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Case study 1
An operating department practitioner ('the registrant') was convicted of driving a motor vehicle whilst under the influence of alcohol. A panel of the Conduct and Competence Committee found the facts and the ground (conviction) of the allegation proven on the basis of the documentary evidence provided by the Court and the Police. It noted the registrant had crashed his car into a parked lorry in the early hours of the morning. A breath test conducted at the scene gave a positive result. The registrant was banned from driving for 17 months, fined £500 and directed to pay a victim surcharge and costs.
The registrant self referred the matter to the HCPC five days after his arrest.
The registrant attended the hearing and represented himself. He set out the circumstances of his conviction in that he had been at a family member’s birthday celebration and had consumed more drinks than he had originally planned. The crash had taken place on a bend in the road in wet conditions. He pleaded guilty at Court and had attended an alcohol awareness course (as a result, his driving ban was reduced by a quarter).
The registrant told the panel he had learnt a very hard lesson and that he would never repeat his actions. He stated he realised his judgement had been very poor and that the alcohol awareness course had made him fully appreciate how regrettable his actions had been.
The registrant’s partner also gave evidence and stated that the registrant’s family had been shocked and surprised at his behaviour. She described him as a good person who had taken responsibility for his regrettable behaviour.
When considering whether the registrant’s fitness to practise was impaired, the panel took account of both personal factors (for example, the registrant’s current behaviour) and public factors (for example, maintaining public confidence in the profession).
In relation to personal factors, the panel was of the view that the registrant is not currently impaired due to his genuine remorse and regret and as there appeared to be little or no likelihood of repetition.
In relation to public factors, the panel considered that the public would be concerned at the behaviour of a professional which resulted in him breaking the law and exposing other drivers and pedestrians to the risk of harm. Further, it noted that the registrant’s actions had resulted in damage to another person’s property. In addition, the registrant admitted that at the time he was aware he had drank too much alcohol to drive. Taking all of this into account, the panel considered that the matters were serious enough, in relation to public factors, to make a finding of current impairment.
When considering the appropriate and proportionate sanction to impose, the panel identified the following aggravating and mitigating factors.
• The registrant’s actions could have resulted in serious harm to him and other road users.
• His conviction was a serious matter.
• He knew of the potentially serious consequences of a road traffic accident.
• He caused physical damage to another vehicle.
• He made a decision, albeit distorted by alcohol, to drive when he knew he should not.
• The registrant remained at the scene, made a full admission at the time, self-referred to the HCPC and has provided full disclosure of the events since.
• He fulfilled the terms of his conviction completely, and in time.
• He expressed regret and remorse and apologised for his actions.
• He has taken steps to ensure there is no repetition.
• He has gained, and has been able to express, full insight into his failing.
• Through the alcohol awareness course he has taken note of the very serious nature of his actions.
• He has fully engaged in the HCPC proceedings and has, in the panel’s view, been open and honest.
• There was sufficient evidence that the failing was out of character.
• He has the support of his employer.
Taking all of the above into account, and having heard from the registrant himself about his genuine regret for his behaviour, the panel was persuaded that there had been personal punishment enough and there would be little served by imposing a restriction on his professional practice. The panel concluded that the finding of impairment made in the wider public interest was, in the particular circumstances of this case, a sufficient deterrent and mark of censure. The panel therefore took no further action.