Mr Gawain Adrian Minney

: Social worker

: SW31546

: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing:10:00 02/01/2018 End: 17:00 03/01/2018

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

: Conduct and Competence Committee
: Suspended

Allegation

(as amended at Final Hearing)

Whilst registered as a Social Worker and working as an agency worker for Staffordshire County Council:

1) On or around 19 August 2016, at a multi-agency meeting regarding Service User A, when discussing the management of Service User A’s behaviour, you said:

a) one option would be ‘to hit her with a sledgehammer’ or words to that effect;

b) ‘chuck her in a padded room’ or words to that effect.

2) On or around 24 August 2016, you behaved in a threatening, violent and/or aggressive manner towards Colleague A in that you:

a) raised your elbow near Colleague A’s face;

b) stated ‘if you ever do that again this is what will happen to you’ or words to that effect.

3) The facts as described in paragraphs 1a, 1b, 2a and/or 2b constitute misconduct.

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

Finding

Preliminary Matters

Application to Amend

1. At the outset of the hearing, Ms Shameli, on behalf of the HCPC, made an application for the Allegation to be amended. The proposed amendments were the correction of a typographical error in the stem of the Allegation, replacing the word “way” with “option” and replacing the words “you will get” with “will happen to you”. The Panel noted that the Registrant had been put on notice of the proposed amendment in a letter, dated 28 April 2017. The Registrant did not oppose the application.

2. Having heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor, the Panel decided to allow the proposed amendments. It concluded that the changes were minor in nature and did not materially alter the substance or meaning of the Allegation as originally drafted. The Panel was satisfied that no injustice would be caused by making these amendments as they more accurately reflected the HCPC case.

Background

3. The Registrant is a registered social worker. He was employed as an agency social worker at Staffordshire County Council (‘the Council’) from April 2016 until August 2016. Towards the end of the Registrant’s placement at the Council, two incidents arose that raised concerns with regard to his conduct.

4. The first incident occurred on 19 August 2016 during a multi-agency meeting. Service User A had severe learning disabilities and, at the time of the meeting, was in her early twenties. Carer A had been Service User A’s carer since she was a very young child and regarded her as a ‘daughter’. Carer A also had caring responsibilities for a foster child (Service User A’s foster brother), who was terminally ill. The purpose of the meeting was to plan for respite services for when Service User A’s foster brother passed away to relieve Carer A during that period. Although Service User A was not present at the multi-agency meeting, Carer A was present to represent her interests. During the meeting, the Registrant allegedly made inappropriate comments regarding Service User A.

5. The second alleged incident occurred on 24 August 2016 in the Council’s coffee shop. It was alleged that whilst standing in the queue, Colleague A had placed some money on the counter in payment for a cup of coffee. The Registrant and Colleague exchanged words which allegedly culminated in the Registrant ‘jabbing’ his elbow towards Colleague A’s face in an aggressive and threatening manner, having said that “if you ever do that again this is what will happen to you”.

6. As a result of these two incidents, the Locality Manager, Witness EM, made a referral to the HCPC.

Assessment of Witnesses

Witness KL – Unit Manager at the Council

7. Witness KL had several email and telephone conversations with the Registrant but only met him in person on one occasion, which was during the multi-agency meeting that took place on 19 August 2016. Witness KL described the content and tone of the comments made by the Registrant during the meeting. She had a good recollection of the events that took place and was able to provide detailed responses to the questions that were put to her. Witness KL’s evidence was fair and measured. For example, during cross examination, she stated that the Registrant was not actually threatening that Service User A should be hit with a sledgehammer or put in a padded room. However, she maintained that it was not said in a “jokey way”. The Panel concluded that there was nothing to suggest that Witness KL had any motivation other than to tell the truth and the Panel found her to be a credible and reliable witness.

Colleague A – Child and Family Worker at the Council

8. Colleague A informed the Panel that until the incident that took place on 24 August 2016, she did not know the Registrant’s name, or what department he worked in, but had seen him around the building during his employment with the Council. Colleague A described the incident that took place in the Council’s coffee shop. Her oral evidence was mainly based on her memory and was largely consistent with her written statement. The Panel had no reason to doubt that Colleague A’s accounts of the events that took place was based on her genuine recollection. The Panel was satisfied that Colleague A’s sole motivation was to tell the truth and the Panel found her evidence to be credible and reliable.

