Mr Andrew J Team

: Paramedic

: PA17731

: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing:10:00 07/08/2017 End: 17:00 07/08/2017

: Clayton Hotel Cardiff, St Mary Street, Cardiff, CF10 1GD

: Conduct and Competence Committee
: Caution

Allegation

1. While registered as a Paramedic, on 15 April 2016 at the Glamorgan Valley Magistrates Court sitting at Pontypridd you were convicted of the offence of driving a motor vehicle with an alcohol level above the prescribed limit.

 

2. By reason of your conviction as set out in paragraph 1, your fitness to practise is impaired.

Finding

Preliminary matters
1. Mr Newman, on behalf of the HCPC, applied to amend the Allegation. The proposed amendments related to the date of the conviction. The Registrant had pleaded guilty and therefore been convicted on 1 April 2016. He had been sentenced on 15 April 2016. This was the date which had incorrectly been stated in the Allegation and the correct date should be the date of conviction. The Registrant made no objection. The Panel considered the advice of the Legal Assessor which was that an amendment could be made provided the Panel was satisfied that no injustice was caused.

2. The Panel accepted the application and allowed the amendment. In making this decision the Panel noted the Registrant had been informed of the intention to apply to amend the Allegation on 23 March 2017. The proposed amendment made no substantial difference to the case alleged against the Registrant and simply corrected an error on a date.

Background
3. The Registrant is a Paramedic who is registered with the HCPC. On 14 March 2016 Police were called to the Registrant’s home address.

4. Upon their arrival, the Police asked the Registrant to leave the premises so that they could talk to the Registrant’s partner. The Registrant complied. He left the premises and went to his motor vehicle.

5. After speaking to the Registrant’s partner, the Police contacted the Registrant on his mobile telephone and asked him to return to the premises. They waited outside for him to return and saw him driving his car.  He was placed into the back of a police car. A Police Officer spoke to the Registrant and smelt intoxicating liquor and noticed his eyes appeared to be glazed. The Registrant was therefore asked to provide a specimen of breath which returned a positive test.  He was arrested. He said that he had not drunk on the morning of 14 March 2016, he had consumed alcohol on the night of 13 March 2016. Once arrested and at the Police Station the Registrant provided two specimens of breath.  The readings were 112ug/100 ml of breath for both specimens.

6. The Registrant appeared at Glamorgan Valley Magistrates Court on 1 April 2016. He pleaded guilty to a charge of driving a motor vehicle with an alcohol level above the prescribed limit contrary to section 5(1)(a) of the Road Traffic Act 1988 and Schedule 2 to the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988. On 15 April 2016, he was sentenced to a fine of £600 and disqualified from driving for 24 months. The disqualification would be reduced by 24 weeks if he satisfactorily completed an approved course. He was also ordered to pay a surcharge to fund victim services of £60 and CPS costs of £620.

Decision on facts
7. The Panel bore in mind the burden and standard of proof and considered the single Particular.

8. The HCPC relied on the documents produced, including the Memorandum of Conviction, as to the existence of the conviction. The Registrant gave evidence and gave details of his arrest.

Particular 1 – found proved
9. The Panel found this Particular proved, in making this decision it relied on the certified Memorandum of Conviction dated 15 April 2016 and the admissions made by the Registrant.

Decision on grounds
10. Having found the conviction proved, the Panel was satisfied that it amounted to the statutory ground.

Decision on impairment 
11. Having found that the matter found proved amounted to a conviction, the Panel went on to consider whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired. It bore in mind the evidence given by the Registrant and the witness called by him, KO who was a Locality Manager for Welsh Ambulance Service. The Panel also took into account the submissions made by Mr Newman and the Registrant, the advice of the Legal Assessor and the practice note of ‘Finding that Fitness to Practise is impaired’.

12. The Panel found the evidence given by the Registrant to be honest and credible. He was straight forward and talked openly about the shame and embarrassment he had felt as a result of the conviction, to the extent that he admitted that not all of his family members had been made aware of the conviction and the fact of his losing his job as a result. The Panel accepted the evidence from the Registrant as to his competence which was supported by KO. This confirmed the Registrant was a good Paramedic and this was accepted by the HCPC.

13. The Registrant provided a lot of detail as to all of the steps that he had taken to address the shortcomings exposed by his conviction. He had undertaken counselling, courses for driving awareness, mindfulness and stress coping strategies.  He explained how he had incorporated the information gained from those courses into his own life. He is now working as a paramedic for G4S in the prison service.

14. The Registrant understands the perception that the public would have of Paramedics with a drink driving conviction. He accepted the detrimental effect this would have on the profession and that the public would find it more serious for a Paramedic to have a drink driving conviction than an ordinary member of the public.

15. KO gave evidence on behalf of the Registrant. His evidence was balanced and very supportive of the Registrant. He spoke very highly of the Registrant’s competency and abilities at work. His understanding of the public perception of a drink driving conviction in relation to the profession of a Paramedic was indicative of his evidence being fair. The Panel found KO to be an independent and helpful witness.

16. The Panel considered the two component parts relating to impairment, the ‘personal’ component and the ‘public’ component. It first considered the ‘personal’ component, whether the conduct was remediable, whether it had been remedied and whether it was likely to be repeated.

17. The conviction was a single conviction. The Registrant was not on duty at the time and there was no suggestion of any harm caused to the public or service users as a result of that conviction. There was no suggestion of any lack of competence. The Registrant has shown understanding of the consequences of his behaviour and conviction. He has demonstrated an understanding of the effects the conviction might have upon his profession and the standards he must uphold. He has shown insight by his admissions and in his evidence. The Panel does therefore consider that the behaviour which led to the conviction has been remediated and there is little risk of repetition. The Panel does consider that all parts of the ‘personal’ component of impairment have been met. The Panel therefore finds that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is not impaired on the basis of the ‘personal’ component of impairment.

18. The Panel is aware that it must also look to the ‘public’ component of impairment. It notes the passage in the Practice Notes of ‘Finding that Fitness to Practise is impaired’. It is important for Panels to recognise that the need to address the “critically important public policy issues” identified in Cohen - to protect service users, declare and uphold proper standards of behaviour and maintain public confidence in the profession - means that they cannot adopt a simplistic view and conclude that fitness to practise is not impaired simply on the basis that, since the allegation arose, the Registrant has corrected matters or “learned his or her lesson”.

19. The Panel considered the HCPC’s Standards of conduct, performance and ethics and in particular:
“Paragraph 9.1 You must make sure that your conduct justifies the public’s trust and confidence in you and your profession”.

20. The Registrant had breached this standard. He is still currently disqualified from driving until approximately October 2017. He had completed the requisite diving course and paid all the fines and costs promptly. Although this was a one-off incident involving the Registrant driving a short distance of metres there was still a need to declare and uphold proper standards of conduct and send a message to other registrants. The Panel considered a drink driving conviction was a serious matter that undermined public confidence in the profession.

21. Whilst the Panel was satisfied there was a low risk to service users, the Panel concluded that a finding of impairment was necessary to maintain public confidence in the profession and in the regulatory process. The Panel therefore found that the Registrant’s fitness to practise was impaired on the basis of the ‘public’ component.
 
Decision on sanction
22. Having found that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired by reason of his conviction, the Panel went on to consider the question of sanction. It heard submissions from Mr Newman and the Registrant and considered the evidence from the Registrant and his witness at the impairment stage. Before reaching its decision, the Panel considered the HCPC Indicative Sanctions Policy and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

23. The Panel considered the seriousness of the matter found proved and identified the following aggravating and mitigating factors.

24. The mitigating factors are that the Registrant has admitted his conviction. He pleaded guilty at the Magistrates’ Court. It was a one-off incident. The distance driven was a short distance and there was no harm caused to the public. There are no previous regulatory or criminal findings made against him in the course of over 13 years that he has been practising. He has demonstrated genuine regret and remorse for his behaviour. The Panel considers that the Registrant has shown insight into the consequences of his actions. He has started his remediation by completing an approved driving course. He has continued to engage with the process. He has demonstrated by his behaviour and statements that he has a continuing commitment to his profession and to ensuring the conduct will not be repeated. The Panel took into account the commendations and the evidence of KO. The Panel also noted the Registrant had kept his skills and knowledge up to date.

25. The only aggravating feature the Panel could identify was that this was a serious offence where the Registrant was in excess of three times over the alcohol limit for drivers.

26. In deciding what sanction, if any, to impose, the Panel has reminded itself that the purpose of sanctions is not to be punitive but to protect service users and the public interest, although a sanction may have a punitive effect. The Panel has taken into account the principle of proportionality, balancing the interests of the public with those of the Registrant.

27. The Panel has concluded that in the light of the seriousness of the Allegation a sanction is required. To take no action would undermine the profession and the regulatory process and not act as a deterrent.

28. The Panel then considered a Caution Order. The Panel considers that such an order is the appropriate sanction in this case. The conviction did not occur whist the Registrant was working and it has not affected the Registrant’s work and practice in his present employment. His evidence demonstrates his commitment to his profession. This was an isolated incident and the Panel was satisfied the Registrant had learned his lesson. This conduct was out of character for the Registrant and occurred at a time when he was experiencing personal difficulties. These have now resolved and there is a low risk of repetition as the Registrant has made significant life style changes. This hearing has heightened the Registrant’s awareness of the necessity of upholding proper standards. The Panel therefore considers that the Registrant has gained a considerable degree of insight, into his behaviour.

29. The Panel did consider whether a Conditions of Practice Order was an appropriate sanction, however there is no issue as to the Registrant’s capability or competence and therefore no conditions could be drafted in order to deal with the matter of a single conviction. A Suspension Order would not be proportionate and would in the Panel’s view be merely punitive. To interfere with the Registrant’s ability to practice would deprive the public of a good Paramedic.

30. The Panel has therefore determined, in this case to impose a Caution Order. In making this order the Panel has noted in the Indicative Sanctions Policy that the ‘benchmark’ period of time for a Caution Order is three years. However, the Panel has a duty to consider sanction in ascending order starting with the minimum caution period of one year. As the Panel has already observed, there are many mitigating factors in this case for which the Registrant should be given credit. The Panel therefore considers that the proportionate sanction is a Caution Order for two years.

Order

The Registrar is directed to annotate the register entry of Mr Andrew J Team with a caution which is to remain on the register for a period of 2 years from the date this order comes into effect.

Notes

The order imposed today will apply from 4 September 2017 (the operative date).

Hearing history

History of Hearings for Mr Andrew J Team

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
07/08/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Caution