Mrs Kerrie Louise Hawkins
(The following allegation was considered and found proved by a Panel of the Conduct and Competence Committee at the substantive hearing on 12 January 2017)
1. On 29 November 2011, you were cautioned by police for one offence of theft from stores and two offences of attempted theft from stores on 22 November 2011.
2. You did not declare the caution listed at paragraph 1 to the HCPC until 6 May 2013.
3. On 30 November 2012, you were issued with a Fixed Penalty Notice for attempted theft from a store.
5. On 4 September 2012, you committed an offence of theft from a shop, for which you received a 12 month conditional discharge on 15 February 2013.
6. On 11 April 2012, you committed an offence of fraud by false representation, for which you received a 12 month conditional discharge on 26 February 2013.
7. You did not declare the conditional discharge listed at paragraph 6 to the HCPC.
8. On 28 May 2013, you were convicted of 3 counts of shoplifting and received a Community Order and Supervision Requirement with seven other offences being taken into consideration.
9. You did not declare the conviction listed at paragraph 8 to the HCPC.
11. On 18 June 2013, you were convicted of one count of shoplifting and received a Community Order and Supervision Requirement.
12. You did not declare the conviction listed at paragraph 11 to the HCPC.
13. When you wrote to the HCPC by letter dated 6 May 2013, you provided a misleading picture as to the totality of your previous convictions and/or cautions and/or Fixed Penalty Notices you had received.
14. [Not proved]
15. The matters described in each paragraphs 5,6,10 and 13 constitute misconduct.
16. By reason of your misconduct, your caution and/or convictions, your fitness to practise is impaired.
1. The Panel was satisfied that the procedure rules had been complied with in terms of notice of today’s hearing been sent to the Registrant at her HCPC registered address by post on 30 November 2017. The HCPC also sent a copy of that notice to the Registrant to an e-mail address earlier provided by her and on the HCPC register.
Proceeding in Private
2. Mr Claughton applied for the hearing to be heard in private under Rule 8 (1) (a) with reference to the note of the telephone conversation he had with the Registrant today. It relates to health and private matters which in his submission should not be in the public domain.
3. The Legal Assessor drew the Panel’s attention to Rule 8 (1) (a) which states:
“the proceedings shall be held in public unless the Committee is satisfied that, in the interests of justice or for the protection of the private life of the registrant, the complainant, any person giving evidence or of any patient or client, the public should be excluded from all or part of the hearing;”
4. The Panel took note of the HCPTS Practice Note on “Conducting Hearings in Private” and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel therefore decided that any reference in open session as to health and private matters should be regarded as private. The matter before the Panel is misconduct and refers to criminal offending and this should be in public.
Application to adjourn/proceed in the Registrant’s absence
5. Mr Claughton on behalf of the HCPC drew the Panels attention to a written note he prepared after a conversation with the Registrant this morning. It has been considered by the Panel.
6. In summary the Registrant has asked for an adjournment as she is unwell and needs more time to bring information to a review hearing. She has said that she could attend a future hearing by telephone.
7. Mr Claughton applied to have the case heard in the Registrant’s absence under Rule 11 after the Panel had made it clear it was satisfied with service of the notice of today’s hearing.
8. He asked the Panel to proceed with today’s hearing.
9. He submitted that the Registrant had voluntarily absented herself on prior occasions when the matter was adjourned for her to attend. He submitted there was no indication that if an adjournment was granted the Registrant would attend on a future date. He informed the Panel that there had been two previous adjournments of the substantive hearing in March and July 2016 at the Registrant’s request. He also informed the Panel that the Registrant had not engaged with the HCPC since requesting the adjournment in July 2016, other than belatedly this morning. She had been aware of the suspension order made in January 2017 effective from February 2017. The Registrant has told him today she has been convicted of a further matter since the last hearing, another shoplifting matter in 2017.
10. He reminded the Panel that the Registrant appears to have done nothing to prepare for this hearing 12 months on from the substantive hearing and has given no indication what she intends to do to answer the concerns of the previous panel, other than she may send health evidence and engage in any future hearing by telephone.
11. He submitted there was no reason to adjourn; the Registrant has had the benefit of adjournments and did not engage. Her belated call underscores his concerns.
12. The Panel accepted the Legal Assessor’s advice. The decision to proceed in absence of the Registrant must be exercised with the utmost caution. The Panel had regard to the recent authoritative decisions in this area in GMC v Adeogba (2016) EWCA Civ. 162 and Davies v HCPC  EWHC Civ 1593 and to the HCPTS Practice Note ‘Proceeding in the absence of the Registrant” and Practice Note on “Adjournments and Postponements” March 2017, which has been updated to take into account recent developments in the case law which emphasised importance of public interest considerations.
