Mr Sergio Braz
1. Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 Section 52A(1) - (Child, Sexual); and
2. Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 S51A(1) - (Sexual)
3. By reason of your convictions as set out at paragraphs 1 - 2 your fitness to practise as a radiographer is impaired.
1. The case for the Health and Care Professions Council (the “HCPC”) was presented by Ms Rebecca Turner of Kingsley Napley. The Registrant was present and unrepresented. The Registrant admitted the facts of the allegation and admitted that his fitness to practice is currently impaired by reason of his convictions.
2. The Registrant was employed as a Senior Radiographer with Inhealth Limited. On 28 January 2015 the police attended his home at 6am and the Registrant was arrested on suspicion of downloading and sharing child pornography. The Registrant denied downloading or sharing any files to the police. Upon interrogation of his electrical devices, the police confirmed that there were images relating to child pornography, as well as adult pornography.
3. On 3 November 2015 the Registrant appeared at Alloa Sheriff Court and entered a plea of not guilty. The case was thereafter adjourned until 2 February 2016 with a trial to follow on 15 February 2016.
4. On 2 February 2016 the Registrant appeared at Falkirk Sheriff Court and pleaded guilty to the following charges:
• Between 7 November 2012 and 28 November 2014, both dates inclusive, at (address), you Sergio Braz did have in your possession indecent photographs or pseudo-photographs of children, contrary to the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 Section 52A(1)
• Between 3 April 2014 and 28 November 2014, both dates inclusive, at (address) you Sergio Braz did have in your possession an extreme pornographic image depicting in an explicit and realistic way, sexual activity between an animal and an adult, contrary to the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 Section 51A(1).
5. The Registrant attended Falkirk Sheriff Court on 3 March 2016 for sentence and received a Community Payback Order, a supervision period of 2 years, unpaid work/activities period of 150 hours to be completed within 4 months from a start date of 3 March 2016. In addition the Registrant received a Sexual Offences Act 2003 Certification in relation to Charge 1 concerning child images and was placed on the Sex Offenders’ Register for a period of two years.
6. The Registrant’s employers referred the matter to the HCPC.
Decision on Facts and Grounds
7. The Panel considered the submissions by Ms Turner, the evidence of Mr Braz and the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel also had sight of the Extract Conviction Report dated 31 March 2016 and signed by an Officer of the Court. The Panel accepted this as proof of the conviction and of the findings of fact upon which it was based in terms of Rule 10(1)(d) of the Conduct and Competence Committee Procedure Rules. The Panel also noted the Registrant admitted the facts. The Panel is therefore satisfied that the facts and grounds have been proved, both on the Registrant’s admission and on the documents provided.
Decision on Impairment
8. The Panel next considered whether the Registrant’s current fitness to practise is impaired by his convictions.
9. The Registrant admitted that his fitness to practise was currently impaired; however, the Panel is aware that this is a matter for its own professional judgement. In reaching its decision, the Panel has had regard to the conduct of the Registrant, the nature, circumstances and gravity of the offences and the critically important public policy issues, in particular the need to maintain confidence in the profession as well as declaring and upholding proper standards of conduct and behaviour which the public expect.
10. The Panel has first considered the personal component of the Registrant’s conduct. The Panel has noted that although he initially denied the offences, the Registrant entered a plea of guilty to the two charges which indicates a degree of insight. In addition he accepts that his fitness to practice is currently impaired and remains so while he is under the terms of his Supervision Order. He has also been open with the Panel about a further police visit to check his computer and advised that they found nothing of concern. However, the Panel also notes that he is still subject to a period of supervision and is on the Sex Offenders’ Register. Taking this into account and taking account of the nature and gravity of the offence, the Panel is satisfied that there are concerns in relation to the personal component of the Registrant’s actions. In particular, the Registrant is subject to a conduct requirement that he is not to have unsupervised contact with children under the age of 17 for the duration of the Supervision Order. In the Panel’s view, there is a risk to the public from a health professional who has been convicted of offences of this nature and who is subject to the restrictions imposed by the Court.
