Mrs Kerrie Louise Hawkins

: Biomedical scientist

: BS48195

: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing:10:00 12/01/2017 End: 17:00 12/01/2017

: Holiday Inn Leicester City

: Conduct and Competence Committee
: Suspended

Allegation

Allegation (as amended at Final Hearing):


1. On 29 November 2011, you were cautioned by police for one offence of theft from stores and two offences of attempted theft from stores on 22 November 2011.


2. You did not declare the caution listed at paragraph 1 to the HCPC until 6 May 2013.


3. On 30 November 2012, you were issued with a Fixed Penalty Notice for attempted theft from a store.


4. You did not declare the Fixed Penalty Notice listed at paragraph 3 to the HCPC.


5. On 4 September 2012, you committed an offence of theft from a shop, for which you received a 12 month conditional discharge on 15 February 2013.


6. On 11 April 2012, you committed an offence of fraud by false representation, for which you received a 12 month conditional discharge on 26 February 2013.


7. You did not declare the conditional discharge listed at paragraph 6 to the HCPC.


8. On 28 May 2013, you were convicted of 3 counts of shoplifting and received a Community Order and Supervision Requirement with seven other offences being taken into consideration.


9. You did not declare the conviction listed at paragraph 8 to the HCPC.


10. You committed seven further acts of shoplifting and received a Community Order and Supervision Requirement.


11. On 18 June 2013, you were convicted of one count of shoplifting and received a Community Order and Supervision Requirement.


12. You did not declare the conviction listed at paragraph 11 to the HCPC.


13. When you wrote to the HCPC by letter dated 6 May 2013, you provided a misleading picture as to the totality of your previous convictions and/or cautions and/or Fixed Penalty Notices you had received.


14. Your actions at paragraphs 7,9,12 and/or 13 were dishonest.


15. The matters described in each paragraphs 5,6,10 and 13 constitute misconduct.


16. By reason of your misconduct, your caution and/or convictions, your fitness to practise is impaired.

Finding

Preliminary Matters


1. The case for the Health and Care Professions Council (“HCPC”) was presented by Ms Rebecca Turner, of Kingsley Napley, Solicitors. The Registrant was neither present nor represented at the hearing.


Proof of Service


2. The Panel dealt initially with service. The Notice of 21 September 2016 contained within the HCPC bundle set out all the relevant information about today’s proceedings. The Panel was satisfied that service had been effected in accordance with the Health and Care Professions Council (Conduct and Competence) Committee (Procedure) Rules 2003.


Proceeding in the absence of the Registrant


3. Ms Turner applied to have the case heard in the Registrant’s absence. Ms Turner asserted that the Registrant had been properly served in accordance with the rules. She submitted that the Registrant had voluntarily absented herself and that there was no indication that if an adjournment was granted the Registrant would attend on a future date. She informed the Panel that there had been two previous adjournments of the substantive hearing in March and July 2016 at the Registrant’s request. She also informed the Panel that the Registrant had not engaged with the HCPC since requesting the adjournment in July 2016. 


4. The Panel took advice from the Legal Assessor. The decision to proceed in absence of the Registrant must be exercised with the utmost caution. The Panel had regard to the recent authoritative decision in this area in GMC v Adeogba (2016) EWCA Civ. 162 and to the Council’s recent Practice Note ‘Proceeding in the absence of the Registrant’ dated September 2016, which has been updated to take into account recent developments in the case law which emphasised importance of public interest considerations.


5. The Panel was satisfied that it was appropriate to proceed in the Registrant’s absence. It considered that the allegations are serious and there is a strong public interest in proceeding with the matter today. The Panel noted that, other than her self-referral to the HCPC in May 2013 and requesting adjournments in March and July 2016, the Registrant had not engaged in this process. Moreover, this hearing and the adjourned hearings had been scheduled to take place in Leicester, a location more convenient to the Registrant, rather than London as would normally be the case. The Panel further considered that no purpose would be served in adjourning the matter. Balancing the relative interests of the Registrant with those of the public, the Panel decided it is in the interests of justice that the matter proceed, notwithstanding the Registrant’s absence.


