Mr Joel Warwick

: Paramedic

: PA35686

Interim Order: Imposed on 04 Apr 2017

: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing:09:30 03/04/2017 End: 17:00 05/04/2017

: ETC Venues, Avonmouth House, 6 Avonmouth Street, London, SE1 6NX

: Conduct and Competence Committee
: Suspended

Allegation

Allegation (As amended):

1. On 28 January 2015, in relation to Colleague A, you:

(a) Inappropriately touched her, including by;
(i) hugging her;
(ii) touching her bottom;
(iii) touching her breasts.
(b) Removed a pen from the ‘V’ of her blouse and replaced the pen back into the ‘V’ of her blouse;
(c) Tried to kiss her on one or more occasions;
(d) Told her that you, ‘needed a hug’ or words to that effect;
(e) Asked her to ‘bend over’ or words to that effect, so that you could watch her refill the photocopier machine with paper.

2. In relation to particulars 1(a) to (e) your actions were sexually motivated.

3. The matters set out at particulars 1 and 2 constitute misconduct.

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

Finding

Preliminary matters

1. Before the Allegation was read, Ms Wyatt, on behalf of the Registrant, submitted that the facts and whether any facts found proved amounted to misconduct should be decided at a stage distinct from impairment. She submitted that in this case, because of the nature of the charges it would be difficult and unrealistic for her to make representations as to whether there was current impairment without knowing first whether the Panel considers any of the factual particulars proved and whether they constitute misconduct.

2. Ms Sharpe, on behalf of the HCPC submitted that the Council’s position was neutral as to the course to be taken.

3. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

4. Having considered the matter, the Panel decided to proceed to hear and decide upon the facts and statutory ground in one stage and impairment separately. The Panel also made clear that it was approaching misconduct on the basis that even if one or more of the Particulars is not found proved, it would still go on to consider the issue of misconduct.

Amendment of Allegation

5. Ms Sharpe, on behalf of the HCPC, applied to amend the Allegation.  She submitted that the amendments are consistent with the evidence, and they serve to clarify the Allegation.

6. Ms Wyatt, on behalf of the Registrant, did not object to the amendment.

7. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor, who had advised that it was open to the Panel to amend the allegation, provided no injustice would be caused by the amendment. The Panel considered that the amendments sought were minor and did not change the substance of the allegation. The amendments served to clarify the Allegation and would not cause injustice. The Panel therefore allowed the amendments to be made. The amended Allegation is as set out above.

Application to exclude hearsay evidence

8. Ms Wyatt applied for the statements of TR and IS to be excluded on the grounds that to admit them would be prejudicial and unfair. Ms Wyatt pointed out the following in relation to the statements:

a) The document from TR was not a witness statement, in that it is not underpinned by a declaration of truth. Further, the purpose of the admission of the statement is to admit hearsay evidence of what she was told by Colleague A at the time. It was not made for the purpose of these proceedings.

b) The statement of IS, provided to Witness 3, contains a summary of a conversation between IS and the Registrant which is hearsay evidence. It also contains hearsay evidence from AC who reported the incident to IS. It was not made for the purpose of these proceedings.

9. Ms Wyatt submitted that the admission of both of the above documents would be unfair and prejudicial for the following reasons:

a) Neither witness had been approached to obtain a proper statement for these proceedings.

b) The HCPC has made no effort at all to secure their attendance to give evidence at this hearing, and there is no good reason for their non-attendance.

c) The Registrant is therefore denied the opportunity to cross-examine the witnesses as to the content of those documents, and also denied the opportunity to test their evidence.

d) Additionally, as neither person provides direct eye witness evidence of the incident, their absence means that the Registrant is denied the opportunity to put his version of events to them for them to comment as to the possibility that they misheard or misunderstood what they were told, or that it was possible that what they were told was incorrect.

10. Ms Sharpe submitted that the admission of the statements of TR and IS would not be prejudicial or unfair. She made the following submissions:
a) The statements were not the sole determinative evidence in the case.

b) The Registrant was aware that their statements as contained in the exhibits bundles were to be introduced into evidence as they were served on him as part of the HCPC’s bundle of documents in this case.

c) The submissions made by Ms Wyatt are essentially about the weight that the Panel should ascribe to each piece of evidence.

11. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. He reminded the Panel that the Civil Evidence Rules governed the admissibility of evidence in these proceedings. Therefore, a piece of evidence should not be excluded solely on the ground that it is hearsay. He advised the Panel that it must first consider whether each document subject to this application was relevant to the issues in the case. He further advised that if the Panel considered that a document was relevant to such issues, it must nevertheless still go on to consider whether or not it was fair that such a document be admitted into evidence.

12. The Legal Assessor drew the Panel’s attention to the following cases:

a) Thorneycroft v NMC [2014] EWHC 1565 (Admin); and

b) NMC v Ogbonna (2010) EWCA Civ 1216.

13. The Legal Assessor advised that the relevant principles articulated by the above cases are as follows:

a) The decision to admit hearsay evidence is not to be regarded as a routine matter. The Panel must specifically consider the issue of relevance; and if relevant then whether it is fair to admit the evidence.

b) Considerations of what weight can be attributed to the evidence once it has been admitted is not relevant to the question of whether it would be fair for the evidence to be admitted in the first place.

14. The Panel accepted the Legal Assessor’s advice. It determined that the statements of TR and IS were relevant to the allegations. The Panel therefore proceeded to consider, in relation to each document whether it would be fair, in the circumstances, to allow it to be admitted into evidence.

Decision on admissibility of IS’s statement

15. In relation to IS’s statement the Panel took into consideration the following factors:

• IS signed and dated the statement, with a statement of truth, two months after the incident, and therefore it is not a contemporaneous record.
• It contains second-hand hearsay in relation to what is alleged to have occurred on the day in question; that is from when IS spoke to AC who relayed what member or members of her staff had told her, without identifying the relevant member or members of staff.
• IS is reporting what Mr Warwick told him but this is in narrative form.
• IS makes mention of the Registrant’s body language but does not describe it nor does he give the context.
• IS gives his interpretation of the Registrant’s body language, which in itself would be inadmissible as comment outside the province of an expert.
• It is not the sole evidence against the Registrant in this case.
• It appears to be the only evidence that the Registrant contradicts his evidence and if it were allowed in, the Registrant would not have the opportunity nor ability to cross-examine IS about the accuracy of his recollection, nor whether IS would accept the possibility of an error on his part.
• No effort was made to ask the witness to attend, notwithstanding the nature and significance of his evidence. The reason being that a statement had not been obtained from him for the purposes of these proceedings and so he was not a witness.

16. Having applied the principles set out in the cases referred to by the Legal Assessor, the Panel determined that, in the circumstances, it would not be fair for the statement of IS to be admitted into evidence. It is a highly prejudicial and significant piece of evidence that, if it were accepted as accurate and true, would significantly and adversely affect the Registrant’s case. It contained second-hand hearsay and quite possibly third-hand hearsay depending on the source of the information, relayed to AC, referred to therein. 

17. The Panel also determined that the necessity threshold for receiving such evidence under Rule 10(1)(c) of the Conduct and Competence Committee (Procedure) Rules 2003 had not been met in all the circumstances.

18. The Panel therefore granted the application to exclude IS’s statement into evidence.

Decision on admissibility of the ‘statement’ of TR

19. In relation to TR’s ‘statement’, the Panel took into consideration the following factors:

• It is signed and purports to be made on the date of the incident, 28 January 2015, by TR.
• There is no declaration of truth.
• It is not a statement that conforms to the Civil Evidence Rules.
• It is not a statement for the purposes of these proceedings.
• There is no statement producing this document.
• It is not the sole evidence but gives first-hand hearsay of Colleague A and Witness 2, both of whom will be giving evidence.
• If it is admitted into evidence, the Registrant will be unable to challenge or test the veracity of TR’s recollection.
• The HCPC had not sought to obtain a statement from her nor made any attempts to have her attend as a witness in these proceedings.

20. The Panel determined that in the circumstances, the fact that both Colleague A and Witness 2 were to give evidence in these proceedings and their evidence was open to challenge by the Registrant, the prejudicial effect of this document by TR, if admitted, is not as great as it would have been in the case of IS’s statement being admitted into evidence.
21. In the circumstances, the Panel determined to refuse the application to exclude the document purporting to be produced by TR.

