John T Cooper
1. Whilst registered as a Paramedic, on 7 February 2017 at Shrewsbury Crown Court, you were convicted of “indecent assault on male x 3”.
2. By reason of your conviction as set out at paragraph 1 your fitness to practise as a Paramedic is impaired.
Proof of Service
1. The Panel was provided with a signed certificate as proof that the Notice of Hearing had been posted on 15 September 2017 by first class post, to the address shown for the Registrant on the HCPC Register. The Notice of Hearing confirmed that the hearing would be taking place at this venue.
2. 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 and Competence Committee Rules 2003 (as amended).
Proceeding in Absence
3. 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. Ms Rapu, on behalf of the HCPC, applied to hear the matter in the Registrant’s absence. It was confirmed that there had been no communication from the Registrant for the last six months. There was no application to adjourn the hearing.
4. 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”.
5. There has been no application to adjourn and no indication from the Registrant that he would attend on any future date, and therefore adjourning and re-listing this hearing would serve no useful purpose. This is a substantive hearing and there is a public interest in ensuring that it is considered expeditiously.
6. The Panel is satisfied that it was fair and reasonable to conclude that the Registrant’s absence is deliberate and demonstrates a voluntary waiver of his right to be present. The Panel determined that it was in the public interest to proceed in the Registrant’s absence.
Amendment to the allegation
7. The Panel noted that there was a typographical error in Particular 1, which read “indecent assault of male x 3” when it should have read “indecent assault on male x 3” as per the Certificate of Conviction. After taking advice from the Legal Assessor, the Panel amended the error.
8. The Registrant is a registered Paramedic. On 7 February 2017, at Shrewsbury Crown Court, he pleaded guilty to three counts of indecent assault on a male. The offences had been committed in 1982, when the Registrant was 15 years old and the victim was 10 years old.
9. On 3 March 2017, the Registrant was sentenced to 24 months imprisonment suspended for 24 months. He was ordered to carry out an unpaid work requirement of 300 hours. He was ordered to pay compensation of £3000 to the victim. He was placed on the Sex Offenders Register for 10 years and a Sexual Harm Prevention Order was also made for 10 years. The last Order means that the Registrant is prohibited from living in the same household as any child (other than his own children) under the age of 16 unless with the express approval of Social Services. By virtue of the conviction, the Registrant is disqualified from working with children and vulnerable adults.
Decision on Facts
Particular 1 – Proved
10. The Panel found this Particular proved. In making this decision it relied on the Certificate of Conviction certifying that the Registrant was convicted at Shrewsbury Crown Court on 7 February 2017 of 3 counts of indecent assault on a male.
Decision on Ground
11. Having found the facts proved, the Panel went on to consider whether they amounted to the ground of conviction, and determined that they did.
Decision on Impairment
12. Having found that the matters found proved amounted to the ground of conviction, the Panel went on to consider whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired. It noted the content of the Sentencing Transcript of 3 March 2017. It also bore in mind the submissions made by Ms Rapu, the advice of the Legal Assessor, and the HCPTS Practice Note “Finding that Fitness to Practise is ‘Impaired’”.
13. The Panel considered the two component parts relating to impairment, the ‘personal’ component and the ‘public’ component. It first considered the personal component; that is, whether the conduct was remediable, whether it had been remedied and whether it was likely to be repeated.
14. The conviction is an ‘historic’ conviction. The facts relating to the conviction occurred 35 years ago. The Registrant was only 15 years old and the facts occurred long before he became a registered Paramedic. There is no evidence of any repetition of the behaviour by the Registrant since that time.
15. In the course of his sentencing remarks, the Trial Judge, His Honour Judge Tindal, referred to the long-lasting consequences of the offence and the Registrant’s efforts to atone for the offences. He said:
“I wonder whether … this is one of those cases where you’ve spent your whole life trying to atone for what you did but never actually saying “sorry”. You’ve spent your whole life – as I can tell from the voluminous character references – trying to live a good life; trying to do the right thing; becoming a paramedic; getting seriously injured when you were in the course of your duties; and then setting up a company designed to give medical support to people.”
16. Taking account of the content of the Sentencing Transcript, the Panel did not consider that there is a risk of repetition in this case. However, because of the serious nature of the conviction, this is not a case which fits easily into the factors that a panel would usually consider in respect of the ‘personal component’ of impairment. The Panel has concluded that the concept of remediation does not apply in the circumstances of this case.
17. The Panel then considered the ‘public’ component of impairment. The HCPTS Practice Note identifies that it is important for panels to recognise the need to address the “critically important public policy issues”, namely to protect service users, declare and uphold proper standards of behaviour and maintain public confidence in the profession.
18. The conviction is serious. Although it is ‘historic’ and the facts relating to the conviction took place a long time ago, the conviction in February 2017 is so serious that it has the potential to undermine public confidence in the profession if no action were taken.