 Application to Amend Particulars and Discontinue Particulars of the Allegation:


6. Ms Turner applied to amend the Particulars in the form notified to the Registrant by letter dated 4 July 2016. Ms Turner further applied to amend Particular 8 so as to encompass the content of Particular 10 and reflect the relevant memorandum of conviction. Ms Turner also applied to discontinue Particular 4 on the basis that it was not supported by the evidence and to discontinue Particular 10, given the proposed amendment to Particular 8.


7. The Panel considered the submissions of Ms Turner and the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel was satisfied that the amendments were necessary to better reflect the evidence and did not alter the nature of the allegations.  The Panel was therefore satisfied that the amendment could be made without causing any prejudice to the Registrant and agreed to grant the application. The Panel was also satisfied that the discontinuance of Particulars 4 and 10 was justified and reflected the evidence in the case.


Background


8.  At the material times, the Registrant was a Biomedical Scientist employed by University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust.

9. On 10 May 2013, HCPC received a letter from the Registrant dated 06 May 2013 informing them that she had received a Police Caution in December 2011 for attempted shoplifting. The Registrant also disclosed in that letter that she had received a conditional discharge on 15 February 2013 for a shoplifting offence on 22 November 2012. She further disclosed that she was due to attend a court hearing on 28 May 2013 in relation to other shoplifting offences which occurred on 24 January 2013.


10. Further information was obtained by the HCPC from the Registrant’s employer and the Police, whereupon it became apparent that the Registrant’s letter to the HCPC of 06 May 2013 did not fully reflect the extent of her convictions and cautions.

Decision on Facts


11.  The Panel first considered the facts of the actual convictions, cautions and fixed penalty received by the Registrant. The Panel had regard to the Certificates of Convictions, Records of Cautions and the crime incident summaries contained within the hearing bundle. On the basis of that documentation, the Panel found Particulars 1, 3, 5, 6, 8 and 11 proved.


12. The Panel next considered the Particulars alleging non-disclosure or late disclosure of the convictions and/or cautions to the HCPC. The Panel noted that, apart from the contents of her letter to the HCPC dated 6 May 2013, the Registrant had not disclosed any other matters to the HCPC. The extent of the Registrant’s disclosure in her letter was that she had received a caution in December 2011 and a conditional discharge in 15 February 2013 and that she was due to attend court again on 28 May 2013. Accordingly, the Panel found paragraphs 2, 7, 9 and 12 and 13 proved.


13.  In relation to the allegation of dishonesty, the Panel considered that, by her letter to the HCPC, the Registrant had made a genuine attempt to disclose her cautions and convictions to the HCPC. The Panel noted that the Registrant had also informed the HCPC about a forthcoming court appearance which went to her genuineness. The Panel was of the view that the Registrant was clearly confused in her letter to the HCPC; for example by referring to having received a conditional discharge for shoplifting on 22 November 2012 when she had actually received a caution for shoplifting on 22 November 2011. A further example is her reference to a caution received in December 2011 which would appear to be the caution actually received by the Registrant on 29 November 2011.


14. The Panel considered that whilst the Registrant was clearly confused about the matters she disclosed to the HCPC in her letter, she did not set out to deliberately deceive and was not dishonest in relation to her letter. Further, the Panel considered the Registrant’s failures to disclose all of her convictions and cautions were acts of omission rather than deliberately dishonest acts.


15. For these reasons, the Panel found Particular 14 not proved.


Decision on Grounds


16. In considering whether the proven facts amounted to misconduct, the Panel considered that the Registrant fell far short of the HCPC Standards of conduct, performance and ethics 2012, which requires a Registrant at Standard 3 to keep high standards of personal conduct, at Standard 4 to provide the HCPC with any important information about conduct or competence (including convictions),  and at Standard 13, to behave with honesty and integrity and make sure their behaviour does not damage the public’s confidence in their profession.

17. The Panel was further satisfied that the Registrant’s commission of several criminal offences including theft and fraud, had the potential to seriously damage public confidence in her profession. Accordingly, the Panel was satisfied that the Statutory Grounds of Conviction/Caution and Misconduct were made out.

Decision on Impairment 

18. The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant had breached fundamental tenets of her profession as described in paragraph 16 above and had brought her profession into disrepute. The Panel was provided with little evidence of insight or remediation and considered that there remained a risk of repetition, given the number of convictions and the lack of information as to the Registrant’s current circumstances.

19. The Panel was also mindful of the wider public interest considerations in this case, particularly the need to declare and uphold proper standards of conduct and behaviour and maintain confidence in the reputation of the Biomedical Scientist profession. The Panel concluded that public confidence in the profession and in the HCPC would be undermined were a finding of impairment not made.

20.  For all of the above reasons, the Panel found that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired.

Decision on Sanction

21. The Panel considered the submissions made by Ms Turner on behalf of the HCPC. The Panel received and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

22. The Panel was mindful that the purpose of any sanction was not to punish the Registrant but to protect the public and maintain public confidence in the profession and the HCPC as its regulator, by the maintenance of proper standards of conduct and behaviour.

23. The Panel had regard to the Indicative Sanctions Policy. The Panel applied the principle of proportionality by weighing the Registrant’s interests with the public interest and by considering each available sanction in ascending order of seriousness.

24. The Panel had regard to paragraph 9 of the Indicative Sanctions Policy which states,

 "Even if a Panel has determined that fitness to practise is impaired, it is not obliged to impose a sanction. This is likely to be an exceptional outcome but, for example, may be appropriate in cases where a finding of impairment has been reached on the wider public interest grounds identified above but where the registrant has insight, has already taken remedial action and there is no risk of repetition".

25. In deciding whether to impose any sanction, the Panel had regard to paragraph 14 of the Indicative Sanctions Policy which states,

 "The degree of insight displayed by a registrant is central to a proper determination of whether fitness to practise is impaired and, if so, what sanction (if any) is required. The issues which the Panel need to consider include whether the registrant: 

• has admitted or recognised any wrongdoing;
• has genuinely recognised his or her failings;
• has taken or is taking any appropriate remedial action;
• is likely to repeat or compound that wrongdoing.”

26. Having carefully considered the above paragraphs of the Indicative Sanctions Policy, the Panel concluded that, given its findings of misconduct, and the risk of repetition, a sanction was required in the public interest, to mark the seriousness of the matter.

27. The Panel considered the number of convictions/cautions to be an aggravating factor. The only mitigation which the Panel could identify was that the Registrant had self-referred to the HCPC, although had failed to give a full and clear account of the extent of her convictions and cautions.

28. The Panel considered the available sanctions in ascending order of seriousness and concluded that taking no action or a Caution Order would be not be appropriate to mark the findings of conviction/caution, misconduct and impairment.

29. The Panel next considered conditions of practice. However, it concluded that conditions would not be sufficient or appropriate given the nature of the case and the absence of any information as to the Registrant’s ability or willingness to comply with any conditions which could be formulated.

30. In considering a Suspension Order, the Panel had regard to the contents of the Registrant’s letter to the HCPC dated 6 May 2013, the findings of her disciplinary hearing held on 2 July 2013 and the contents of the Police incident summaries. The Panel noted the many references to health and personal problems suffered by the Registrant at the time, which may have caused or contributed to her committing the offences for which she was convicted or cautioned. The Panel also considered that there had been some level of engagement on the Registrant’s part.

31. The Panel was of the view that a Suspension Order would afford an opportunity for the Registrant to demonstrate to a future review panel that she has gained insight into the damage caused to her profession by her misconduct. Further, insofar as her committing criminal offences was caused or contributed to by health or personal problems, the Registrant would be able to show to what extent these have been resolved.

32. Given the potential mitigation and the prospect of remediation, the Panel was of the view that a Striking Off Order was not necessary at this stage and would be disproportionate and punitive.

33. For all of the above reasons, the Panel determined that the appropriate and proportionate sanction was a Suspension Order for a period of 12 months. The Panel considered that a future review panel would be assisted by evidence of how the Registrant has maintained her knowledge and skills as a Biomedical Scientist, as well as evidence of insight and remediation as referred to above.

Order

ORDER: That the Registrar is directed to suspend the name of Kerrie Louise Hawkins from the Register for a period of 12 months.

Notes

The order imposed today will apply from 9 February 2017 (“the Operative date”).

Hearing history

History of Hearings for Mrs Kerrie Louise Hawkins

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
03/01/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Struck off
12/01/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended