Social worker convicted of making indecent images is struck off

HCPTS strikes off social worker convicted of making indecent images of a child

Published on 4th January 2019

A social worker who has been convicted of four counts of making indecent photographs or pseudo photograph of a child has been struck off the social work register.

The Health and Care Professions Tribunal Service Panel heard that Durham County Council had been advised by Northumbria Police on 24 May 2017  that Shaun Devlin had been interviewed and admitted to accessing the “dark web” to access indecent images of children.

Mr Shaun Devlin was a social worker by Durham County Council and had been employed there since 2002.
In the police interview, Mr Devlin stated he had accessed the dark web on a regular basis at his home address and via his mobile phone and said that he did not use any Durham CC equipment to view such images.

Mr Devlin was subsequently prosecuted for, and convicted of four counts of making indecent photographs or pseudo photograph of child contrary to sections 1(1)(a) and 6 of the Protection of Children Act 1978 on 16 February 2018, at North Tyneside Magistrates' Court.

Having pled guilty in February 2018, Mr Devlin was subsequently sentenced on 16 March 2018 for each of four charges, to a Community Order for three years, with the sentences to run concurrently. He was made the subject of an electronically monitored curfew for six months and the subject of a Sexual Harm Prevention Order for five years.

In his sentencing remarks, the sentencing judge in the Crown Court stated that the images were not only still images, but also films, and a number of which were Category A, the most serious level of image. The judge described a specifically aggravating factor to be the fact that the children were very young, aged between three and eight years old, and their obvious vulnerability. The sentencing judge also made it apparent that Mr Devlin had been accessing the material over a lengthy period of time, between 2014–2017.

The sentencing judge described Mr Devlin as being remorseful, appreciating the seriousness of his actions and having insight into the suffering that those images of sexual abuse reflect. The HCPTS Panel, however, agreed with the sentencing judge’s comment that the offences were very serious.

The Panel concluded that the offences are inherently serious; there were a significant number of both still and moving images; some were of the most serious category; and, given the period during which the images were accessed, reflected a sustained and determined course of offending.

The Panel took into account the sentencing judge’s comment that the Registrant had pleaded guilty at the first opportunity, has voluntarily sought help from Stop It Now and has taken steps to address his offending behaviour. The Panel also bore in mind the Registrant’s engagement in the HCPC’s fitness to practise process, and the account given by the Registrant of how he views his offending in the context of his professional work and the reputation of his profession. The Registrant stated, “I acknowledge the harm done to the reputation of my profession & I am truly sorry about that. If in my recovery & undertaking of community punishment order I can help other offenders appreciate the level of harm & abuse that involvement in the dark side of the internet can cause then maybe some good may arise from my life.”

This led the Panel to conclude that Mr Devlin has demonstrated some insight.

Mr Devlin informed the HCPC that, as part of his Community Order, he has continued with his counselling and his engagement with the Lucy Faithfull Foundation. He also informed the HCPC that he no longer has an internet connection at home, which is part of a strategy towards his recovery. However, there was very limited information before the Panel about what progress the Registrant has made in the nine months since he was sentenced to address his offending behaviour.

The Panel concluded that his fitness to practise is impaired and nothing less than a striking off order would be sufficient in this case. "The Panel was clear in its view that the Registrant’s conduct and his subsequent conviction are incompatible with his remaining on the Register," the Panel concluded, striking Mr Devlin's name from the register.

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