Mr Steven J Wynne

: Biomedical scientist

: BS57183

Interim Order: Imposed on 20 Apr 2016

: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing:10:00 07/04/2017 End: 17:00 07/04/2017

: Park Plaza Cardiff, Greyfriars Road, Cardiff, CF10 3AL

: Conduct and Competence Committee
: Struck off

Allegation

Whilst registered as a Biomedical Scientist:

1. On 27 May 2016 at Wrexham Maelor Magistrates’ Court you were convicted of the following offences:

a) Making indecent photograph or pseudo-photograph of child x 4

b) Possess an indecent photograph or pseudo-photograph of a child x 2

c) Record a person doing a private act

2. By reason of your conviction, as set out at paragraph 1, your fitness to practise as a Biomedical Scientist is impaired.

Finding

Preliminary matters:

Service of Notice

1. The notice of today’s hearing was sent to the Registrant at his address as it appeared in the register on 24 January 2017. The notice contained the date, time and venue of today’s hearing.


2. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor, and is satisfied that notice of today’s hearing has been served in accordance with the rules.

Proceeding in the absence of the Registrant

3. The Panel then went on to consider whether to proceed in the absence of the Registrant pursuant to Rule 11 of the Conduct and Competence Committee. In doing so, it considered the submissions of Ms Sharpe on behalf of the HCPC.

4. Ms Sharpe submitted that the HCPC has taken all reasonable steps to serve the notice on the Registrant. She stated that the Registrant has not engaged with the HCPC, and that an adjournment would serve no useful purpose. The Registrant in his most recent email to the HCPC on 20 January 2017 stated, “I do not plan to attend the hearing at all. No matter where or when it is, I have absolutely no plan or wish to attend.” Ms Sharp referred to previous emails from Registrant, all of which indicated that he did not wish to engage with the HCPC. She reminded the Panel that there was a public interest in this matter being dealt with expeditiously.

5. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. He advised that, if the Panel is satisfied that all reasonable efforts have been made to notify the Registrant of the hearing, then the Panel had the discretion to proceed in the absence of the Registrant. He cautioned the Panel that the discretion was to be exercised with care and caution as set out in the case of R v Jones [2002] UKHL 5.

6. The Legal Assessor also referred the Panel to the case of GMC v Adeogba and Visvardis [2016] EWCA Civ 162 and advised that the Adeogba case reminded the Panel that its primary objective is the protection of the public and of the public interest. In that regard, the case of Adeogba was clear that the “fair, economical, expeditious and efficient disposal of allegations made against medical practitioners is of very real importance”. It was also clear that “where there is good reason not to proceed, the case should be adjourned; where there is not, however, it is only right that it should proceed”.

7. It was clear, from the principles derived from case law, that the Panel was required to ensure that fairness and justice was maintained when deciding whether or not to proceed in a Registrant’s absence.

8. The Panel was satisfied that all reasonable efforts had been made by the HCPC to notify the Registrant of the hearing. It was also satisfied that the Registrant should be aware of the hearing.

9. In deciding whether to exercise its discretion to proceed in the absence of the Registrant, the Panel took into consideration the HCPC practice note entitled ‘Proceeding in the Absence of a Registrant’. The Panel weighed its responsibilities for public protection and the expeditious disposal of the case with the Registrant’s right to a fair hearing.

10. In reaching its decision the Panel took into account the following:
• The Registrant has not made an application to adjourn today’s hearing;
• The Registrant has not engaged with the process;
• There is a public interest that this matter is dealt with expeditiously.

11. The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant had voluntarily absented himself from the hearing. It determined that, in the light of the non-engagement from the Registrant, it was unlikely that an adjournment would result in the Registrant’s attendance at a later date. Having weighed the public interest in the expeditious disposal of this case against the Registrant’s own interest, the Panel decided to proceed in the Registrant’s absence.

Background:

12. On 1 April 2015 North Wales Police received information that indecent images were being uploaded from a computer at the Registrant’s home address. A search warrant was executed at the Registrant’s home address and equipment including computers and video recording devices were seized.

13. Subsequent forensic analysis revealed that the Registrant possessed 2,028 Category A images of children. These are the most obscene and the most graphic. He also possessed 1,206 category B images and 1,274 category C images.

14. There were also other graphic images, and subsequent enquiries revealed there were covertly filmed by the Registrant in the toilets at his work place. The persons filmed, whilst not identifiable, were clearly other members of his work place. This was done by use of covert mini cameras placed by the Registrant in the cubicles.

15. On 23 June 2016, the Registrant was sentenced at the Crown Court sitting at Mold to a Community Order of three years with the conditions of:

a) undergoing a community sex offender group programme,

b) a rehabilitation activity requirement of 60 days, and

c) supervision throughout the entire period of the community order.

16. The Registrant was also required to register as a sex offender for a period of five years, and a Sexual Harm Prevention Order was also made against him for a period of five years.

