Ms Jacqueline Finnegan

: Practitioner psychologist

: PYL26650

Interim Order: Imposed on 27 Apr 2017

: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing:10:00 25/04/2017 End: 17:00 28/04/2017

: Health and Care Professions Council, 405 Kennington Road, London, SE11 4PT

: Conduct and Competence Committee
: Conditions of Practice

Allegation

Allegation (as amended at the substantive hearing):

Whilst employed as an Educational Psychologist with Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council:

1. On 21 June 2013 at Birmingham Magistrates' Court, you were convicted of:

On 31/05/13 at Birmingham in the County of West Midlands drove a motor vehicle namely a black Audi A2, (removed) on a road, namely Selly Oak Road after consuming so much alcohol that the proportion of it in your breath, namely 115microgrammes of alcohol in 100millilitres of breath, exceeded the prescribed limits. Contrary to section 5(1)(a) of the Road Traffic Act 1988 and Schedule 2 to the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988.

2. You attended staff and/or group supervision meetings and/or discussions with your supervisor when you smelled of and/or were under the influence of alcohol on:

a) 23 February 2012;
b) 01 March 2012;
c) 15 November 2012;
d) 06 December 2012; and,
e) 28 February 2013.

3. On 06 December 2012, you attended the School to meet with parents of a student, when you smelled of and/or were under the influence of alcohol.

4. Between December 2012 and June 2013, you filed child data in a manner that was not secure.

5. In relation to the service you provided to the School between January 2012 and May 2013, you:
a) charged for work but did not complete service records in the following cases:

i. Child A
ii. Child B
iii. Child C
iv. Child D

b) Kept inconsistent records in relation to credit charges.

6. Your actions described at paragraphs 2 – 5 constitute misconduct and/or lack of competence.

7. By reason of your conviction described at paragraph 1 your fitness to practise as a Practitioner Psychologist is impaired.

8. By reason of your misconduct and/or lack of competence your fitness to practise as a Practitioner Psychologist is impaired.

 

Finding

Preliminary matters

Amendment of the Allegation

1. Prior to the hearing, the HCPC had served Notice on the Registrant of its intention to amend the Allegation in several minor regards. At the hearing the HCPC proposed further amendments to particulars 2 and 3 so that they were no longer framed in the passive, but clearly identified and asserted what the actions were that had been observed.  It was therefore proposed that within these two particulars, the wording ‘when you smelled of and/or were under the influence of alcohol’ replace the wording ‘were observed to smell of and/or under the influence of alcohol’.

2. The HCPC submitted that these amendments did not affect the nature and intent of the matters alleged. The Registrant raised no objection and accepted that the amendments seemed sensible.

3. The Panel, having taken advice, decided that it would accept the amendments as these amendments aided clarity of what was alleged and were supported by the evidence. It was accepted by the Panel that the amendments were not material, did not widen the ambit of the allegation, nor did they cause the Registrant any prejudice.

Hearing in Private

4. The Panel, having received advice, and taken into account and balanced the interest of the public to a hearing being held in open session, decided that where the issues related specifically and exclusively to the Registrant’s personal life, in particular her health it would hear the oral evidence and any questioning in private.

Witness Anonymity

5. At the opening of the HCPC case an application was made by the HCPC, and approved by the Panel, that witness 4 remain anonymous. It was accepted that use of her name and position would disclose the identity of the school involved in the incidents referred to in the Allegation, and that it was appropriate that this remain private.

Background

6. The Registrant was employed as an Educational Psychologist at the Dudley Educational Psychologist Service provided by Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council (Dudley Council) from September 2004 to September 2015.

7. The Registrant self-referred on 8 July 2013, following her receiving a Conviction for driving whilst under the influence of alcohol, as identified in particular 1.