Witness EM – Locality Manager at the Council

9. Witness EM was the Registrant’s line manager throughout his time at the Council. She was not present during either incident but was informed about both incidents by other members of staff and subsequently had a meeting with the Registrant to discuss the events that took place. Her evidence was fair and balanced. For example, although she informed the Panel that the Registrant was not a “team player” or a “particularly empathic person” she also stated that his written work was good, and his safeguarding reports were “perhaps some of the best [she had] seen”. Witness EM’s oral evidence was consistent with her written statement and the Panel had no reason to doubt that she was anything other than a credible and reliable witness.

The Registrant’s evidence

10. The Registrant chose to give evidence. Overall, the Registrant accepted the evidence that had been presented on behalf of the HCPC and the Panel found him to be an open and honest witness. His recollection of events was affected by the passage of time but he did his best to assist the Panel and made it clear when he was unable to recall the details. During his oral evidence, the Registrant displayed a tendency to over-intellectualise his responses to questions and provided circuitous, lengthy answers. However, these features did not undermine the Registrant’s credibility or reliability. The Registrant’s evidence was consistent, candid and fair.

Decision on Facts

Panel’s Approach

11. 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 individual particulars of the Allegation could only be found proved, if the Panel was satisfied, on the balance of probabilities.

12. The Panel noted that on the Response Proforma the Registrant was asked, “Do you admit the facts alleged against you, as set out in the Notice of Allegation…?”. The Registrant responded, “Yes”. However, at the commencement of the hearing the Registrant denied all of the particulars of the Allegation except Particular 2(a) on the basis that he disputed the wording of the comments that were attributed to him. During his oral evidence, the Registrant admitted that he had said words to the effect of the comments as set out in the particulars of the Allegation. The Panel drew no adverse inferences from the Registrant’s initial denials.

13. In reaching its decision, the Panel took into account the oral evidence from the HCPC witnesses, the Registrant’s oral evidence, the documentary evidence including the Registrant’s response on the Response Proforma, and the oral submissions made on behalf of both parties.

14. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

Particulars 1(a) and 1(b) – Found Proved

1) On or around 19 August 2016, at a multi-agency meeting regarding Service User A, when discussing the management of Service User A’s behaviour, you said:

a) one option would be ‘to hit her with a sledgehammer’ or words to that effect;

b) ‘chuck her in a padded room’ or words to that effect.

15. The Panel accepted the oral and written evidence of Witness KL. She informed the Panel that a multi-agency meeting took place on 19 August 2016. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss Service User A and the progress and challenges encountered in providing services to her and respite to Carer A. She explained that the process was difficult due to the complexity of Service User A’s needs and that multiple services had been unable to meet these needs. She also informed the Panel that Carer A had previously made a complaint about the use of restraint on Service User A. Witness KL also confirmed that in communications with the Registrant prior to the meeting, it was agreed that open and frank discussions would have to be had with Carer A because it was not going to be possible to provide all types of care to Service User A.

16. Witness KL informed the Panel that the Registrant and the Community Nurse were running very late on the day of the meeting for reasons outside of their control and a decision was taken to start without them. She stated that the first 40 minutes of the meeting was very positive, but when the Registrant arrived, the tone of the meeting changed immediately. Witness KL informed the Panel that, when discussing what could be done if Service User A’s behaviour became dangerous beyond a level that could be coped with, the Registrant stated that one option would be to, “hit her on the head with a sledgehammer or chuck her into a padded room”. During her oral evidence, Witness KL stated that she was “quite shocked and so was everyone there”. The Panel noted that the Registrant’s assertion that he had said, “if we can’t make this work we are in the domain of baseball bats and padded cells, and that obviously is not an option” was put to Witness KL, which she rejected. She stated that she recalled “sledgehammer” and “we could chuck her in a padded room” being expressed as a single phrase and did not recall a qualifying statement being used.

17. Witness KL explained that in response to the Registrant’s comment, Carer A physically tensed up, became red in the face and her eyes welled up with tears. She also stated that Carer A “was speechless. We were all speechless for a few moments”. She also stated that there was no suggestion that the Registrant realised that he had spoken inappropriately or realised the impact of his words.