13. The Panel decided that it was appropriate and proportionate to proceed in the Registrant’s absence. In reaching this decision, it considered that the allegations are serious and there is a strong public interest in proceeding with the matter today. The Panel noted that, other than her self-referral to the HCPC in May 2013 and requesting adjournments in March and July 2016, the Registrant had not engaged in this process until the last moment today, and there is limited information from the Registrant, as to what she hopes to present to the Panel.
14. She has not provided written evidence as she was invited to do in the notice of hearing sent on 30 November 2017.
15. The Panel in light of all these circumstances concluded that no purpose would be served in adjourning the matter. Balancing the relative interests of the Registrant with those of the public, the Panel decided it is in the interests of justice that the hearing proceeds today notwithstanding the Registrant’s absence and her belated communication with the HCPC.
16. On 29 November 2011 the Registrant was cautioned by police for one offence of theft from stores and two offences of attempted theft on 22 November 2011.
17. The Registrant did not declare the caution to the HCPC until 6 May 2013.
18. On 26 February 2013 the Registrant was made subject to a conditional discharge for a period of 12 months following conviction for an offence of fraud by false representation committed on 11 April 2012. On 28 May 2013 the registrant was convicted of three counts of shoplifting with seven offences taken into consideration and was made subject to a Community Order with Supervision Requirement. On 18 June 2013 the Registrant was convicted of one count of shoplifting and was made subject of a Community Order with Supervision Requirement.
19. When declaring the caution, dated 29 November 2011 in a letter to the HCPC dated 6 May 2013 the Registrant was misleading in omitting reference to the other matters. The original panel at the hearing on 12 January 2017 found the Registrant’s alleged acts were ones of omission and whilst it found that her actions were misleading it did not find that she was dishonest.
20. The original panel concluded that the Registrant’s actions fell far short of the HCPC standards of conduct, performance and ethics with regard to Standard 3 to keep high standards of personal conduct, Standard 4 to provide the HCPC with any important information about conduct or competence, and Standard 13 to behave with honestly and integrity and make sure their behaviour does not damage public confidence in their profession. This panel was satisfied the statutory grounds concerning conviction/caution and misconduct were made out.
21. That panel concluded that the Registrant had breached fundamental tenets of the profession and had brought her profession into disrepute. It concluded that given the limited insight shown by the Registrant there was a risk of repetition given the number of convictions and a lack of information as to the Registrant’s current circumstances. In making a finding of impairment of fitness to practice the panel also found that public confidence could be seriously undermined if a finding of impairment were not made in all the circumstances of this case.
22. The panel concluded that a suspension order for 12 months was a necessary and proportionate response. In reaching its decision, the panel stated that this period of suspension would afford the Registrant an opportunity to show evidence of insight and remediation by reflecting on the reputational damage her caution/convictions have had on her profession’s standing in the eyes of the public; and, in so far as any offending may have been contributed to by reason of any health or personal problems that she may be able to demonstrate to what extent any such issues have been resolved. It stated that a future reviewing panel might also be assisted by receipt of evidence of how the Registrant has maintained her knowledge and skills as a Biomedical Scientist.
23. The order now falls to be reviewed.
24. Mr Claughton drew the Panel’s attention to the earlier panel’s decision of January 2017 and did not seek to repeat tracts of it into the record. It is a document the Registrant is aware of. There have been a number of cautions and convictions which the Registrant did not disclose to the HCPC. There is a clear duty that she should do so.
25. She appears not to have engaged with the view of the earlier panel to provide evidence of insight or remediation and has failed to provide evidence to demonstrate a lack of recurrence of her misconduct. There is no evidence she has maintained her skills and knowledge as a Biomedical Scientist. She has only belatedly pointed to health conditions and engagement with support groups, but this is not supported by documentary evidence. Moreover, there is the worry that she has been further convicted of a similar matter in 2017 which does not appear to have been disclosed, other than in today’s telephone call, to the HCPC. This all suggests her fitness to practice remains impaired with reference to fundamental tenets of the profession and the maintenance of public confidence in the profession and the regulator.
26. Mr Claughton acknowledged that a further period of suspension might be appropriate, and allow the Registrant a further opportunity to engage. However, it was his overarching submission that given the lack of insight, remediation, absence of evidence of the Registrant’s skills being kept up to date, as well as the belated disclosure of another theft from a shop in 2017 the appropriate disposal in this matter should be strike off.