8. The HCPC received a further referral from Dudley Council, on 22 July 2013, in which, in addition to the fact of the Conviction (which had occurred whilst the Registrant was on sick leave) concerns were expressed by her employer relating to the Registrant’s consumption of alcohol during working hours in a period prior to the date when she received her Conviction.  This referral from Dudley Council made reference to an appraisal of the Registrant’s fitness to undertake her role which had been completed by the Occupational Health Department which concluded with the opinion that the Registrant was abstaining from alcohol and was ‘fit to remain at work’. This report was dated 16 May 2013, two weeks before the offence of driving under the influence of alcohol.

Decision on facts

9. The Panel appreciates that the burden of proof at this stage is upon the HCPC, and the Registrant does not have to prove, or disprove anything, and this applies notwithstanding the admissions that have been made by the Registrant. The Panel also acknowledges that the burden of proof is the civil standard of balance of probabilities.

10. At the beginning of the hearing the HCPC offered no evidence on the matter set out in particular 5(b).

11. The Registrant made factual admissions in relation to particulars 2(a) to (d) and 3.

Evidence

12. The Panel received live testimony from four HCPC witnesses which together with the sworn statement of a fifth witness, and the bundle of exhibits, formed the totality of the HCPC evidence. The HCPC witnesses’ evidence was, in a number of instances, supported by contemporaneous notes and emails.

13. Dr LT had been Principal Educational Psychologist for Dudley Council.  In relation to the practice of team members drinking at lunchtime, her evidence was balanced and she acknowledged that there was no specific prohibition at the time of these incidents, but it was appreciated and understood that drinking should never be apparent nor interfere with a practitioner’s ability to discharge their professional duty. She conceded that having now semi-retired, and being at some distance from the events, she no longer had access to relevant information and her recollection was limited. This resulted in the witness’s value to the hearing process being limited. However, when taken to notes or emails which she had generated or been the recipient, she was able to add further detail and context.

14. Dr JW, a Senior Educational Psychologist at the time of these events and had been the Registrant’s Supervisor between January and June 2014. The Panel considered that Dr JW was defensive in her responses and because she was taken to documents that she may not have seen for some time, or before this hearing, was ill prepared to answer all questions put to her. However, her evidence in relation to incidents relating to the particulars 2(c) and 5(a) were consistent with her contemporaneous evidence and her sworn statement.  

15. Ms DW, who was an Educational Psychologist and had been a team colleague, gave evidence in a straightforward and competent manner. Her views and answers to questions demonstrated a more balanced viewpoint. Her evidence was supported by the documentary evidence. The Panel considered that she was a more reliable witness.

16. Witness 4’s sworn statement and supporting documentation was a relaying of information from third parties whose evidence the Panel was unable to challenge. This was therefore of limited value. However, her oral evidence in questioning was helpful in clarifying a number of issues such as the fact that there was no Service Level Agreement for the provision of Educational Psychology support, that the Registrant’s reports always arrived albeit not immediately. Further she confirmed that the Registrant’s professional contribution assisted greatly in securing support for children and in particular one on one support for one child.

17. The Registrant gave live testimony and had previously placed two sets of documentary evidence before the Panel. Her oral evidence was presented in a controlled and composed manner, however it was not consistent in its clarity at times being ‘hazy’ and at others clear and assured in the detail. The Panel consider that the Registrant was not intentionally misleading, but her reflection and revisiting of some aspects had produced a distorted degree of recollection that was not supported by other evidence and at times was in stark contrast with the evidence of former colleagues.

18. The Registrant has accepted that on four of the occasions identified she had drunk a glass of wine at lunch time and that in such circumstances she may have smelled of it. In the Panel’s assessment, the Registrant’s evidence reflected her continued lack of awareness of her physical presentation when she had drunk alcohol at lunchtime. She accepted in questioning that someone who drank alcohol was not the best judge of the degree to which they were displaying unusual behaviour. The Panel has therefore not been able to place reliance on her evidence relating to the factual basis for the particulars relating to her being under the influence of alcohol.

19. The chronology of events, as particularised in the Allegation, is as follows:

20. Particulars 2(a), 2(b) and 2(c) relate to smelling of/or being under the influence of alcohol in February 2012, March 2012 and November 2012.

21. Particulars 2(d) and 3 both occurred on 6 December 2012, and again relate to smelling of/or under the influence of alcohol, the first occasion within the office setting and the latter at a meeting that took place at a school with parents and a child in attendance.

22. Particular 4, relates to December 2012 when papers were discovered on the Registrant’s desk and not securely filed away.

23. Particular 2(e), relates to a further incident on 28 February 2013, relating to smelling of/or under the influence of alcohol in a meeting.

24. The Registrant was then on sick leave from 17 May 2013 to 5 July 2013, and during this period of absence two things are alleged to have occurred.

a. On 31 May 2013 the Registrant was convicted of the drink driving offence as set out in Particular 1.
b. On 19 June 2013, service user papers were discovered to be insecurely stored, as set out in particular 4.

25. Particular 5(a), refers to an investigation of record keeping relating to the period beginning in January 2012, and ending in May 2013, during which time the Registrant was undertaking work in the School.

26. Particular 5(b), not pursued by the HCPC.

Findings
Particular 1

27. The Panel accepted the documentary evidence before it of a Conviction for driving whilst more than three times over the legal limit for alcohol. This is proof absolute of the offence and the fact of the Conviction.

Particular 2

28. The Panel accepted that whilst there was staff guidance on the standards of practice expected of them, there was no specific guidance stating that no alcohol should be consumed during working hours.  Dr LT stated that there was nothing wrong with a glass of wine at lunchtime but it should not interfere with a professional’s ability to discharge their duties.

29. The factual basis for 2(a) to (d) was accepted by the Registrant on the basis that she had drunk one glass of wine during her lunchtime and that it was consistent with acceptable practice within the culture of the office at that time. She accepted that having drunk one glass of wine she would have smelled of alcohol. The Registrant smelling of alcohol was supported by the direct evidence of Ms DW in relation to particular 2(b).

30. The Registrant’s representative submitted that it did not follow that because the Registrant had admitted to having a drink and accepted that she may have smelled of alcohol that she was in fact under the influence of alcohol.  The evidence of the HCPC witnesses was that they were familiar with the Registrant’s naturally animated behaviour and the manner in which she spoke. These witnesses were able to articulate how the Registrant’s behaviour, when under the influence of alcohol, had been discernibly different, in particular her slurring of speech, failure to find appropriate words and to maintain her concentration.

31. The Panel accepted the evidence of the three HCPC witnesses, Dr’s LT, JW and Ms DG, that the Registrant had been under the influence of alcohol as identified in particulars 2(a) to (d).

32. The factual basis of 2(e) was not accepted by the Registrant. In support, she advanced three bases for her certainty that she had not drunk alcohol on this day. First, she had given up drinking in office hours after the events on 6 December 2012, which had resulted in a complaint from the School and discussion with management about the appropriateness of drinking during the working day. Secondly, she had not arrived at the office meeting late because of being out drinking, but the need to return home and change her clothing. Thirdly, she was absolutely confident that she did not have a glass of wine because it was Lent and she always gave up alcohol for Lent.

33. The Panel noted that the Registrant’s responses made to management questions and the Registrant’s written representations to the HCPC did not identify either the need to go home and change clothing nor make reference to Lent. This hearing was the first occasion when the Registrant had put forward these two bases of support for her recollection of not drinking on 28 February 2013. Further, the Panel noted that the events on 23 February 2012 and 1 March 2012, occasions when the Registrant accepted that she had been drinking, were both within the 2012 Lenten period.

34. Ms DW confirmed that the Registrant had arrived late at the meeting on 28 February 2013 with school head teachers. The Registrant sat directly next to Ms DW which meant that Ms DW was close enough to smell alcohol on the Registrant’s breath, which she had. She stated that she was one of several people at the meeting who noted the Registrant’s unusual behaviour and demeanour. The Registrant appeared to be unable to follow what was happening and had made inappropriate contributions to the discussion. Ms DW stated that she was ‘embarrassed’ and ‘concerned as to what the Registrant may say next’. She reported her concerns to Dr LT.

35. The Panel preferred the evidence of Ms DW which was supported by the other contemporaneous evidence before the Panel.

Particular 3

36. In relation to particular 2(d) the Registrant accepted that she had drunk a glass of wine at lunchtime, and that therefore later in the day, whilst attending the school, she may still have smelled of alcohol. The HCPC evidence is that Dr JW was sufficiently concerned about the Registrant’s ability to attend this meeting at the school that she had questioned the Registrant on whether it was wise to go. This evidence of the level of concern about the Registrant’s ability to undertake her professional duties was supported by the hearsay evidence of third parties, the school’s administrators, who are reported as having observed the Registrant’s unusual behaviour whilst with the parents of a child assigned to the Registrant. The hearsay evidence of her behaviour, included reference to her crawling around a coffee table to get to a child in a buggy, and then crawling back. This evidence is consistent with the Registrant still being under the influence of alcohol. 

37. Taking all this evidence into account, the Panel has concluded, on the balance of probabilities that the Registrant was smelling of alcohol, and was also under the influence of alcohol on the occasions identified in particulars 2(a) to (e) and 3.

Particular 4

38. The evidence of Ms DW is that on a date in December 2012, when the Registrant was not in the office, she was trying to locate a file relating to one of the children assigned to the Registrant. She thought that she had been looking for this file as part of an audit visit that was being conducted. In the course of that search she went to the Registrant’s desk and found, within a pile of papers on the top of the desk, reports and notes relating to children, papers that should have been filed securely. She brought this immediately to the attention of one of her colleagues and then ensured that the paperwork was correctly filed. She subsequently reported this incident to management.

39. In relation to this incident the Registrant expressed her surprise because after 6 December 2012 she had been absent from the office on the instruction of management and at this time her desk would have been clear as the audit had just been completed and for the period of the audit a totally clear desk policy had been implemented.

40. The Panel has no evidence as to when the audit had been undertaken. Ms Goodall’s evidence had been clear on what she had seen and done and had been followed up in a note made by Dr JW. The Panel preferred the evidence of Ms DW to that of the Registrant’s on this incident.

41. At the close of the HCPC case the Presenting Officer highlighted to the Panel that the oral evidence of Dr JW in relation to the event on 19 June 2013 had been that whilst the paperwork on top of the Registrant’s desk had been chaotic her recollection was that the records that she discovered had been in the Registrant’s office desk drawer which was capable of being locked. The evidence as adduced was therefore not supportive of the particular as drafted.

42. The Panel has relied only on the incident in December 2012 in making its finding that there had been child data that had not been stored in a secure manner.  

Particular 5(a)

43. The administrative process for a school receiving the services of Psychologists was one of a system of advance purchase of credits by the school. These credits were then allocated to named pupils as and when the need for support arose. The number of children who received Psychological support fluctuated. The process of identifying the needs of each child and assessing how many credits their treatment required was agreed between, and recorded by, the Council and the School. The Psychologist then provided the services and it was recorded administratively that the session had been completed as well as a record made of the progress made in the session being entered on the child’s records which was held at the school. The Registrant was the only visiting Educational Psychologist at this school and therefore the only one responsible for the record keeping of this information.

44. The investigation into the accuracy of the records of the credits used and services given arose from concerns expressed by the Head Teacher at the School. Dr JW carried out the audit which involved producing, reviewing and cross referencing the Registrant’s diary, the children’s files, and the Work in Schools Records. The audit of these records identified that there were discrepancies that had resulted in the School’s credits being incorrectly ascribed to Psychological sessions for the four children identified in this particular.

45. The Registrant maintained that it was unclear as to how this particular was to be interpreted. She did not understand how any discrepancy could arise and at this hearing she referred to a system of traffic light markers on the electronic diary that would have clearly identified any matters that were outstanding. This was a new assertion and one that the not been raised with the witnesses. It was an issue which the Panel was therefore unable to explore or challenge and so had to discount. It was emphasised by the Registrant that this was a matter that was investigated by Dr JW but never put to the Registrant and the first she knew of this matter was when she received the HCPC evidence. It was also emphasised that the credit system provided no financial benefit or incentive to the Registrant.

46. The investigation undertaken by Dr JW was, in the Panel’s view, robust and supported the allegation as drafted and found proven.

Statutory grounds

47. The Panel has accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and received the parties’ submissions. The Panel is aware that at this stage in the process there is no onus on the HCPC. The decision is one for the Panel, exercising its professional judgment as to whether the matters found proven individually, or collectively, amount to misconduct and/or lack of competence. The Panel has referred to the relevant Practice Note and to the Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics issued by the HCPC and the Standards of Proficiency relevant to the profession of Practitioner Psychologists.

Submissions

48. The HCPC asserted that the Registrant’s failings as identified in particulars 2 to 5(a), were below the standards expected of a practitioner and in particular were in breach of the following provisions of the HCPC standards:

Conduct performance and ethics:
a. 1 acting in the best interests of service users,
b. 2 respecting the confidentiality of service users
c. 3 keep high standards of personal conduct,
d. 7 communicate properly and effectively with service users and other practitioners, and
e. 10 keep accurate records.
Proficiency:
f. 1(a)(3) understand the importance of and be able to maintain confidentiality
g. 1(a)(7) recognise the need  for effective self-management of workload and resources and be able to practise accordingly
h. 1b be able to work, where appropriate, in partnership with other professionals, support staff, service users and their relatives and carers
i. 2(b)(5) be able to maintain records appropriately,

49. The Registrant’s representative maintained that the Registrant’s behaviour should be set within the context of the Registrant’s underlying personal health issues which at that time had not being fully acknowledged or adequately addressed by her. It was stressed that the Registrant had not acted intentionally or maliciously. Further there had been no personal or financial motivation in relation to the matters raised in particular 5.

Decision

50. The evidence relating to the fact of the Conviction is sufficient to support the statutory ground of Conviction.

51. In her advice, the Legal Assessor drew a distinction between the acts of those without the experience, knowledge and skill to attain the requisite level of competence, and those who knowingly or recklessly, through their acts or omissions, have conducted themselves in an inappropriate manner or in breach of the HCPC standards. The former fell more rightly into a finding of lack of competence, and the latter to misconduct. The Panel was advised that only in exceptional circumstances would one serious incident amount to lack of professional competence: it is normal for there to be a fair sample of the Registrant’s work to support a finding of lack of competence.

52. The Registrant was an experienced practitioner who had knowledge and understanding of what was expected of her. The examples of poor record keeping and storage of sensitive data related to what appeared to be isolated incidents. The Panel therefore considers that although the matters raised in particulars 2 to 5 were pleaded in the alternative of misconduct and/or lack of competence none of them support a finding of lack of competence.

53. Having made this decision, the Panel considered whether the findings made either individually or collectively amount to a finding of misconduct.

54. In the Panel’s view the matters raised in particulars 2 and 3 are a departure from the standards of conduct expected of a professional. The fact that there were five incidents over a period which is only a little over a year, shows a pattern of inappropriate behaviour.  The Panel noted that on two of those occasions the Registrant’s inappropriate behaviour had been before third parties and so will have had a reputational impact on her employing organisation, her colleagues and the profession of Practitioner Psychologists. The Panel has concluded that these matters individually and collectively amount to serious misconduct.

55. The Panel considers that the Registrant’s conduct as identified in particulars 2 and 3 are in breaches of the provisions of standards 1, 3 and 7 and 13, which relates to behaving with honesty and integrity and making sure that your behaviour does not damage the public’s confidence in you or your profession. The Panel also considers that the Registrant’s behaviour is in breach of the standards of Proficiency relating to professional relationships as set out in section 1b.

56. The evidence on which it made factual findings in relation to particulars 4 was that one day, on an unidentified date in December 2012, when the Registrant was not available, data relating to children assigned to her was found on her desk and not securely stored in her lockable drawer or her cabinet.  It was accepted by Ms DG, who found this paperwork, that it was not unusual that during the working day files or reports may be on a practitioner’s desk. The Panel has given this matter careful consideration and concluded that this one incident does not meet the requisite threshold to constitute misconduct.

57. Particular 5 was a poor record keeping issue which emanated from what appeared to be a relatively newly introduced process of purchase of credits for services. The evidence of Dr JW demonstrated that it was not a straightforward system to unpick and analyse. The Panel noted that there was no personal nor financial motivation for the Registrant’s actions and that there had been no attempt to conceal any changes made to the records and corrections had been clearly identified. The Panel has also noted that this particular relates solely to the recording of the use of credits and that the evidence is that the Registrant undertook the work, she produced the reports and that overall she had given able support to the children assigned to her. This is therefore purely an administrative error issue and in the Panel’s view does not meet the threshold of misconduct.

Impairment 

58. The Panel has again taken the opportunity of referring to the relevant Practice Note issued by the HCPC and it has sought and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. In relation to the matters on which it has made a finding of misconduct the Panel has considered whether it is capable of remedy, has been remedied and whether there would be a repetition of the misconduct.

59. The Panel has noted that the Registrant has accepted that there have been changes in the way in which drinking is now perceived and that within a professional environment it is inappropriate ever to drink at work. She told the Panel that she now only drank the occasional glass of wine at weekends or on special occasions. She acknowledged that alcohol could reduce the benefits of some of the medication she was taking.  When asked what she would do differently the Registrant stated that she would not to drink during working hours and she would seek more help and support.

60. Since the events in 2015 the Registrant had worked through an agency undertaking positions within local government. The Registrant is currently in employment that will come to an end in October 2017. The Panel has before it a professional reference from the Registrant’s employing agency which provided little useful information about the Registrant’s current abilities. There were no other professional or personal testimonies.

61. The Registrant has secured a scholarship for a doctorate and was one year into the course.

62. The Panel considered that the misconduct identified was capable of remedy and that the current evidence supported the view that the Registrant had taken steps to remedy that misconduct and the underlying medical drivers for that behaviour. The evidence was that the Registrant was no longer using alcohol as a coping strategy. On the professional medical evidence before the Panel it appeared that there was little likelihood of a repetition however there is no up-to-date medical that this is still the case.

63. Having made these observations the Panel considered the Registrant’s insight into the events that led to her being before this Panel. The Panel identified in questioning that the Registrant was still not able to admit fully that she may have been incapable of judging accurately her previous degree of reliance upon and use of alcohol. At this hearing she distanced herself from the suggestion that she regularly drank alcohol, however the written representations previously submitted to the HCPC acknowledged that there was a degree of reliance on alcohol to deal with stressors. The Panel was troubled by the fact that at this hearing the Registrant presented new alternative reasons for her defence of the allegation of drinking alcohol in February 2013, reasons which the Panel considered demonstrated an inability to fully embrace acceptance of her past actions. The Panel concluded that the Registrant has moved some distance away from her previous misconduct but has not demonstrated full insight or acceptance of her failings.

64. The HCPC maintained that these matters were serious involving as they do the imposition of a Conviction for driving having consumed more than three times the legal limit of alcohol. This conviction has reputational implications for the Registrant and her profession. It was argued by the HCPC that the fact of the Conviction and misconduct involving being under the influence of alcohol at work warranted a finding of impairment on the public component of the Panel’s decision.

65. The Panel accepted that the Conviction and the evidence of five occasions when the Registrant was under the influence of alcohol at work, were serious matters, ranging as they did over a period of eighteen months. These matters would undermine the public’s confidence in the profession and the regulatory process if a finding were not made.
The Panel has therefore concluded that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired, on the personal and the public components.

Sanction

Submissions

67. The HCPC highlighted again the reputational damage arising from the fact of a criminal conviction for driving whilst under the influence of alcohol.  The fact that there had been five occasions when it was identified that the Registrant was smelling of and or under the influence of alcohol during working hours was a matter for concern. Two of those occasions were in the presence of head teachers, parents and students.

68. The Registrant’s representative stressed that this exercise was not one of punishment and that the Panel’s assessment of the proportionate sanction to impose should include the public interest in an experienced registrant returning to her profession. The Panel had already noted that the Registrant had acknowledged that office culture in relation to drinking alcohol during office hours had changed. It was argued that this had not only been acknowledged by the Registrant but had also been accepted and the evidence for this was that there had been no subsequent incidents in the period after February 2013 until the Registrant left the employment of Dudley Council, or since.

Decision

69. At this stage, the Panel is able to take into account all information placed before it. It has, as advised, referred to the Indicative Sanctions Policy for guidance on the appropriate and proportionate sanction. However the Panel has noted that this is guidance and is not prescriptive.

70. The Panel noted that to some degree the Registrant’s misconduct may have emanated from, or be reflective of, her underlying health issues: issues which she is now actively addressing.  The Panel at this stage is focusing on the aspects of conduct identified in particulars 1, 2 and 3 which all arise out of the Registrant’s consumption of alcohol.

71. The Panel has identified the following mitigating and aggravating factors.

72. In mitigation:

• This is the first occasion that the Registrant has faced an allegation or complaint to her regulator.
• There was no adverse impact on service users.
• The Registrant has engaged in the HCPC process.
• The Registrant has expressed her regret and remorse for her misconduct and Conviction.
• The Registrant has fulfilled the terms of her Community Service Order and her ban from driving has now expired.
• The Registrant is currently employed.
• The Registrant has continued her personal development by engaging in a further course of academic study for a PhD.
• These events occurred some time ago and there has been no repetition of the misconduct.
Aggravating
• The fact of the criminal conviction for driving whilst more than three times over the legal limit for alcohol.
• The potential of harm to service users and colleagues arising from working whilst under the influence of alcohol.
• There is reputational damage arising from the Registrant’s conviction.
• The Registrant’s reputation, and that of colleagues and her profession, has been undermined by her inappropriate interaction with service users in the School whilst smelling of and/or under the influence of, alcohol.
• The medical information before the Panel is dated June 2016 and so may not reflect fully the current medical position.

73. The Panel began its consideration of sanction by starting at the bottom of the scale with consideration of whether this was a case where it was appropriate to take no further action. This action is possibility appropriate in light of the information relating to the Registrant’s changed attitude to her medical condition, which is demonstrated by her acknowledgement that her wellbeing is a matter for her to address and maintain. It is also supported by her testimony relating to her improved relationship with those providing treatment and care for her medical condition. The Panel gave this option a great deal of consideration but decided that it would neither mark nor address the issue of limited insight displayed by the Registrant into her former behaviour. The Panel considered that it was essential that the Registrant’s insight was developed to ensure that the likelihood of repetition was further reduced.

74. Mediation is not appropriate. The Panel has noted that no service user harm has resulted from the Registrant’s behaviour, the damage caused being all reputational. The Panel has therefore concluded that a Caution Order would be sufficient in these circumstances to mark the seriousness of the Registrant’s misconduct. However, again, this level of sanction would not address the need for further development of insight and reflection. Nor would a Caution Order provide the opportunity to monitor the Registrant’s continued control of her medical condition, which in the Panel’s view is essential to ensure that she does not pose a risk to service users and colleagues in the future.

75. The Panel therefore considered whether it would be possible to construct a Conditions of Practice Order that focused on the Registrant’s continued wellbeing and allowed her the opportunity for further reflection on past behaviour.  The Panel has concluded that a set of Conditions which addressed the Registrant’s personal responsibility for her wellbeing as well as for development of her understanding of the dangers that can arise from consuming alcohol, would, in all the circumstances of this case, be proportionate and appropriate.

76. In establishing whether this level of sanction is proportionate the Panel has considered whether the Registrant’s Conviction and misconduct are fundamentally at variance with her remaining on the Register and warrant a period of suspension. The Panel noted that the Registrant is in employment and working without concern. She has taken responsibility for her wellbeing and is maintaining her health. She has shown a level of insight into her behaviour and has shown genuine remorse and regret. In these circumstances the Panel has decided that a Suspension Order would be disproportionate and punitive.

77. Although the public may find the headlight nature of the conviction and the information relating to the Registrant being under the influence of alcohol while at work concerning, the Panel believes that a member of the public in receipt of all the facts would come to the same conclusion as the Panel, that any greater restriction would be punitive.  A set of personal Conditions of Practice as set out below, will place employers and those in contact with the Registrant professionally on notice of the need for continued monitoring of the Registrant’s wellbeing. In the absence of concerns about the Registrant’s practice this Panel considers that the issues of public protection and public interest have been adequately and appropriately addressed.

78. The events that led to this matter being before this Panel occurred some time ago and there have been no subsequent concerns about the Registrant’s professional conduct or her personal behaviour. The Panel has therefore concluded that a Conditions of Practice Order for a period of one year is sufficient for the Registrant to completely remediate her behaviour. The Panel considers that this process will take a year and has therefore exercised its discretion to restrict the Registrant’s right to call for an early review until the expiration of ten months.

Order

The Registrar is directed to annotate the HCPC Register to show that, for a period of 12 months from the date that this Order takes effect (“the Operative Date”), you, Ms Jacqueline Finnegan, must comply with the following conditions of practice:

1. You must place yourself and remain under the supervision of a mentor who may be the supervisor on your PhD course or any other appropriate practitioner registered by the HCPC or other appropriate statutory regulator and supply details of your supervisor to the HCPC within two weeks of the Operative Date. You must attend upon that supervisor as required and follow their advice and recommendations.

2. You must register with and remain under the care of a general practitioner and inform him or her that you are subject to these conditions.

3. You must keep your professional commitments under review and limit your professional practice in accordance with the advice of your general practitioner and consultant psychiatrist.

4. You must cease practising immediately if you are advised to do so by your general practitioner and consultant psychiatrist.

5. You must abstain absolutely from the consumption of alcohol during the working hours whilst providing professional services.
6. Any condition requiring you to provide any information to the HCPC is to be met by you, by sending the information to the offices of the HCPC, marked for the attention of the Director of Fitness to Practise or Head of Case Management.

7. You must provide the reviewing panel with a full and up-to-date medical report from your treating practitioner in advance of the review hearing.
8. The responsibility remains with you for providing all evidence at a future reviewing panel.
9. You will be responsible for meeting any and all costs associated with complying with these conditions.

10. You must prepare a reflective piece of writing which demonstrates your awareness of the effects of alcohol on your professional and biological functioning and the effects which alcohol can have on judgment and your medical condition.
11. You must inform the following parties that your registration is subject to these conditions.

A. any organisation or person employing or contracting with you to undertake professional work;

B. any agency you are registered with or apply to be registered with (at the time of application); and

C. any prospective employer (at the time of your application).

 

Notes

This Order will be reviewed before its expiry. An Interim Conditions of Practice Order was imposed to mirror the conditions as set out above, was imposed to cover the appeal period.

Hearing history

History of Hearings for Ms Jacqueline Finnegan

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
25/04/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Conditions of Practice