18. The Panel found the evidence of Witness KL to be compelling. The Panel noted that, on 19 August 2016, following the meeting, Witness KL sent an email to the Service Delivery Lead, timed at 18.15, in which she outlined her concerns whilst the matters were fresh in her mind. The Panel was provided with a copy of the email. Witness KL’s description of the meeting and the comment she alleged that the Registrant had made was consistent with her witness statement and oral evidence. The Panel accepted the evidence of Witness KL that she was “shocked” by the Registrant’s comment and that for this reason her recollection of it was so clear. Therefore, although the Registrant did his best to assist the Panel, it concluded that Witness KL’s recollection of the comment that was made was more reliable.

19. The Panel also accepted the evidence of Witness EM. She informed the Panel that when she returned from annual leave on 24 August 2016, she met with the Registrant. She stated that the Registrant explained that he had become frustrated because the conversations during the meeting were going “round and round in circles” and his comment was made to emphasise that there was no simple solution to the situation.

20. Accordingly, particular1(a) and particular 1(b) were found proved.

Particular 2(a) – Found Proved

2) On or around 24 August 2016, you behaved in a threatening, violent and/or aggressive manner towards Colleague A in that you:

a) raised your elbow near Colleague A’s face

21. The Panel accepted the evidence of Colleague A. She informed the Panel that on 24 August 2016, she was following her normal routine by getting a cup of coffee from the coffee shop in the morning. She stated that the usual process for obtaining a cup of coffee was to place the money on the counter and then collect the coffee from the coffee machine oneself. She also stated that most members of staff knew the price of a coffee and therefore attended the coffee shop with the required amount of cash so that it could be left on the counter.

22. Colleague A informed the Panel that, on 24 August 2016, she saw the Registrant at the coffee shop counter. She did not know the Registrant’s name at the time, but stated that she was aware that he was waiting at the till for his food order. In her oral witness statement and during her oral evidence, she described how she put her money on the counter and was about to collect her drink when the Registrant turned towards her and said, “Do you always push in like that?”. Colleague A stated that she initially thought that the Registrant was joking and responded by saying, “I do my best.” The Panel accepted Colleague A’s evidence that, at that point, she looked up at the Registrant and realised, based on his ‘glare’, that he was not joking. She stated that he “jabbed his elbow quickly towards [her] face”, which made her instantly react by moving her face away as she thought that the Registrant may hit her. Colleague A stated that she was shocked and felt shaky after this.

23. Following the incident, Colleague A and the Locality Coordinator spoke to the Registrant about what had taken place. Colleague A stated that the Registrant seemed agitated and kept saying “you made me very, very angry”. He also said he would “do it again”. The Panel noted that although the Registrant acknowledged that he had threatened Colleague A, he expressly stated that he would not apologise.

24. The Registrant admitted at the outset of the hearing that he had used what he described as a ‘reverse elbow strike’ as a means of warning Colleague A to get out of his personal space. He stated that it is a martial arts manoeuvre involving a strike to the temple area and he was using it to demonstrate to Colleague A what could happen to her. He explained that he was not close enough and the manoeuvre was not performed at the speed required if it had been his intention to hit Colleague A. He informed the Panel that at no time did he intend to make physical contact with Colleague A. However, he admitted that he “saw red” and that his conduct was aggressive and threatening. He disputed that his elbow was as close to Colleague A’s face as she had suggested, although he conceded that he did not have a good recollection of what happened.

25. Colleague A’s evidence was compelling. The Panel noted that on the same day, Colleague A sent an email to the Service Delivery Lead, timed at 14.01, in which she outlined what had happened in the coffee shop. The Panel was provided with a copy of the email. Colleague A’s description of the incident was consistent with her witness statement and oral evidence. In assessing Colleague A’s evidence, the Panel noted the slight discrepancy in her account regarding the exact proximity of the Registrant’s elbow from her face. However, the Panel took into account that the incident itself was very brief, that the witness was in shock at the time, and the length of time that has elapsed since the incident.

26. The Panel also accepted the evidence of Witness EM. She informed the Panel that during her meeting with the Registrant, which took place on 24 August 2016, he admitted that the incident had taken place and that his behaviour had been intimidating and threatening. Witness EM stated that the Registrant explained that he had become angry because his personal space had been invaded. When asked why he had not apologised for his actions, Witness EM stated that the Registrant informed her that, “he did not come from a background where they would apologise.”

27. Accordingly, particular 2(a) was found proved.

Particular 2(b) – Found Proved

2) On or around 24 August 2016, you behaved in a threatening, violent and/or aggressive manner towards Colleague A in that you:

b) stated ‘if you ever do that again this is what will happen to you’ or words to that effect.

28. Colleague A stated that before the Registrant ‘jabbed’ his elbow towards her face, he stepped forward and said, “If you ever do this again, this is what will happen to you.” However, the Registrant disputed that he had used these precise words. He stated that he had said, “you’ll get yourself decked”, but accepted that these words had a similar effect in that they were intimidating and threatening.

29. The Panel preferred Colleague A’s account of the words that were used. Her version of events was committed to writing in the email that she had sent to the Service Delivery Lead on the same day as the incident, when the details were likely to be fresh in her mind. A Violence and Aggression Report Form was also completed on the same day, which also set out the incident in detail. Colleague A’s account of what had been said by the Registrant was consistent with her witness statement and oral evidence.

30. The Panel also accepted the evidence of Witness EM with regards to the admissions made by the Registrant during her meeting with him on 24 August 2016.

31. Accordingly, particular 2(b) was found proved.

Decision on Grounds

32. In considering the issue of misconduct, the Panel bore in mind the explanation of that term given by the Privy Council in the case of Roylance v GMC (No.2) [2000] 1 AC 311, where it was stated that:

“Misconduct is 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 … practitioner in the particular circumstances. The misconduct is qualified in two respects. First, it is qualified by the word ‘professional’ which links the misconduct to the profession ... Secondly, the misconduct is qualified by the word ‘serious’. It is not any professional misconduct which will qualify. The professional misconduct must be serious.”

33. The Panel considered the HCPC Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics [2016] and was satisfied that the Registrant’s conduct breached the following standards:

• 1.1 You must treat service users and carers as individuals, respecting their privacy and dignity.

• 1.5 You must not discriminate against service users, carers or colleagues by allowing your personal views to affect your professional relationships or the care, treatment or other services that you provide.

• 1.7 You must keep your relationships with service users and carers professional

• 2.1 You must be polite and considerate.

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

34. The Panel also considered the HCPC Standards of Proficiency for Social Workers [2012] and took the view that the Registrant’s actions breached the following standards

• 2.7 understand the need to respect and uphold the rights, dignity, values and autonomy of every service user and carer

• 3.5 be able to manage the physical and emotional impact of their practice

• 8.2 be able to demonstrate effective and appropriate skills in communicating advice, instruction, information and professional opinion to colleagues, service users and carers

• 9.1 understand the need to build and sustain professional relationships with service users, carers and colleagues as both an autonomous practitioner and collaboratively with others.

35. The Panel was aware that a departure from the standards alone does not necessarily constitute misconduct. However, the Panel was satisfied that the Registrant’s conduct and professionalism fell far below the standards expected of a registered practitioner.

36. During a professional multi-agency meeting, the Registrant made inappropriate comments about a vulnerable service user. The Panel was satisfied that the “sledgehammer” and “chuck her in a padded room” comments are properly characterised as cruel and discriminatory. It was a wholly inappropriate way in which to speak about a young woman with severe learning difficulties and was aggravated by the fact that Carer A was present when the comment was made. The Panel noted that the Registrant was aware in advance of the meeting that the situation was particularly ‘sensitive’, yet he did not tailor his language appropriately to take account of the professional setting and the feelings of Carer A. Furthermore, it was clear to the Panel, based on the evidence of Witness KL and the Registrant’s own evidence, that he did not appreciate at the time that his comments were offensive nor that Carer A had been upset by what he had said. Although the Panel accepted that the Registrant may not have been aware that Carer A had become visibly upset, he ought to have known that his comments would be extremely hurtful and distressing to her and cause shock and embarrassment to his colleagues.

37. The Panel noted that the second incident involved threatening and aggressive behaviour towards Colleague A. The Panel took the view that such conduct and behaviour would be wholly unacceptable in any setting, but was aggravated by the fact that it took place in a professional environment.

38. The Panel concluded that both incidents were serious. The Registrant was in a position of trust and there was a legitimate expectation from service users, carers, his employer, his colleagues and the public that he would conduct himself in a professional manner at all times. On two separate occasions, within a short period of time, the Registrant failed to uphold the high standards of professional conduct and behaviour expected of a registered social worker. His behaviour in both instances was alarming and deplorable.

39. The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant’s actions on both occasions were so serious that individually and collectively his behaviour amounted to misconduct.

Decision on Impairment

Panel’s Approach

40. Having found misconduct, the Panel went on to consider whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired. The Panel took into account the HCPTS Practice Note “Finding that Fitness to Practise is ‘Impaired’” and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

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

• The ‘personal’ component: the current behaviour etc. 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.

Panel Decision

42. The Panel considered the Registrant’s current fitness to practise firstly from the personal perspective and then from the wider public perspective.

43. The Panel appreciated the Registrant’s engagement during the hearing and recognised that he had some appreciation of the gravity of his conduct and behaviour. He demonstrated during the hearing that he had reflected on the impact of his behaviour and his suitability to continue with his career in social work. The Registrant stated during his oral evidence that he had no immediate intention to return to social work practice and indeed questioned whether he would ever return. This demonstrated a degree of insight.

44. The Registrant had to be prompted specifically to address the impact of his behaviour on Carer A, Colleague A, his colleagues, the wider profession and the public. Therefore, the Panel concluded that the Registrant’s insight was limited but had clearly developed during the course of the hearing itself.

45. The Panel noted that although the Registrant refused to apologise to Colleague A at the time of the incident, during the hearing itself, he repeatedly offered her an unreserved apology. The Panel accepted that the Registrant’s apology was a genuine expression of remorse. The Panel acknowledged that as Carer A was not a witness during these proceedings, the Registrant did not have the opportunity to apologise to her in person. However, the Panel noted that there were other indirect ways in which he could have offered an apology which he did not appear to have considered.

46. The Registrant informed the Panel that when he was interviewed over the telephone for the position at the Council, he was reassured that the role did not primarily involve working with service users with learning disabilities, but then found out, once he was appointed, that that was not the case. He stated that his social work experience was predominantly in mental health. He also informed the Panel that he had experienced high personal stress during his placement at the Council. He explained how he had difficulty in dealing with unfairness, poor manners, authoritarianism and unwarranted displays of power and people’s sense of entitlement, which have caused him to become angry in the past. He also stated that his ‘visible thinking’ (i.e. his tendency to over-analyse) was a cause of great frustration and troubled him. He also stated that due to these personality traits, he questioned his suitability to continue to practise as a social worker. There was no evidence before the Panel that the Registrant had resolved his own dilemma about his suitability for social work. In these circumstances, the Panel concluded that there was an ongoing risk that his inappropriate comments regarding a service user and his aggressive behaviour towards a colleague could be repeated whilst the underlying issues associated with his unprofessional conduct remain unresolved.

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

48. In considering the public component, the Panel had regard to the important public policy issues which include the need to maintain confidence in the profession and declare and uphold proper standards of conduct and behaviour.

49. Members of the public would be extremely concerned to learn that a registered social worker, working with vulnerable people, had made unpleasant and hurtful remarks about a service user during a professional meeting and physically and verbally threatened a colleague in the workplace.

50. The Registrant’s conduct is likely to have caused Carer A emotional harm, in that his comments caused her distress. Furthermore, his overall conduct in relation to both incidents of unprofessional behaviour brought the profession into disrepute and undermined a fundamental tenet of the profession. Although the Panel recognised that the two incidents are isolated events within the context of the Registrant’s 17-year social work career, it concluded that public confidence would be significantly undermined if a finding of fitness to practise impairment was not made, given the nature and seriousness of the Registrant’s conduct and behaviour. Furthermore, a finding of impairment is required to deter other registrants and to declare and uphold the high standards expected of all registered practitioners.

51. 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

Submissions

52. Ms Shameli, on behalf of the HCPC, referred the Panel to the HCPC Indicative Sanctions Policy and reminded it that the purpose of a sanction is not to punish the Registrant but to protect the public and the wider public interest. She referred the Panel to its findings on impairment and outlined the mitigating and aggravating factors.

