Mrs Giovanna Poala Tutton

: Social worker

: SW68715

Interim Order: Imposed on 04 May 2016

: Final Hearing

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

: Health and Care Professions Tribunal Service (HCPTS), 405 Kennington Road, London, SE11 4PT

: Conduct and Competence Committee
: Struck off

Allegation

During the course of your employment as a Social Worker for Croydon Council between 8 January 2014 and 10 April 2015, you:

 

1. On around 52 occasions between 8 January 2014 and 10 April 2015 made false claims on behalf of service users for section 17 payments, which you retained for your own personal use, including:

a) On or around 9 April 2015, for service user A;

b) On or around 10 April 2015, for service user B;

c) On or around 5 February 2014, for service user C;

d) On or around 6 August 2014, for service user D;

e) On or around 4 February 2015, for service user E.

2. Your actions at 1 above were dishonest.

 

3. The matters set out in paragraphs 1 - 2 constitute misconduct.

 

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

Finding

Preliminary matters:


1. The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant had been served with notice of the hearing in accordance with the Health and Care Professions Council (Conduct and Competence Committee) (Procedure) Rules 2003 (“the Rules”).


2. Ms Turner made an application for the Panel to proceed with the hearing in the absence of the Registrant. The Panel took into account the HCPTS Practice Note on Proceeding in the Absence of a Registrant and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel was informed that the Registrant had not engaged with the HCPC in these proceedings. The Registrant had not requested an adjournment of the hearing or given any reasons why it should be adjourned. The Panel concluded that the Registrant had voluntarily absented herself and had waived her right to attend. No useful purpose would be served by an adjournment, which would be unlikely to secure her attendance in the future. The Panel took into account the convenience of the witnesses for the HCPC who had attended to give evidence. The Panel also took into account the public interest in the expeditious determination of the allegation, its age and seriousness. In all the circumstances, the Panel concluded that it was in the interests of justice to proceed with the hearing in the absence of the Registrant.

3. Ms Turner applied for the entire hearing to take place in private. The basis for that application was that there is an ongoing criminal investigation relating to the subject matter of these proceedings and it is important to avoid prejudicing that investigation or the Registrant’s right to a fair trial in the event of criminal proceedings. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and granted the application.


4. Ms Turner applied to amend the particulars of the allegation by incorporating full details of the occasions when the Registrant is alleged to have fraudulently claimed on behalf of service users. The Registrant was served with notice of the proposed amendment by letter dated 6 January 2017 and had raised no objections. The Panel accepted the submission of Ms Turner that the proposed amendments provided clarification of the allegation which was for the benefit of both the Registrant and the Panel. The Panel considered that the proposed amendment caused no injustice to the Registrant. Accordingly, the application to amend the allegation was granted.


Background


5. The Registrant is a registered Social Worker who commenced employment with the London Borough of Croydon (the Council) as a Senior Social Worker in April 2003 and was later promoted to Practice Manager and then Unit Manager of the Care Planning Unit 3 since April 2013.


6. On 20 April 2015 the Registrant was suspended from work pending an internal investigation into financial irregularities reported by colleagues.


Decision on Facts


7. The Panel found the following facts proved: 1(b), (c), (d), (e), (f), (h), (i), (j), (k), (l), (m), (o), (q), (s), (t), (v), (w), (x), (y), (z), (aa), (cc), (dd), (ff), (hh), (ii), (jj), (kk), (ll) and 2.


8. The Panel found the following facts not proved: 1(a), (g), (n), (p), (r), (u), (bb), (ee), (gg) and (mm)


Decision on Grounds


9. The Panel went on to consider whether the facts found proved amounted to misconduct, as alleged in Particular 3.


10. The Panel was mindful that this is a matter for the Panel’s professional judgment, there being no standard or burden of proof.


11. The Panel took into account that misconduct was defined in Roylance v General Medical Council (no 2) [2001] 1 AC 311 as:


“a word of general effect, involving some act or omission which falls short of what would be proper in the circumstances. The standard of propriety may often be found by reference to the rules and standards ordinarily required to be followed by a medical practitioner in the particular circumstances”.


12. It is clear from case law that misconduct must be serious.


13. In the Panel’s judgment, the particulars found proved constitute misconduct. They exhibit a serious, sustained and premeditated course of conduct involving dishonesty. The Registrant was in breach of the following provisions of the HCPC’s Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics (2012):


• Paragraph 3: You must keep high standards of personal conduct, as well as professional conduct.
• Paragraph 10: You must keep accurate records.
• Paragraph 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.


14. In addition, the Registrant was in breach of her employer’s Code of Conduct for Council staff updated in 2009 which at section 2.1 provided that “You must never use your position in the Council for private advantage or gain”.


Decision on Impairment


15. The Panel considered the submissions on behalf of the HCPC. The Panel took into account the HCPTS Practice Note on Finding that Fitness to Practise is Impaired and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.


16. The Panel applied the test formulated by Dame Janet Smith in her Fifth Shipman Report and applied by the High Court in Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence v Nursing and Midwifery Council and Grant [2011] EWHC 927 (Admin), 76):


17. “Do our findings of fact in respect of the doctor’s misconduct, deficient professional performance, adverse health, conviction, caution or determination show that his/her fitness to practise is impaired in the sense that s/he:


a) has in the past acted and/or is liable to act in the future so as to put a 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 medical 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 medical profession; and/or
d)  has in the past acted dishonestly and/or is liable to act dishonestly in the future?”


18. The Panel found each of the above aspects of impairment to be engaged in this case.


19. In determining whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired, the Panel took into account both the “personal” component and “public”’ component. The “personal” component relates to the Registrant’s own practice as a Social Worker, including any evidence of insight and remorse and efforts towards remediation. The “public” component includes the need to protect service users, declare and uphold proper standards of behaviour and maintain public confidence in the profession and the regulator. The Panel considered not only whether the Registrant continues to present a risk to the public but also whether the public interest (i.e. the need to uphold proper professional standards and public confidence in the profession) would be undermined if a finding of impairment was not made: Grant (cited above).


20. The Panel found that the Registrant’s fitness to practise was and remains impaired having regard to the “personal” component. The Registrant has not engaged at all with the HCPC in these proceedings and has not attended this hearing. She has produced neither references nor testimonials nor any information about her practice since the date of the matters to which these proceedings relate. The Panel considered that there was a serious risk of repetition.


21. The Panel also found the “public” component of impairment to be satisfied in this case. Public confidence in the profession would very likely be damaged by the Registrant’s misconduct. Accordingly, public confidence in the profession and in the regulator would be undermined if there were no finding of impairment.


Decision on Sanction


22. The Panel took into account the submissions of Ms Turner.


23. The Panel had due regard to the HCPTS Indicative Sanctions Policy and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel was mindful that the purpose of a sanction is not to punish the Registrant but to protect the public and the wider public interest to uphold proper standards of conduct and maintain public confidence in the profession and in the regulator.  The Panel applied the principle of proportionality, balancing the interests of the Registrant with those of the public, and considered the available sanctions in ascending order.


24. The case is too serious for the Panel to take no action. Mediation is not a relevant option.


25. None of the criteria for the imposition of a Caution Order applies. It would not protect the public or address the public interest in this case.


26. A Conditions of Practice Order is not appropriate in a case involving repeated and systematic dishonesty, where the Registrant has maintained her denials and has not engaged in the proceedings. It would not be possible to formulate workable and measurable conditions to address dishonesty in this case.


27. The Panel considered whether to impose a Suspension Order but decided that the risk of repetition is too high and the abuse of trust too serious.


28. Accordingly, a striking off order is the only appropriate and proportionate sanction.

Order

Order: That the Registrar is directed to strike the name of Giovanna Poala Tutton from the Register on the date this order comes into effect.

Notes

The order imposed today will apply from 11 August 2017 (the operative date).

 

Hearing history

History of Hearings for Mrs Giovanna Poala Tutton

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
10/07/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Struck off
07/07/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Interim Order Review Interim Suspension
13/04/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Interim Order Review Interim Suspension
24/01/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Interim Order Review Interim Suspension
01/11/2016 Conduct and Competence Committee Interim Order Review Interim Suspension
04/05/2016 Investigating committee Interim Order Application Interim Suspension