Decision on Facts:

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

18. The Panel has before it the certificate of conviction from the Crown Court in relation to the Registrant and criminal matters outlined above. It sets out clearly the offences for which the Registrant was convicted and the sentence imposed upon the Registrant.

19. Accordingly the Panel finds the fact of the conviction proved.

Decision on Impairment

20. The Panel then went on to consider whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired by reason of the conviction.

21. In reaching its decision, the Panel had regard to all the evidence before it. It took account of the submissions of Ms Sharpe on behalf of the HCPC.

22. Ms Sharpe outlined the background to the case and submitted the Registrant’s fitness to practise was impaired in that that the conviction was a serious matter and the Registrant is still subject to the Community Order as the operative period lasts until 22 June 2019.

23. Ms Sharpe referred the Panel to the case of CHRE v NMC and Grant [2011] EWHC 927 (Admin) and Cohen v GMC [2008] EWHC 581. She submitted that the relevant considerations in this case are the seriousness of the charge, the nature of the sentence, and the public perception of these offences.

24. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. He advised the Panel that when considering impairment, the Panel should consider the nature and gravity of the offence for which the Registrant has been convicted and that it was entitled to, and should, take into account the underlining facts of the conviction.

25. The Panel then went on to consider whether by reason of conviction, the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired. The Panel was aware that fitness to practise has a personal component and also a public component. For this purpose, the Panel took into account the approach formulated by Dame Janet Smith in her 5th report of the Shipman inquiry, and which was cited with approval in the case of CHRE v NMC & Grant, by asking itself the following questions:
“Do our findings of fact in respect of the Registrant’s conviction 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 patient or patients at unwarranted risk of harm; and/or

b) has in the past brought and/or is liable in the future to bring the Biomedical Scientist  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 Biomedical Scientist profession?

26. The Panel also considered whether the conviction is such that the need to uphold professional standards and public confidence in the profession would be undermined if a finding of impairment were not made.

27. The Panel determined that, by this conviction, the Registrant has breached a fundamental tenet of the profession, namely that it is incumbent on members of the profession to be trustworthy and maintain confidence in their profession.

28. The Panel also determined that these are criminal offences which would be described aptly as “abohorrent”, and which would attract the outrage of the public. The profession has been brought into disrepute by the Registrant’s actions and conviction.

29. The Panel noted that Registrant pleaded guilty at the first available opportunity. The sentencing remarks of the judge in the criminal case implied that there remained a risk of repetition, and that the purpose of the Community Order imposed was an attempt to rehabilitate the Registrant and minimise the future risk of re-offending. The Registrant has not attended today to enable the Panel to question him and for them to assess his insight into his behaviour. In the light of the above, the Panel determined that there was a risk of repetition by the Registrant of the behaviour that led to his conviction.

30. The Panel also determined that the offences for which the Registrant was convicted are so serious that a finding of impairment was required in order to uphold proper professional standards and maintain public confidence in the profession.

31. Therefore, Panel determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired by reason of his conviction.

Decision on Sanction:

32. Ms Sharpe, on behalf of the HCPC, reminded the Panel of the wider public interest in the imposition of a sanction. She submitted that any sanction must be proportionate and that it was important to note that the purpose of a sanction is not to punish the Registrant for a second time. Ms Sharpe submitted the desirability of a Registrant continuing his service to the public must be balanced against the seriousness of the offence for which he had been convicted. She submitted that the facts of the offence were relevant to the Panel’s consideration at this stage.

33. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. He advised the Panel that the full range of sanctions is available to the Panel as this was a case involving a criminal conviction, and he reminded the Panel that it was not to go behind the conviction. He advised the Panel that it should bear in mind its duty to protect members of the public and also the public interest which includes maintaining and declaring proper standards of conduct and behaviour, maintaining the reputation of the profession, and maintaining public confidence in the profession and the regulatory process.

34. He advised that, whilst the Panel was entitled to take into consideration the sentence that the Criminal Court imposed upon the Registrant, the sentence imposed is not necessarily a good indicator of the seriousness of the matter in the context of regulatory proceedings. That was because the prime considerations that apply in regulatory proceedings were:

a) Protection of the Public;

b) Reputational harm to the profession;

c) Public confidence in the profession and the regulatory process; and

d) Relevant professional standards of behaviour and the seriousness of any departure from those standards.

35. The Legal Assessor drew the Panel’s attention to the case of CHRE v GDC and Fleischmann (2005) EWHC 87 and the general principle articulated therein, that where a practitioner had been convicted of a serious criminal offence, he should not be permitted to resume his practice until he has satisfactorily completed his sentence. The Legal Assessor advised the Panel that as such, it was entitled, and should, take into consideration the facts of the offence in question and then determine whether or not it was a serious criminal offence. He advised that the seriousness of a criminal offence is not necessarily determined by the type of offence, but can also be determined by the circumstances of the offending behavior. These are factors that can affect the reputation of the profession.

36. The Legal Assessor advised the Panel that any sanction it imposes must be the least restrictive sanction that is sufficient to protect the public and the public interest. It should take into consideration the aggravating and mitigating factors in the case. He reminded the Panel that the purpose of a sanction is not punitive, although it may have that effect. The purpose of a sanction is to protect members of the public and the wider public interest, weighing the Registrant’s interest against the public interest. 

Panel’s consideration and determination

37. The Panel had close regard to the HCPC’s Indicative Sanctions Policy document in reaching its decision on sanction. The Panel reminded itself that the purpose of a sanction is not to punish. Rather, a sanction should only be imposed to the extent that it is required to protect the public, to maintain a proper degree of confidence in the profession and the regulatory process, and to declare and maintain proper standards among fellow professionals. To ensure this approach the Panel reminded itself to first consider whether its findings require the imposition of any sanction at all. If they do, then the available sanctions must be considered in ascending order of seriousness until one that satisfies the factors already identified is reached. The Panel confirms that it has followed this approach in the present case.

38. Whilst the sentence imposed might indicate that it was not the most serious criminal offence, the Panel noted that the Registrant received a lenient sentence, as demonstrated by the sentencing judge’s closing remark to the Registrant that he was “a lucky man”.

39. The facts and circumstances of these particular offences disclose very serious conduct when viewed in the context of a registered professional:

a) The large number of graphic and indecent images of children in the possession of the Registrant – over 4500 in total, including more than 2000 category A images (the most serious).

b) The covert filming in the lavatories of his work place was a gross breach of trust, privacy and common decency. This occurred in the course of his work, and his victims were his work colleagues. As the Crown Court judge noted, “It is hard to imagine somebody sinking to a greater depth of depravity whilst outwardly appearing decent and an achiever…”

c) It was a gross departure from the standards of behavior expected of a Biomedical Scientist.

40. The Panel took into account the following as mitigating features of this case:

a) The Registrant’s previously unblemished record.

b) The Registrant pleaded guilty at the first available opportunity.

c) The Registrant has taken some remedial steps even before he was sentence.

41. The Panel determined that the Registrant had been convicted of very serious criminal offences. The Panel could not be satisfied that there was a low risk of repetition. Furthermore, the Registrant has not engaged with these regulatory proceedings, and has not demonstrated any commitment to remaining in the profession.

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

43. The Panel first considered taking no action but concluded that, given the nature and seriousness of the criminal offences, this would be wholly inappropriate and would not protect the public or the wider public interest.

44. The Panel then considered whether to make a Caution Order. The Panel determined that the nature and circumstances of the criminal offences themselves are such that a Caution Order is not appropriate for the same reason as set out above.

45. The Panel next considered the imposition of a Conditions of Practice Order. However, this is not a case that is suitable for the imposition of a Conditions of Practice Order. There are no concerns with the Registrant’s practice or competency as a Biomedical Scientist. In any case, the serious nature and circumstances of the criminal offences makes a Conditions of Practice Order inappropriate as a sanction.

46. The Panel then considered whether a period of suspension would be a sufficient and proportionate response in order to maintain a proper degree of confidence in the profession and the regulatory process, and to declare and maintain proper standards among fellow professionals. As stated above, taking the nature and circumstances of the criminal offences into consideration, the Panel determined that the Registrant had been convicted of very serious criminal offences and he has not yet completed his sentence.

47. The Panel weighed all the above considerations, and also reminded itself of the mitigating features in this case, as set out above. The Panel determined that the matter before it was so serious that a Suspension Order, even for the maximum duration, would not be sufficient to maintain and declare proper standards of conduct and behavior, nor to maintain the reputation of the profession, nor to maintain public confidence in the profession and the regulatory process.

48. The Panel therefore went on to consider striking the Registrant’s name off the HCPC Register of Biomedical Scientists. The Panel took into account the impact that such an order would have on the Registrant in terms of his finances and his reputation. However, it concluded that this was such a gross departure from the fundamental tenets of the profession and standards of behavior expected from a Biomedical Scientist that only a striking off order would be sufficient to maintain and declare proper standards of conduct and behavior, to maintain the reputation of the profession, and to maintain public confidence in the profession and the regulatory process.

49. In the light of the above, the Panel are satisfied that the appropriate and proportionate response to protect the public and otherwise in the public interest in these circumstances is to make a Striking-Off Order.

Order

Order: That the Registrar is directed to strike the name of Mr Steven Wynne from the Biomedical Scientist part of the Register with immediate effect.

The order imposed today will apply from 5 May 2017.

Interim Suspension Order:

Having heard submissions from Ms Shape and having taken advice from the Legal Assessor, the Panel makes an Interim Suspension Order, for a period of eighteen months under Article 31(2) of the Health and Social Work 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; (if an appeal is made against the Panel’s decision and Order) the final determination of that appeal, subject to a maximum period of 18 months.

Notes

This Conduct and Competence Committee Panel Final Hearing took place at Cardiff Park Plaza on Friday 07 April 2017 at 10:00am

Hearing history

History of Hearings for Mr Steven J Wynne

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
07/04/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Struck off
14/10/2016 Conduct and Competence Committee Interim Order Review Interim Suspension