11. In respect of the critically important public policy issues, the Registrant’s actions clearly bring the profession into disrepute and undermine public confidence in the profession. As a radiographer, the Registrant is in a position of trust and his actions have very clearly undermined that trust. The Panel has concluded that given the nature and circumstances of the Registrant’s actions, he has breached standard 9.1 of the HCPC Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics (you must make sure that your conduct justifies the public’s trust and confidence in you and your profession). He has also breached Standard 3.1 of the HCPC Standards of Proficiency for Radiographers (understand the need to maintain high standards of personal and professional conduct).
12. In order to maintain public confidence in the profession and the regulatory process and to uphold proper standards of conduct, the Panel has concluded that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired. The allegation is therefore well founded.
Decision on Sanction
13. The Panel has heard submissions from Ms Turner and from the Registrant on the issue of sanction. The Panel has also accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and had regard to the HCPC’s Indicative Sanctions Policy.
14. The Panel is aware that the purpose of sanction is not to be punitive and that it must consider the risk the Registrant may pose to those using or needing his services 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.
15. The Panel has paid careful regard to the following mitigating factors: the Registrant has fully engaged in the process; he pled guilty to the offences, demonstrating some insight; he accepts that his fitness to practise is impaired at least until his sentence is concluded; he has confirmed that he no longer shares files and has learned from this experience; he has no previous convictions; he appears to be a good and capable radiographer.
16. The Panel has also considered the main aggravating factor, which is the serious nature of the offence. The Panel considers that the Registrant’s insight is limited in that he does not realise that it is likely the public would still have concerns about his practice even after his period of supervision has expired and he is no longer on the Sex Offenders’ Register. It appeared to the Panel that the Registrant’s focus only extends to the current period of his sentence and he has not considered the longer-term consequences of his conviction. Taking into account all these factors, the Panel concludes that there is a low risk of repetition.
17. The Panel has considered the sanctions available to it in ascending order of severity. The Panel considered that to take no action or to impose a caution would not be appropriate given the serious nature of the convictions. The Panel has also considered that a conditions of practice order would not be appropriate given the nature of the Registrant’s conduct and the fact that the conduct took place outside of a professional setting. In addition, the Registrant has advised that he has no intention of working as a radiographer until his order is finished in March 2018.
18. The Panel next considered a suspension order. In terms of the Indicative Sanctions Policy, a suspension order is appropriate where the Panel considers that a caution order or conditions of practice order would provide insufficient public protection and where the allegation is of a serious nature but there is a realistic prospect that repetition will not occur and thus, striking off is not merited. However, the Panel is aware that the Registrant will not have completed his Supervision Order until March 2018 and the Panel has identified a low risk of repetition. While a Suspension Order would be sufficient to provide the necessary degree of public protection in that the Registrant would not able to practise during this period, the Panel is of the view that, given the nature and gravity of the conviction, a Suspension Order would not be sufficient to maintain public confidence in the profession and uphold professional standards.
19. The Panel next considered a striking off order. The Panel is of the view that the nature of the Registrant’s convictions are such that they are incompatible with ongoing registration, in that members of the public are likely to have serious concerns if a registered health professional who is in a position of trust was able to return to practise with convictions of this nature. The Panel has therefore concluded that given the nature and gravity of the convictions, a Striking Off Order is the appropriate and proportionate sanction which would adequately address the wider public interest considerations in terms of maintaining public confidence in the profession and declaring and upholding proper standards.
That the Registrar is directed to strike the name of Mr Sergio Braz from the Register on the date this order comes into effect.
The order imposed today will apply from 3 March 2017 (the operative date)
History of Hearings for Mr Sergio Braz
|Date||Panel||Hearing type||Outcomes / Status|
|03/02/2017||Conduct and Competence Committee||Final Hearing||Struck off|