53. The Registrant invited the Panel to impose a period of suspension. He explained that he had found the hearing process helpful, in that the questions that were put to him by Ms Shameli and the Panel had made him consider the limits of his role as a social worker at the Council and the issue of empathy in social work. He also stated that he has considered moving to live closer to his family to re-establish a social network and support. He informed the Panel that this support had been missing when he chose to work as a locum social worker.

54. The Registrant informed the Panel that he intends to undertake a psychological online course by a Canadian academic entitled “Past and Future Mapping”. He indicated that he believed that the course would enable him to structure his plans for the future. The Registrant reiterated that he does not envisage a return to social work practice in the short term and stated that he recognised that he “should not go near social work until [he] has sorted himself out”. However, he informed the Panel that if he is permitted to remain on the Register, he would be able to consider using his social work registration to explore an alternative career path or, alternatively, to pursue teaching or lecturing in the social work field. The Registrant stated that his social work knowledge is out of date. However, he recognised that his strengths are in areas including writing safeguarding and other reports, in the mental health field and, potentially, in academia. He suggested that he could use the HCPC’s registration requirement to undertake CPD as a starting point for revising and developing his social work skills and knowledge.

Panel’s Approach

55. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor on the matter of sanction. The Panel was mindful that the purpose of any sanction is not to punish the Registrant, but to protect the public and the wider public interest. The public interest includes maintaining public confidence in the profession and the HCPC as its Regulator and upholding proper standards of conduct and behaviour. 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. The Panel also recognised that the Registrant’s indication that he is unlikely to practise social work in the future had to be distinguished from its assessment of the appropriate sanction, if any, to be imposed.

56. The Panel had regard to the Indicative Sanctions Policy and took into account the submissions made by both parties.

Decision

57. In determining what sanction, if any, to impose, the Panel identified the following mitigating factors:

• the Registrant had not previously been referred to the HCPC and therefore had a 17-year unblemished fitness to practise record;

• the two incidents were confined to a short period of time;

• the Registrant demonstrated that he had reflected on the gravity and impact of his behaviour, on himself as a professional, and sought to explain why these incidents had occurred, but did not at any stage attempt to justify his actions;

• the Registrant demonstrated that he had reflected on his suitability to continue with his career in social work;

• the Registrant expressed genuine remorse during the hearing and in his submissions.

58. The Panel identified the following aggravating factors:

• the Registrant’s comments with regard to Service User A were cruel and discriminatory and had the potential to cause Carer A unwarranted emotional harm;

• the Registrant’s threatening and aggressive behaviour towards Colleague A occurred in a professional environment;

• the Registrant was in a position of trust;

• the Registrant has not yet remedied the misconduct.

59. The Panel first considered taking no action. The Panel concluded that, in view of the nature and seriousness of the Registrant’s conduct and lack of professionalism, and in the absence of exceptional circumstances, to take no action on his registration would be wholly inappropriate. Furthermore, it would be insufficient to protect the public, maintain public confidence and uphold the reputation of the profession.

60. The Panel went on to consider a Caution Order. The Panel noted that Cautions appear on the Register but do not restrict a registrant’s ability to practise, and took into account 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 … A caution order is unlikely to be appropriate in cases where the registrant lacks insight.”

61. The Panel acknowledged that the Registrant’s lapse in professionalism related to a service user and a colleague, occurred during a relatively short period of time and was an isolated incident within the context of an otherwise unblemished career. However, the Registrant provided no evidence of remediation and whilst the risk of repetition remains, the Panel concluded that a Caution Order would be inappropriate. The Panel also concluded that the Registrant’s actions could not be described as minor in nature and the risk of repetition was not low. In any event, the Panel concluded that a Caution Order would be insufficient to protect the public and meet the wider public interest given the nature and gravity of the Registrant’s actions.

62. The Panel went on to consider a Conditions of Practice Order. The Panel noted that at paragraph 34 the Indicative Sanctions Policy states: “Where an allegation relates to … breach of trust … conditions of practice are unlikely to be appropriate unless the Panel is satisfied that the registrant’s conduct was minor, out of character, capable of remediation and unlikely to be repeated.”