Application to admit hearsay evidence

22. Ms Wyatt also applied for a Crime Reporting Information System (CRIS) report to be admitted into evidence as hearsay. The un-redacted CRIS report was received from the police just before the hearing started and it related to the reasons why the criminal investigation into this matter was terminated, and in particular it includes an account of the opinion of the police officer regarding his viewing of the CCTV footage relating to this incident. Ms Wyatt told the Panel that the efforts to obtain the un-redacted CRIS report commenced two months ago when it became apparent from the papers received from the HCPC that they did not have a copy of it. Ms Wyatt told the Panel that her instructing solicitors had been requesting information from the HCPC as to why the criminal investigation had been terminated by the Police and the HCPC did not state that they did not have that information. They stated that the Registrant would receive the unused material two months before the hearing. She submitted that the delay in obtaining the un-redacted CRIS report could not be laid solely at the Registrant’s door.

23.  Ms Wyatt submitted that the following factors should be taken into consideration when deciding her application:

a) It is the best evidence of the CCTV taken at the time. This is because the CCTV footage has been lost and a copy cannot be obtained.

b) The CCTV footage was real and direct evidence of the demeanour of Colleague A immediately following the alleged incident. Bearing in mind that there were no witnesses to the actual incident, this was a very important piece of neutral evidence.

c) The person who comments on the CCTV footage is a police officer. Police officers are trained to observe and describe the demeanour and behaviour of people.

d) The CCTV footage would have been integral to the Registrant’s case and therefore the CRIS report, being the best evidence available of the CCTV footage, is integral to the Registrant’s case and should be admitted into evidence.

24. Ms Sharpe submitted that the CRIS report should not be admitted into evidence. She submitted that the following were relevant factors to be taken into account:

a) It is hearsay evidence that is compiled by the investigating police officer.

b) There is no information regarding the experience of the officer in looking at CCTV footage and interpreting what is happening on the footage.

c) The CRIS report had not been served within the 28 days as required by the HCPC procedure rules.

d) It was always the responsibility of the Registrant to seek disclosure of the CRIS report as the HCPC would never introduce evidence as to why a police investigation was stopped. Therefore the Registrant should not have waited until he discovered that the HCPC did not have that information before seeking to obtain the CRIS report from the police.

e) The factual determination by the Police to terminate their criminal investigation should not be admissible in these proceedings.

f) The ability of the Registrant to cross-examine Colleague A is not hindered without the CRIS report. He is still entitled to ask her about her reaction and challenge her about her answer.

25. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. In addition to the above advice, the Legal Assessor also advised that the Panel could and should take into consideration the following features of the Crime Reporting Information System and the reports generated by that system:

a) The CRIS is meant to be a rolling contemporaneous record of actions taken by the police in a criminal investigation

b) The officer or officers making the entries are under an obligation to make accurate and truthful entries. 

c) The CRIS report can come under judicial scrutiny for a variety of reasons.

d) There are severe sanctions for officers who make inaccurate recordings, whether intentional or not. These can range from disciplinary action being taken up to being prosecuted for criminal offences.

26. In coming to its decision the Panel did take the above into consideration. It did not take issue with the lateness of the application and considered that the Registrant and his representatives had acted reasonably in the circumstances. The CCTV footage showing the behaviour of Colleague A and the Registrant immediately after the alleged incident would have been a very important piece of evidence. It would have been independent and absolutely neutral as direct evidence. The fact that it has been destroyed or lost means that the Panel are deprived of it, but that also means that the CRIS report is the only document with a description of what is seen on the CCTV footage from a wholly independent and trained professional investigator, that is to say the police officer who was the investigating officer in the criminal investigation.

27. In the circumstances, the Panel determined that it was fair and just to admit the CRIS report.

Background

28. The Registrant commenced employment as a Paramedic for the East Division, South Locality of the East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS) based at Spalding Ambulance Station on 1 August 2014.

29. On 28 January 2015 Colleague A told her line manager that the Registrant had inappropriately touched her in a sexual manner. It is alleged that Colleague A had been showing the Registrant how to use the photocopier in the photocopier room located behind the reception area at the hospital where Colleague A worked.

30. The matter was referred to the Police who investigated the matter, and the Registrant self-referred the matter to the HCPC.

31. In March 2015, the Police terminated the investigation and Witness 3 was appointed the Investigating Officer for the internal investigation at EMAS. The matter proceeded to an internal disciplinary hearing.

Decision on Facts

32. The Panel considered all the evidence in this case together with the submissions made by Ms Sharpe on behalf of the HCPC, and by Ms Wyatt on behalf of the Registrant.

33. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor who reminded the Panel that the burden of proof rests with the HCPC, and that the Registrant need not disprove anything. The Legal Assessor also reminded the Panel that the standard of proof is the civil standard, namely the balance of probabilities.

34. The Panel heard oral evidence from the following witnesses on behalf of the HCPC:

a) Colleague A (Witness 1),

b) Witness 2, (Dental Nurse at the time)
c) Witness 3, (Investigating officer)

35. The Panel also heard evidence from the Registrant.

36. The Panel found Colleague A to be a credible, reliable and robust witness who answered questions to the best of her ability. She did not come across as if she was exaggerating her evidence. There were some inconsistencies in her evidence but these could be explained by the period of time that has passed since the incident took place.

37. The Panel found Witness 2 to be a credible and honest witness who answered questions to the best of her ability. Her memory was not as precise as Colleague A and parts of her evidence were vague. She made a short contemporaneous statement which was dated, timed and signed 30-45 minutes after the incident. She told the Panel that she did not believe Colleague A initially due to the high regard in which she held paramedics.  Witness 2 told the Panel that it was only when the Registrant came back to apologise that she began to believe Colleague A due to her observation of the interaction between the Registrant and Colleague A.
38. The Panel found Witness 3 to be an honest and credible witness. The disciplinary investigation was not as thorough as it could have been and therefore the information presented to the Panel by Witness 3 was limited.

39. The Panel found the Registrant’s evidence to be more nuanced in response to some questions.  He was guarded in some of his responses, and he did not always give direct answers. There were some inconsistencies in his evidence but taking into account the time that has elapsed, that is not surprising in itself. He was less forthcoming in his evidence when it came to difficult questions. The Registrant told the Panel that Colleague A had been flirtatious for most of his interaction with her and that she had made flirtatious remarks and overtures towards him.

40. The Panel also received a bundle of evidence which included, inter alia:

a) The EMAS Investigation Report into these matters;
b) Signed interview notes of the Registrant’s Investigatory interview 18 March 2015
c) Signed interview notes of Colleague A’s investigatory interviews dated 12 March 2015 and 7 April 2015.
d) Signed statement of Witness 2 dated 28 January 2015.
e) Signed statement of TR dated 28 January 2015.

41. The Panel also received a bundle of documents from the Registrant which included character references.

42. In relation to the CCTV evidence, the Panel accepted that in the CRIS Report it states that the Police officer viewed the CCTV footage and said that “it did not cover where the incident occurred …if anything the CCTV is undermining as it shows the suspect leaving and the IP appears to be acting jovial and leaning over the desk to say goodbye…However it is not a great angle and is not very clear.”  The Panel noted the evidence from Witness 3 with regard to what the Registrant’s line manager, AC, had said about the lack of relevance of the CCTV footage. However in the Panel’s view, AC was in a conflicted role and the Panel therefore places greater weight on the contents of the CRIS report. The Panel also note the hearsay evidence of what the Registrant’s trade union representative said to the Registrant about his viewing of the CCTV evidence. However, in all the circumstances, the Panel derived limited assistance from the hearsay descriptions of what was seen on the CCTV.

43. The case therefore depended on which version of the events the Panel accepted as more credible and which, on the balance of probabilities, was more likely to have occurred. The Panel determined that Colleague A’s evidence was more credible. It took into account that it was corroborated by her early complaints to TR and to Witness 2 very soon after the incident. The Panel bore in mind that TR’s statement was hearsay evidence and gave it appropriate weight. Furthermore, the Registrant was a stranger to Colleague A and the Panel’s conclusion was that in assessing the evidence it was unlikely that she would have behaved in the manner described by the Registrant.

44. The Panel was referred by the Legal Assessor to the case of re H (Minors) (Sexual Abuse: Standard of Proof) [1996] AC 563 and the comments of Lord Nicholls. The Panel was aware that these are very serious allegations made against the Registrant. It was also aware that, as such, it was less likely that the events occurred as alleged and that the evidence should be stronger before it concluded that the allegation is established on the balance of probabilities.

45. The Panel considered each of the Particulars in turn.

Particular 1(a)(i)

46. The Registrant accepts that he did give Colleague A a hug but maintains it was consensual.  Colleague A stated that the hug was neither wanted nor expected. The Registrant said that Colleague A offered a hug in response to his statement that he “needed a hug” and that they mutually initiated the hug. The Panel determined that in assessing the evidence the hug the Registrant gave Colleague A was not consensual and was therefore inappropriate. Accordingly the Panel finds this particular proved.

