Ms Annabel Jones
Proof of Service
1. The Panel was satisfied that the notice of hearing was served. The notice of hearing was posted by first class post on 20 March 2017 to the Registrant’s registered address. It contained all the relevant information. Having taken the advice of the Legal Assessor, the Panel determined that service had been properly effected in accordance with the Rules.
Proceeding in absence
2. The Panel then went on to consider whether it should hear the case in the absence of the Registrant. Ms Akinfenwa referred the Panel to Rule 11 which enables the Panel to proceed in a Registrant’s absence. Ms Akinfenwa submitted that the Registrant had been served with notice of the hearing; had failed to engage with the HCPC throughout the proceedings. Ms Akinfenwa informed the Panel that the hearing today was a mandatory review of a Suspension Order, that the Registrant was unlikely to attend if the case were to be adjourned particularly in the light of her non-engagement and invited the Panel to proceed in the Registrant’s absence.
3. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. Taking account of this advice and the submissions of Ms Akinfenwa the Panel decided it would proceed in the absence of the Registrant. The Panel recognised the need to exercise the utmost care and caution when considering whether or not to proceed in the absence of a Registrant. However, in this case the Registrant has been served with notice of hearing, this is a mandatory review and the Registrant failed to attend either the final hearing or the review hearing last year. There was no Registrant’s bundle and the Panel concluded that all reasonable steps had been taken by the HCPC. There was no adjournment request. The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant would be unlikely to attend a future hearing and that no purpose would be served by an adjournment. The Panel therefore finds that it is in the interests of justice to proceed in the absence of the Registrant.
Proceeding in Private
4. Ms Akinfenwa, submitted that, under Rule (10)(1) of the Rules, the whole of this hearing should be heard in private. She reminded the Panel that the Registrant was impaired by reason of her health and that this case is founded entirely on issues relating to health. She submitted that the Panel would therefore be justified in hearing the case in private. She further submitted that, in this case, there is no public interest in the case being heard in public. The Legal Assessor advised that the Panel had a discretion to conduct a hearing in private. She reminded the Panel that the starting point is that cases should be heard in public. She referred the Panel to the Practice Note on ‘Proceeding in Private’ and of the need to balance the Registrant’s right to a private life against the presumption in favour of public hearings.
5. The Panel accepted the advice of Legal Assessor. The Panel is satisfied that all the evidence in this case relates to the Registrant’s health and concerns private life issues. The Panel finds that there is no public interest in this case being held in public and that the protection of the Registrant’s private life dictates that this hearing should be held in private. As this case relates exclusively to the Registrant’s health, the Panel is satisfied that the whole hearing should be in private to protect the private life of the Registrant.
Order: The Registrar is directed to extend the suspension of 6 months upon expiry of the current order.