19. The Panel considered the Registrant’s responsibilities as outlined in the HCPC “Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics”. The Panel particularly noted the passage outlined in Standard 9.1:
9.1 You must make sure that your conduct justifies the public’s trust and confidence in you and your profession.
20. The Registrant is currently subject to a suspended sentence of imprisonment for 24 months, until March 2019. The Panel took particular note of the reported case of CHRP v GDC and Fleischmann  EWHC 87 (Admin), where the court held that where a registered professional has been convicted of a serious criminal offence and is still serving their sentence, normally the tribunal should not allow them to return to practice until the sentence has concluded.
21. The Panel took this into account in deciding whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired. It also took the view that, because of the serious nature of the conviction, public confidence in the profession and the regulatory process would be undermined if a finding of impairment were not made in this case.
22. For all of these factors, the Panel finds that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired on the basis of the ‘public component’.
Decision on Sanction
23. 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 Ms Rapu. Before reaching its decision, the Panel considered the HCPC “Indicative Sanctions Policy” and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.
24. In deciding what sanction, if any, to impose, the Panel 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.
25. There is a need to demonstrate to the public and to practitioners the importance of adhering to the fundamental requirement of keeping high standards of personal conduct by declaring and upholding proper standards of professional behaviour.
26. There is also a need to maintain public confidence in the profession and the regulatory process.
27. The conviction is serious. The Registrant was sentenced to 24 months imprisonment suspended for 24 months, ordered to carry out an unpaid work requirement of 300 hours, and to pay compensation of £3000. He was placed on the Sex Offenders Register for 10 years and a Sexual Harm Prevention Order was made for 10 years. The Registrant is also disqualified from working with children and vulnerable adults.
28. The Panel noted paragraphs 16 and 17 in the HCPC’s “Indicative Sanction Policy”: Sanctions and criminal convictions 16. A conviction or caution should only lead to further action being taken against a registrant by the HCPC if, as a consequence of that conviction or caution, the registrant’s fitness to practise is found to be impaired. The Panel’s role is not to punish the registrant twice for the same offence, but to protect the public and maintain high standards among registrants and public confidence in the profession concerned. 17. Where a registrant who has been convicted of a serious criminal offence and is still serving a sentence at the time the matter comes before a Panel, normally the Panel should not permit the registrant to resume unrestricted practice until that sentence has been satisfactorily completed.
29. The Panel then considered the available sanctions in ascending order of severity. The seriousness of this case meant that taking no action was not an option and a Caution Order, even for the maximum duration, was inadequate, as such an Order may be appropriate where the lapse is of a relatively minor nature. This is not such a lapse. Neither outcome provide the required level of public reassurance.
30. The Panel then considered and excluded the imposition of a Conditions of Practice Order on the grounds that such an outcome was insufficient given the seriousness of the case and the sentence imposed on the Registrant by the Crown Court. Such an Order would not be workable in relation to the nature of the conviction and would not adequately address public confidence.
31. The Panel then went on to consider the imposition of a Suspension Order. The maximum order of suspension that the Panel could impose is a period of 12 months. There would be a review shortly before the end of the period to assess the Registrant’s suitability to practise as a Paramedic. However, because of the sentence imposed as a result of the criminal conviction, the Registrant would be unable to practise upon the expiry of that Suspension Order. The Panel carefully considered this sanction but determined that if it were to impose a Suspension Order, public confidence in the regulatory process would be undermined. The public may consider that such a sanction was imposed as a temporary measure, with the possibility of the Registrant returning to practice at some time in the future despite the serious nature of his conviction. The Panel concluded that a sanction of suspension was not appropriate or proportionate in this case.
32. The Panel next considered the imposition of a Striking Off Order. The Panel considered paragraphs 47 and 49 of the “Indicative Sanctions Policy” to be relevant to this case:
47. Striking off is a sanction of last resort for serious, deliberate or reckless acts involving abuse of trust such as sexual abuse, dishonesty or persistent failure.
49. Striking off may also be appropriate where the nature and gravity of the allegation are such that any lesser sanction would lack deterrent effect or undermine confidence in the profession concerned or the regulatory process.
33. As a consequence of the conviction and sentence, the Registrant is under considerable practical restrictions as to his ability to practise his profession. The Panel has identified that there are no public protection issues in this case given its determination that there is little risk of repetition. However, the Panel considered that the conviction is of such a serious nature, involving indecent assault, that any lesser sanction would undermine confidence in the profession and the regulatory process. The Panel is of the view that in this case, the public interest outweighs the interests of the Registrant. It has concluded that the only appropriate sanction in this case is a Striking Off Order.
History of Hearings for John T Cooper
|Date||Panel||Hearing type||Outcomes / Status|
|24/11/2017||Conduct and Competence Committee||Final Hearing||Struck off|