63. The Panel concluded that the Registrant’s inappropriate comments and his threatening and aggressive behaviour are not amenable to conditions, as the basis for this type of misconduct is an attitudinal failing. The Panel concluded that it would not be possible to formulate conditions which would be workable, measurable or proportionate. Furthermore, the Panel concluded that conditions would not adequately address the serious nature of the Registrant’s conduct and lack of professionalism and so would undermine public confidence in the profession and undermine the need to uphold standards of conduct and behaviour.

64. The Panel next considered a Suspension Order. A Suspension Order would re-affirm to the Registrant, the profession and the public, the standards expected of a registered Social Worker. The Panel noted that a Suspension Order would prevent the Registrant from practising as a Social Worker during the suspension period, which would therefore provide protection to service users and the public. However, a Suspension Order would also provide the Registrant with the opportunity to consider carefully the decision of this Panel, to properly focus on the issues of insight into the impact of his misconduct on others, and on remediation. The Panel noted that the Registrant acknowledged, during his oral evidence, that he may need up to two years to implement a constructive plan with regards to his future.

65. In considering this issue, the Panel had regard to paragraph 41 of the Indicative Sanctions 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.”

66. The Panel took the view that the above paragraph applied to the Registrant. The Panel determined that the Registrant’s inappropriate and unprofessional behaviour is capable of being remedied provided that he is willing to engage in meaningful reflection and take steps to demonstrate that such behaviour is firmly in the past and will not be repeated in future. Through his engagement with this hearing process, the Registrant has demonstrated a strong and sincere willingness to address his previous misconduct and there was no evidence before the Panel that there are psychological or any other reasons which would prevent the Registrant from doing so. In these circumstances, the Panel determined that the Registrant should be given the opportunity to undertake the process of demonstrating that he is fit to return to the Register, unrestricted. In determining that the Registrant should be given this opportunity, the Panel concluded that a Striking Off Order would be disproportionate as the Registrant has shown a willingness to demonstrate remediation. The Panel also noted that during this hearing, the Registrant’s insight has developed, which led the Panel to conclude that he has the ability to learn from this experience and use that to structure a return to the Register, without restriction. Furthermore, although at times the Registrant was very critical of his ability to practise social work, the Panel noted that he had worked for 17 years without incident and that Witness EM had stated that his safeguarding reports were “perhaps some of the best [she had] seen”, and that his strengths lay in the mental health field. The Panel recognised that social work is a broad field and that there is a public interest in permitting a competent social worker to continue to practise in an area which is suitable to their strengths. The Panel concluded that there is likely to be an appropriate future role for the Registrant within social work should he wish to continue to practise. Therefore, the Panel determined that a Suspension Order should be imposed.

67. The Panel determined that the Suspension Order should be imposed for a period of 12 months. The Panel was satisfied that 12 months was the appropriate period as this was the minimum necessary to reflect the seriousness of the Registrant’s misconduct and to declare and uphold the standards expected of a registered Social Worker. The Panel was also satisfied that this period would provide the Registrant with the opportunity to address any underlying issues, to take appropriate steps to remediate his previous misconduct, and demonstrate his fitness to practise.

68. The Suspension Order will be reviewed shortly before expiry. Although this Panel cannot bind a future panel, the reviewing panel may be assisted by the Registrant’s continued engagement, evidence that the Registrant has reflected on the Panel’s findings and made significant steps to facilitate a safe and effective return to practise, which may include:

• The Registrant’s attendance in person;

• A written reflective piece which demonstrates the Registrant’s insight into his misconduct and, in particular, the implications for Carer A, Colleague A, his employer, his profession and the wider public interest. These reflections may include what the Registrant has learned from this experience, the steps he has taken to ensure that it does not happen again, and his future career plans;

• Any personal development, including psychological courses he has undertaken that might address the issues that impacted on his ability to conduct himself in a professional manner (as referred to in paragraph 46);

• Evidence that the Registrant has brought his social work knowledge and skills up to date, together with evidence of CPD;

• Up-to-date and relevant testimonials from paid or unpaid work;

• Any other evidence that may be of assistance to the review panel.

Order

That the Registrar is directed to suspend the registration of Mr Gawain Adrian Minney for a period of 12 months from the date this order comes into effect.

Notes

This Order will be reviewed before its expiry.

Hearing history

History of Hearings for Mr Gawain Adrian Minney

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
02/01/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended