Social worker suspended following conviction for drink driving

Panel suspends social worker for six months following drink driving conviction

Published on 12th November 2018

A social worker has been suspended from the HCPC register after failing a road-side breath test for alcohol consumption.

On 8 June 2015 at Canterbury Magistrates’ Court, Julie Taylor was convicted of driving a vehicle on a road after consuming so much alcohol that the proportion in her breath exceeded the prescribed limit.

A Panel decided to suspend Ms Taylor for a six month period after she referred herself to the Health and Care Professions Council.

Ms Taylor was employed as a social worker by Kent County Council in the Older Persons Physical Disability Team.

On 25 May 2015, a member of the public alerted the police that a female, who appeared upset, had just bought a packet of paracetamol and had entered a vehicle which was parked at the rear of a petrol station.

The police approached the vehicle and found Ms Taylor in the driver’s seat with the engine running and she was visibly upset. Officers turned off the ignition and took away the keys and Ms Taylor then failed the road side breath test and was arrested.

Ms Taylor was taken to Canterbury Police Station where she provided two breath tests. The lower of the readings was 103 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath; the legal limit being 35 microgrammes. In her police interview, Ms Taylor said that she had driven from Stoke on Trent to Faversham for work. She informed the police that she had driven to the sea and had consumed half a bottle of wine. She then decided that she needed to buy paracetamol for her back pain and cigarettes. She drove to the petrol station and it was there that she felt ‘woozy’ and decided to park up until she felt better.

Ms Taylor was charged and subsequently convicted on 8 June 2015 at Canterbury Magistrates’ Court of driving a motor vehicle whilst over the alcohol consumption limit. The sentence imposed was a Community Order with a requirement to complete Unpaid Work for 60 hours by 7 June 2016. In addition, Ms Taylor was ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £60, prosecution costs of £85 and a criminal court charge of £150. Furthermore, she was disqualified from holding or obtaining a driving licence for 23 months although she was given the opportunity to reduce her disqualification by 174 days, if by 13 September 2016, she satisfactorily completed a driving course approved by the Secretary of State.

Ms Taylor resigned from her role at Kent Council on 5 June 2017 as she prohibited her from driving.

The Panel said that Ms Taylor's conviction for driving with excess alcohol demonstrated a course of conduct, which represented a significant breach of the high standards of personal conduct and behaviour expected of a registered practitioner. The Panel noted that the level of alcohol in her breath was almost three times the legal limit and had the potential to cause serious harm to herself and other road users.

The Panel recognised that Ms Taylor pleaded guilty at an early stage of the criminal proceedings but as there was only limited information available, the Panel was unable to assess whether this demonstrated a degree of insight or was an inevitable consequence due to the strength of the evidence. As she had demonstrated only limited engagement with these proceedings and had chosen not to attend the hearing the Panel was unable to assess the scope and level of her insight.

There was no evidence before the Panel that Ms Taylor fully appreciated the consequences of her actions or that she had properly reflected on the impact of her behaviour on her professional standing as a social worker. There was also no information before the Panel to confirm that she had completed the driving course approved by the Secretary of State or completed without incident the Community Order specifically the unpaid work requirement. In the absence of meaningful reflection and a commitment to remediation the Panel concluded that there was a risk of repetition.

The Panel determined that the conduct and behaviour underlying Ms Taylor's conviction is capable of being remedied provided that she 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.

The Panel decided to suspend Ms Taylor for a six month period. The Suspension Order will be reviewed shortly before expiry and a future reviewing panel is likely to be assisted by Ms Taylor's attendance in person, confirmation of her current circumstances, written and/or oral evidence of insight and remediation and character references.

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