public and in the wider public interest.
71. The Panel concluded that the appropriate and proportionate duration of the interim suspension order was 18 months. The interim order would continue to be required during the 28-day appeal period and if an appeal was lodged, pending the resolution of the appeal, which the Panel was conscious may take a substantial period of time. The Panel therefore considered that a period of 18 months was the appropriate and necessary duration.

Interim Order:

The Panel makes an Interim Suspension Order under Article 31(2) of the Health Professions Order 2001, the same being necessary to protect members of the public and being otherwise in the public interest. This order will expire: if no appeal is made against the Panel’s decision and Order, upon the expiry of the period during which such an appeal could be made; or, if an appeal is made against the Panel’s decision and Order, upon the final determination of that appeal, subject to a maximum period of 18 months.

 

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Mr Lee Lewitt

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
16/05/2022 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Struck off
08/02/2022 Conduct and Competence Committee Interim Order Review Interim Suspension
04/11/2021 Investigating Committee Interim Order Review Interim Suspension
05/08/2021 Investigating Committee Interim Order Review Interim Suspension
05/02/2021 Investigating Committee Interim Order Application Interim Suspension