Particular 1(a)(ii)

47. The Panel found Colleague A’s version of events to be credible. The Registrant denies that he touched her bottom. However, both parties were not known to each other previously, and there does not appear to be any credible reason why Colleague A would falsely accuse the Registrant of touching her bottom. Colleague A also made a complaint immediately thereafter to TR, who noted that Colleague A was upset and told her “he just touched me up”.

48.  The Panel determined that it was more likely than not that that the Registrant intentionally touched Colleague A’s bottom.

49. In light of the circumstances of the event, the Panel determined that the Registrant’s touching of Colleague A’s bottom was inappropriate. Accordingly the Panel finds this particular proved.

Particular 1(a)(iii)

50. The Panel accepted Colleague A’s evidence that the Registrant touched and squeezed her breast. The Registrant’s evidence is that when he put the pen back into the ‘V’ of Colleague A’s blouse he did not squeeze her breast. He stated that he did not look at her breasts when he took the pen from her.

51. Colleague A was constant in her evidence that the Registrant squeezed her breast when he placed the pen back into her blouse.

52. The Panel accepted that the Registrant did touch and squeeze Colleague A’s breast, and in the circumstances, his actions were inappropriate. Accordingly the Panel finds this particular proved.

Particular 1(b)

53. In relation to the removal of the pen and replacing it back into the ‘V’ of Colleague A’s blouse, the Registrant accepts that he did do so. However, he does not accept Colleague A’s evidence that when he replaced the pen, he pulled her blouse outwards.

54. In the context of the circumstances, the Panel determined that it was more likely than not that the Registrant behaved in the manner that Colleague A alleged. Accordingly the Panel finds this particular proved.

Particular 1(c)

55. Colleague A was clear in her evidence that the Registrant did attempt to kiss her twice. The Registrant denies that he tried to kiss Colleague A at all. The Panel determined that Colleague A’s evidence was the more credible. The Panel noted that the Registrant is of good character and that there is no history of similar behaviour from which the Panel could infer he would behave in such a manner. Nevertheless, by his own acceptance, he had hugged Colleague A and he said they had engaged in flirtatious behaviour, it would therefore appear that the Registrant was behaving out of character in the circumstances.

56. The Panel determined that it was more likely than not that the Registrant did try and kiss Colleague A on one or more occasions.  Accordingly the Panel finds this particular proved.

Particular 1(d)

57. The Registrant accepted in evidence that he did state in Colleague A’s presence that he needed a hug due to the difficult and stressful day that he had. This is consistent with the evidence of Colleague A.  Accordingly the Panel finds this particular proved.

Particular 1(e)

58. Colleague A told the Panel that the Registrant asked her to bend over and fill the paper in the copier. She said that she thought he was “sleazy” when he said this.

59. The Registrant denies that he asked Colleague A to ‘bend over’, so that he could watch her refill the photocopier machine with paper. He stated that he did not say anything that could be misconstrued as a request for Colleague A to bend over. He stated that Colleague A was being flirtatious throughout the incident and said to him “is it really or do you want me to fill it so I can bend over in front of you”.

60. The Panel preferred the evidence of Colleague A. The Panel found it more likely that the Registrant did ask Colleague A to bend over in order to change the paper of the photocopier. Both parties accepted that the photocopier was not functioning properly at that time. Accordingly the Panel finds this particular proved.

Particular 2

61. The Panel was aware that allegations of sexual motivation are particularly serious allegations for a Registrant to face. The Panel was aware that it must be satisfied on the balance of probabilities, that sexual motivation should be inferred from all the circumstances. It was also aware that just because an action is inappropriate, it does not necessarily follow that it was sexually motivated.

62. The Panel considered each action alleged in Particular 1 to determine whether it could and should infer sexual motivation on the part of the Registrant. The Panel determined that the Registrant’s intentional actions in relation to Particulars 1(a)(ii), 1(a)(iii), and 1(c) were such that they were inherently sexual in nature. Accordingly the Panel determined that the Registrant’s motivation in relation to those actions was more likely than not to be sexual.

63. In relation to Particulars 1(a)(i), 1(b) and 1(e), the Panel determined that in the circumstances, the Registrant’s actions, whilst not inherently sexual in nature, were such that the Panel was satisfied, on the balance of probabilities, that his actions were sexually motivated.

64. The Panel found that sexual motivation in relation to particular 1d) was not proved. The fact that the Registrant stated that he “needed a hug” was not of itself sexually motivated.

Decision on Grounds

65. The Panel heard submissions from Ms Sharpe on behalf of the HCPC, and Ms Wyatt on behalf of the Registrant.

66. Ms Sharpe submitted that the Registrant had breached Standards 3 and 13 of the HCPC’s Standards of conduct, performance and ethics and Standard 1b(i) of the HCPC Standards of proficiency for paramedics.

67. Ms Wyatt submitted that if the facts were found proved solely on the basis of what the Registrant accepted in his evidence in relation to the hug and the pen, it could not amount to misconduct for the purposes of these proceedings

68. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel exercised its own judgement in determining the issue before it.

69. The Panel considered that on the facts found proved the Registrant had breached the following Standards of the HCPC’s Standards of conduct, performance and ethics:

3. You must keep high standards of personal conduct.
13. You must behave with honesty and integrity and make sure that your behaviour does not damage the public’s confidence in you or your profession.

70. The Panel was aware that misconduct is “a word of general effect, involving some act or omission, which falls short of what would be proper in the circumstances.” It is also aware that it was stressed that Misconduct is qualified by the word “serious”. It is not just any professional misconduct, which will qualify.

71. The Panel considered that the facts found proved were serious enough so as to amount to Misconduct for the purposes of these proceedings. It involved the Registrant behaving in a manner that was sexually motivated.  Furthermore, the incident took place during the course of his non-clinical duties as a paramedic, towards another member of staff of another organisation.

72. Accordingly the Panel finds that the facts found proved amounted to the statutory ground of Misconduct with the exception of particular 1(d).

Decision on Impairment

73. The Panel went on to consider whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired by reason of his misconduct.

74. The Registrant gave evidence at this stage of proceedings. He told the Panel that he had gained insight through taking a course and undertaking online research on equality and diversity including aspects of sexual harassment and sexual equality. He told the Panel that he now has a greater awareness of how his actions can be interpreted differently from how they were intended, and how they can have an adverse impact on others.

75. The Registrant also provided a number of references that attest to his good character and that the allegation was out of character.

76. The Panel heard the submissions of Ms Sharpe, and Ms Wyatt.

77. Ms Sharpe submitted that these matters were serious matters and that the Registrant had, by his answers, demonstrated limited insight.

78. Ms Wyatt submitted that the Registrant has demonstrated a level of insight throughout the proceedings. She reminded the Panel that the Registrant accepted that he had hugged Colleague A and that he removed the pen from her blouse. He had further apologised to Colleague A shortly after the incident. Ms. Wyatt further submitted that his comments to Witness 3 during the internal disciplinary interview also demonstrate a level of insight by recognising his actions were not the best in the circumstances.

79. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

80. The Legal Assessor drew the Panel’s attention to the approach set out in the case of CHRE v NMC and Grant (2011) EWHC 927 (Admin), and reminded the Panel that there was a personal and a public component when considering whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired.

81. For this purpose, the Panel asked itself the following questions:

“Do our findings of fact in respect of the Registrant’s misconduct show that his fitness to practise is impaired in the sense that he:

a) has in the past acted and/or is liable in the future to act so as to put members of the public at unwarranted risk of harm; and/or

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

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

82. The Panel referred to the HCPC Practice Note “Finding that fitness to practise is impaired”. It determined that the Registrant’s misconduct has brought the paramedic profession into disrepute and has also breached a fundamental tenet of the profession. There was no evidence that he had put service users or members of the public at risk of harm.

83. In considering the personal component of impairment, the Panel then went on to consider the risk of repetition on the part of the Registrant of his misconduct. In doing so, the Panel determined that there were two aspects to the Registrant’s misconduct. The first being actions that were inappropriate in that they breached professional boundaries, and the second being actions that were sexually motivated.

84. Regarding the professional boundaries aspect of the Registrant’s misconduct, the Panel determined that the Registrant had demonstrated limited insight into how his actions transgressed professional boundaries. When giving evidence, he told the Panel about the possible perception of others of his actions, but revealed very little about how he could alter his own behaviour to safeguard himself and others in similar situations. The Panel considered that he did not fully understand that something could be both consensual and inappropriate at the same time. The Panel took into account that he had undertaken a course as well as online research into equality and diversity, and determined that this was evidence that the Registrant took these proceedings seriously and had begun the early stages of remediation. In the light of the Registrant’s limited insight and early stages of remediation, the Panel determined that there was a risk of repetition of inappropriate behaviour.

85. Regarding the sexual motivation aspect of the Registrant’s misconduct, the Panel has determined that this incident, which occurred two years ago, was isolated and out of character for the Registrant and the references provided by the Registrant, which were not insignificant, attested to this. The Panel determined that there is a low risk that he will allow sexual motives to direct his actions towards others in the future.

86. In respect of the public component, the Panel also determined that the Registrant’s misconduct was so serious that the need to uphold professional standards and public confidence in the profession and the regulatory process would be undermined if a finding of impairment was not made in these circumstances.

87. Therefore the Panel determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired on both personal and public interest considerations.

Decision on Sanction

88. The Panel heard the submissions of Ms Sharpe and Ms Wyatt with regard to sanction.

89. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.  The Panel had regard to all the evidence presented, and to the Council’s Indicative Sanctions Policy. The Panel reminded itself that the purpose of a sanction is not to be punitive although it may have a punitive effect. The Panel bore in mind the principles of fairness and proportionality when determining what the appropriate sanction in this case should be.

90. The Panel considered the aggravating factors in this case to be:

a) The Registrant’s actions were sexually motivated
b) The impact on Colleague A
c) Although it was one incident, it involved several sexually motivated acts.

91. The Panel considered the following to be mitigating features in this case:

a) The Registrant is of good character and he has provided good references as to his character.
b) The incident took place two years ago and there has not been any repetition since.
c) This is a single incident in an otherwise unblemished career, and the sexually motivated actions of the Registrant were out of character.
d) The Registrant has worked as a paramedic since this incident, albeit on an ad hoc basis.
e) The Registrant apologised to Colleague A very shortly thereafter.
f) The incident occurred in a non-clinical setting and had no adverse impact on Service Users.
g) The Registrant fully engaged with the HCPC process and made some admissions. He has also demonstrated his commitment to remaining in the profession.

92. In considering the matter of sanction, the Panel started with the least restrictive moving upwards.

93. The Panel first considered taking no action but concluded that, given the seriousness of the Registrant’s misconduct, this would be wholly inappropriate.

94. The Panel then considered whether to make a Caution Order. The Panel was mindful of its finding that there was a risk of repetition of inappropriate behaviour. These matters are too serious for a Caution Order to be considered appropriate.

95. The Panel next considered the imposition of a Conditions of Practice Order. However, this was not a case where the Registrant’s clinical skills are in question. There are no identifiable areas of his practice which might benefit from re-training. These are matters involving attitudinal issues, which cannot be addressed by the imposition of Conditions of Practice. Further the Panel was of the view that Conditions of Practice would not meet the public interest in this case.

96. Taking into account all of the above, the Panel concluded that Conditions of Practice were not appropriate in this case.

97. The Panel went on to consider whether a period of suspension would be appropriate in this case. The Panel reminded itself of the aggravating and mitigating factors. The Panel determined that a period of suspension would be appropriate and proportionate. It would allow the Registrant sufficient time to gain insight into his inappropriate behaviour and fully remediate. Furthermore, a period of suspension would maintain and declare proper standards of conduct and behaviour, and maintain public confidence in the profession and the regulatory process.

98. In considering what the appropriate duration of suspension should be, the Panel bore in mind the principles of fairness and proportionality. The Panel was mindful of the Registrant’s evidence of the adverse impact these proceedings have had on his family and finances and took this into account in balancing the wider public interest. In the circumstances, the Panel determined that a Suspension Order for a period of 8 months would suffice to protect the public and satisfy the public interest.

99. The Panel did go on to consider whether a striking off order would be appropriate but determined in all the circumstances that it would not be a proportionate sanction.

100. A future Panel reviewing this Order maybe assisted by the following, if possible:

a) The attendance of the Registrant;
b) Demonstration of the Registrant’s reflection on the Panel’s findings in particular in relation to his insight and remediation.
c) Information about any employment, paid or unpaid from today;

101. The Panel makes a Suspension Order for the period of eight months.

 

 

Order

That the Registrar is directed to suspend the registration of Mr Joel Warwick for a period of 8 months.

Notes

An interim order of suspension was imposed to cover the appeal period.

Hearing history

History of Hearings for Mr Joel Warwick

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
03/04/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended