Mr Jeyaram Srinivasan

: Social worker

: SW102361

: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing:10:00 25/08/2017 End: 17:00 25/08/2017

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

: Conduct and Competence Committee
: Struck off

Allegation

On 20 July 2016, at Bexley Magistrates’ Court you were convicted of:

1. On 15 April 2016, at [address] assaulted Person A by beating her Contrary to section 39 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988.

2. By reason of your Conviction as set out in Particular 1, your fitness to practise as a Social Worker is impaired.

Finding

Preliminary Matters

Proof of Service

1. The Panel was provided with a signed Certificate as proof that the Notice of Hearing had been sent in a letter, dated 16 June 2017, by first class post, to the address shown for the Registrant on the HCPC Register. The Notice of Hearing was also sent by email. The Panel was satisfied that Notice had been properly served in accordance with Rule 3 (Proof of Service) and Rule 6 (date, time and venue) of the Conduct & Competence Committee Rules 2003 (as amended).

Proceeding in Absence

2. Having determined that service of the Notice of Hearing had been properly effected, the Panel went on to consider whether to proceed in the Registrant’s absence, as permitted by Rule 11 of the Conduct & Competence Rules 2003 (as amended). The Panel was advised by the Legal Assessor and followed that advice. The Panel also took into account the guidance as set out in the HCPTS Practice Note “Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant”.

3. The Panel determined that it was reasonable and in the public interest to proceed with the hearing for the following reasons:

• A copy of the bundle was sent to the Registrant’s registered address on 7 July 2017. The bundle was returned as it was not ‘called for’ by the Registrant. A further password-protected copy of the bundle was sent to the Registrant by email on 7 August 2017. The password to access the bundle was also sent to the Registrant in a separate email on 7 August 2017. There was no immediate response from the Registrant. However, on 18 August 2017 he sent an email to the HCPC requesting confirmation of the next course of action. The HCPC responded on the same day enquiring whether the Registrant wanted to attend or make any written representations and whether he wanted to access the electronic copy of the bundle. There was no further response from the Registrant. Although the Registrant’s non-attendance in person may not be voluntary due to the withdrawal of his visa, the Panel noted that there are other ways that he could participate in these proceedings. He has not engaged with the regulatory process and has not taken the opportunity to participate in these proceedings by telephone or by way of written submissions. In these circumstances, the Panel was satisfied that the Registrant’s non-participation was voluntary and therefore a deliberate waiver of his right to attend.

• There has been no request for an adjournment. Therefore, there is no indication that the Registrant would attend on any future date and therefore re-listing this case would serve no useful purpose.

• The Panel was satisfied that there is a strong public interest in ensuring that this Final Hearing commences and proceeds expeditiously.

Background

4. The Registrant is a registered Social Worker. He was employed as a Social Worker in the Assessment and Support Team B, in the Safeguarding Service for the Royal Borough of Greenwich Children’s Services, from March 2015. Prior to this the Registrant was a Social Worker in the Assessment and Support Team A at the same service, having been recruited from India.

5. On 15 April 2016, the police responded to allegations that the Registrant had physically assaulted his wife whilst “very drunk” and that he was subsequently arrested. During the incident the Registrant grabbed his wife’s hair, covered her mouth and repeatedly hit her on her face, head and shoulders. The assault only came to an end when she locked herself in another room and called friends. The Registrant’s wife sustained physical injuries including bruising, swelling and cuts to the inside of her mouth.

6. The Registrant initially denied hitting his wife or dragging her by her hair. However, he admitted putting his hand over his wife’s mouth and although he denied causing her any injuries, he accepted that she did not have any injuries prior to the altercation.

7. The Registrant was charged with Common Assault by beating. He initially entered a ‘not guilty’ plea, but at Bexley Magistrates’ Court on 28 June 2016, the day of the trial, he changed his plea to ‘guilty’. The sentence imposed was as follows:

• 18 month Community Order with a Programme Requirement (Building Better Relationships) and a Rehabilitation Activity Requirement;

• Victim Surcharge of £85.00

• Costs of £300.00

Decision on Facts

Panel’s Approach

8. The Panel was aware that the burden of proving the facts was on the HCPC. The Registrant did not have to prove anything and the particular of the Allegation could only be found proved if the Panel was satisfied on the balance of probabilities.

9. In reaching its decision, the Panel took into account the documentary evidence including the Certificate of Conviction, a Summary of the Disciplinary Investigation Interviews conducted on behalf of the Royal Borough of Greenwich Children’s’ Services and the Disciplinary Investigation Report. The Panel also took into account the submissions from Ms Sheridan on behalf of the HCPC, and the HCPTS Practice Note entitled ‘Conviction and Caution Allegations’. The Panel was aware that it could not go behind the conviction and was required to accept the Certificate of Conviction from Bexley Magistrates’ Court as conclusive proof of the conviction itself and the underlying facts.

Decision

Particular 1 – Found Proved

On 20 July 2016, at Bexley Magistrates’ Court you were convicted of:

1. On 15 April 2016, at [address] assaulted Person A by beating her Contrary to section 39 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988.

10. The Panel was provided with a Certificate of Conviction in the name of the Registrant, which was signed by an Officer of the Court on 22 March 2017. The Panel accepted the Certificate of Conviction as conclusive evidence that the Registrant was convicted of Common Assault by beating on 15 April 2016. The Panel noted that the Registrant had been convicted following a ‘guilty’ plea at trial and his plea had been taken into account when imposing the sentence.

11. Based on the documentation, the Panel was satisfied that the facts and grounds had been proved.

Decision on Impairment

HCPC Submissions

12. Ms Sheridan, on behalf of the HCPC, invited the Panel to conclude that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired on the basis of both the personal and public component of the public interest. She submitted that the Registrant’s late ‘guilty’ plea, despite overwhelming evidence, negated any suggestion of insight. She further submitted that public confidence in the profession would be undermined if a finding of impairment was not made.

Panel’s Approach

13. The Panel went on to consider whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired. The Panel took into account the material within the HCPC bundle and the submissions made by Ms Sheridan. The Panel also took into account the HCPTS Practice Note “Finding that Fitness to Practise is ‘Impaired’” and the HCPTS Practice Note “Conviction and Caution Allegations”. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

14. In determining current impairment, the Panel had regard to the following aspects of the public interest:

• The ‘personal’ component: the current behaviour of the individual registrant; and

• The ‘public’ component: the need to protect service users, declare and uphold proper standards of behaviour and maintain public confidence in the profession.

Decision

15. The Panel considered the Registrant’s current fitness to practise, first from the personal perspective and then from the wider public interest perspective.

16. The Panel recognised that demonstrating remediation following a criminal conviction can be particularly difficult as it is dependent on attitude. The Panel noted that the Registrant did not plead ‘guilty’ until the day of the trial, despite having made significant admissions during his police interview and compelling evidence of the injuries that his wife sustained during the assault. The Panel concluded that this indicated a lack of insight. Furthermore, there has been minimal engagement from the Registrant during these proceedings and therefore the Panel was unable to assess whether he has developed any insight since the conclusion of the court proceedings and, if so, the scope and level of that insight. There was also no evidence before the Panel that the Registrant fully appreciated the consequences of his actions or that he has properly reflected on the impact of his behaviour on his wife and on the profession, which legitimately expects high standards of conduct and behaviour at all times. In the absence of any reflection and a commitment to remediation, the Panel concluded that there was a significant risk of repetition. In reaching this conclusion, the Panel noted that the Registrant’s wife stated that she had been physically assaulted on other occasions and therefore the incident that took place on 15 April 2016 was not an isolated or one-off event.

17. The Panel concluded that for these reasons the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired based on the personal component.

18. In considering the public component, the Panel had regard to the important public policy issues which include the need to protect the public, maintain confidence in the profession and declare and uphold proper standards of conduct and behaviour. The Panel considered the HCPC Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics and was satisfied that the Registrant’s conduct and behaviour represented a significant departure from the following standard:

9.1 You must make sure that your conduct justifies the public’s trust and confidence in you and your profession.

19. The Registrant’s conduct fell far below the standard expected of a registered Social Worker and the Panel concluded that it is unacceptable for a social work professional to commit a criminal offence of violence under any circumstances. The Panel noted that the role of a Social Worker is a position of trust and necessarily involves protecting vulnerable service users who may be victims of violence or at risk of becoming victims. The Panel concluded that the Registrant’s unlawful and sustained violence towards his wife is serious and demonstrated behaviour which undermines his credibility as a Social Work professional. The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant’s actions breached a fundamental tenet of the profession and brought the profession into disrepute.

20. The Panel also concluded that a reasonable and informed member of the public would find the Registrant’s conduct to be deplorable. As a consequence the Panel was satisfied that public confidence in the profession and in the HCPC as a Regulator would be undermined if a finding of impairment of fitness to practise was not made, given the nature and seriousness of the Registrant’s conviction.

21. The Panel concluded that the Registrant’s current fitness to practise is impaired on the basis of both the personal component and the wider public interest, and therefore the HCPC’s case is well-founded.

Decision on Sanction

Panel’s Approach

22. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel was mindful that the purpose of any sanction is not to punish the Registrant twice for the same offences, but to protect the public and the wider public interest. The public interest includes:

• the deterrent effect on other registrants;

• the reputation of the profession; and

• public confidence in the regulatory process.

23. The Panel applied the principle of proportionality by weighing the Registrant’s interests with the public interest and by considering each available sanction in ascending order of severity.

24. The Panel had regard to the HCPC Indicative Sanctions Policy and took into account the submissions made by Ms Sheridan on behalf of the HCPC, who suggested that the Registrant’s failings were incompatible with a sanction at the lower end of the spectrum.

25. The Panel concluded that the only mitigating factor is that no adverse regulatory findings have previously been recorded against the Registrant. The Panel identified the following aggravating factors:

• The physical assault was persistent and took place in a domestic setting where the Registrant’s wife ought to have felt safe from physical harm, and only came to an end when she locked herself in another room;

• The Registrant’s wife sustained physical injury, including cuts, bruises and swelling;

• The Registrant has not demonstrated any insight or remorse, nor has he offered any apology for his actions;

• The Registrant pleaded ‘guilty’ only on the day of trial, despite the presence of overwhelming evidence.

Panel’s Decision

26. The Panel first considered taking no action. The Panel concluded that, in view of the nature and seriousness of the Registrant’s conduct and behaviour, and in the absence of exceptional circumstances, it would be wholly inappropriate to take no action.

27. The Panel then considered a Caution Order. The Panel noted paragraph 28 of the Indicative Sanctions Policy, which states: “A caution order is an appropriate sanction for cases, where the lapse is isolated, limited or relatively minor in nature, there is a low risk of recurrence, the registrant has shown insight and taken appropriate remedial action.”

28. Having determined that the Registrant has demonstrated no insight and that there is a risk of repetition, the Panel concluded that a Caution Order was not appropriate. The Panel also took the view that the underlying behaviour, which resulted in the Registrant’s Common Assault conviction, was serious and could not be described as limited or minor in nature. The Panel recognised that Common Assault is the least serious of all criminal assaults, but concluded that within that context the Registrant’s actions were towards the higher end of this offence. In these circumstances, the Panel was satisfied that a Caution Order would be inappropriate and insufficient to meet the wider public interest, in that such an order would not maintain public confidence in the regulatory process and uphold the reputation of the profession.

29. The Panel went on to consider a Conditions of Practice Order. The Panel noted that paragraph 33 of the Indicative Sanctions Policy states: “Conditions will rarely be effective unless the registrant is genuinely committed to resolving the issues they seek to address and can be trusted to make a determined effort to do so. Therefore, conditions of practice are unlikely to be suitable in cases: • where the registrant has failed to engage with the fitness to practise process, lacks insight or denies any wrongdoing;…”

30. The Panel concluded that the Registrant’s conviction for a physical and sustained assault of his wife is not amenable to conditions as the basis for this type of behaviour is an attitudinal failing. The Panel was unable to formulate conditions which would be workable or measurable. The Registrant has demonstrated no insight and, in any event, having disengaged from these proceedings the Panel could not have any confidence that he would be willing to comply with any conditions of practice. Furthermore, conditions would not adequately address the serious nature of the Registrant’s conviction and in these circumstances would seriously undermine public confidence in the social work profession, the HCPC as a regulator and the need to uphold high standards of conduct and behaviour.

31. The Panel also took into account the case of CRHP v GDC and Fleischman [2005] EWHC 87 Admin, where it was made clear that if a registrant has been convicted of a serious criminal offence and is still serving their sentence at the time the matter comes before a Panel, the Panel should not normally permit the registrant to resume their practice unrestricted until that sentence has been satisfactorily completed. The Panel noted that the Registrant’s Community Order does not expire until January 2018.

32. The Panel next considered a Suspension Order. A Suspension Order would send a signal to the Registrant, the profession and the public re-affirming the standards expected of a registered Social Worker. However, the Panel noted paragraph 41 of the Indicative Sanction Policy, which states: “If the evidence suggests that the registrant will be unable to resolve or remedy his or her failings then striking off may be the more appropriate option. However, where there are no psychological or other difficulties preventing the registrant from understanding and seeking to remedy the failings then suspension may be appropriate.”

33. The Panel concluded that there was no evidence that the Registrant was either willing or able to resolve the underlying attitudinal failures which culminated in his Common Assault conviction. In the absence of any insight, the Panel concluded that the Registrant’s conduct has not been remedied. In these circumstances a Suspension Order would not be sufficient to maintain public trust in the profession and the regulatory process and would not have a deterrent effect on other registrants.

34. Having determined that a Suspension Order does not meet the wider public interest, the Panel determined that the Registrant’s name should be removed from the Register. A Striking Off Order is a sanction of last resort and should be reserved for those categories of cases where there is no other means of protecting the public or the wider public interest. The Panel decided that the Registrant’s case falls into this category because he persistently assaulted his wife, caused physical injuries to her and has not demonstrated any remorse or taken any remedial action. Such conduct and behaviour is fundamentally incompatible with continued registration.

35. The Panel was also satisfied that any lesser sanction would undermine public confidence. The public and the profession are entitled to expect a member of the Social Work profession to uphold the highest standards of trust and confidence, particularly as they are entrusted with protecting the safety and well-being of vulnerable service users. In reaching this conclusion the Panel balanced the wider public interest against the Registrant’s interests. The Panel had regard to the impact a Striking Off Order would have on the Registrant, but concluded that his professional, personal and financial interests were significantly outweighed by the Panel’s duty to give priority to the significant public interest concerns raised by this case.

36. There was only minimal engagement from the Registrant during these proceedings and no engagement during the hearing itself. In choosing not to fully engage with these proceedings, the Registrant has not provided the Panel with any opportunity to exercise leniency.

37. The Panel decided that the appropriate and proportionate order is a Striking Off Order.

Order

That the Registrar is directed to strike the name of Mr Jeyaram Srinivasan from the Register on the date this order comes into effect.

Notes

The order imposed today will apply from 22 September 2017 (the operative date).

Hearing history

History of Hearings for Mr Jeyaram Srinivasan

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
25/08/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Struck off