27. The Panel makes it clear it has re-read and considered fully at this stage the telephone note of the conversation with the Registrant today.
28. The Panel has considered the submissions of the parties. It has accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.
29. In respect of the issue of current impairment of the Registrant’s fitness to practise there has been no material engagement by the Registrant nearly twelve months on from the hearing of 12 January 2017. In terms of assessing current impairment of the Registrant’s fitness to practise it remains the case that she has not remediated her previous misconduct, where she has breached fundamental tenets of the profession.
30. The public is entitled to rely on registrants as being persons who act with integrity. Failure to do so undermines public confidence in the profession and the regulator.
31. The Registrant has failed to provide evidence of insight, remediation and keeping her professional skills up to date. Moreover, there is the belated disclosure she has committed a further similar offence in 2017. This was only mentioned to Mr Claughton today. There is no record of this being disclosed earlier by her to the HCPC. Whilst it does not constitute a new allegation, this in itself undermines significantly any claim which might have been made as to a lack of repetition of the misconduct since the last hearing.
32. The Panel sought to look for mitigating features, and could only reflect on the earlier Panel taking account of her partial disclosure of one caution on 6 May 2013.
33. The most current information from the Registrant is unverified. She has had a great deal of time to present evidence of insight and remediation to reassure the Panel that any risk of her misconduct being repeated is highly unlikely.
34. Accordingly, taking all these matters into account the Panel finds the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired by reason of misconduct.
35. The Panel then considered what if any action should follow. It has taken account of submissions from parties and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.
36. The Panel was mindful that the purpose of any sanction was not to punish the Registrant but to protect and maintain public confidence in the profession and the HCPC as the regulator, by the maintenance of proper standards of conduct and behaviour.
37. The Panel had regard to the HCPC Indicative Sanctions Policy. It has applied the principle of proportionality weighing the Registrant’s interest with the public interest and by considering each available sanction in an ascending order of severity. The Panel has been presented with little if any information by the Registrant as to her current personal or financial circumstances.
38. The Panel has particular regard to paragraphs 9 and 14 of the Sanctions Policy with regard to sanctions imposed with the public interest in mind and the issues of insight, remedial actions and risk of repetition of the misconduct earlier found proved.
39. To take no action or mark this matter with a caution order would not mark the seriousness of this matter nor re assure the public in terms of maintaining and requiring the upholding of proper standards of conduct by members of the profession. The offences were serious, and repeated, and were not disclosed to the HCPC as required by a Registrant.
40. There has been scant if any engagement with the regulatory process by the Registrant. There is an absence of evidence concerning insight and remediation on her part. Her recent disclosure points to further offending in the course of 2017 during the current order of suspension. Given the seriousness of the criminal behaviour, the repetition of the same over time; and, failure to disclose the same to regulator, the Panel concluded that it would not be workable or practicable to impose a conditions of practice order. Conditions of practice are usually more suitable to clinical or professional deficiency which can be addressed by education and supervision. This is not the case here. Moreover, the Panel was not satisfied that the Registrant would in any event comply with any such order, given her material lack of engagement to date with her regulator or the regulatory process.
41. The Panel went on to consider a further period of suspension. The Panel considered paragraphs 39 and 41 of the Indicative Sanction Guidance:
39. Suspension should be considered where the Panel considers that a caution or conditions of practice would provide insufficient public protection or where the allegation is of a serious nature but unlikely to be repeated and, thus, striking off is not merited.
41. 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.
42. Having done so the Panel has considered there has been no material engagement with the HCPC or the regulatory process by the Registrant throughout the period of the current suspension order. This suggests the opportunity to learn from, reflect, demonstrate insight and remediate has not been taken advantage of. Indeed, the position is on her own belated admission (not disclosed until today) that she seemingly has further offended during the period of suspension. This further undermines public confidence in her as a registrant, and in the profession. The offences have been repeated, are serious, and there is a lack of candour and disclosure of the same on the part of the Registrant when addressing her regulator.
43. Accordingly, and in light of all these circumstances the Panel has concluded that the necessary and proportionate response is to order strike off. In all the circumstances of this case any lesser sanction would undermine public confidence in the profession and the regulator.
History of Hearings for Mrs Kerrie Louise Hawkins
|Date||Panel||Hearing type||Outcomes / Status|
|03/01/2018||Conduct and Competence Committee||Review Hearing||Struck off|
|12/01/2017||Conduct and Competence Committee||Final Hearing||Suspended|