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Physio obtained £58,000 fraudulently

HCPC strikes off physiotherapist who fraudulently obtained £58,000 from a charity she was a trustee of

Published on 5th August 2019

A physiotherapist who fraudulently obtained more than £58,000 has been struck off the Health and Care Professions Council register.

Mrs Sarah Fisher was a trustee of Friends of Beacon, a charity which helps support funding for non-core work, including end of life care and assisting people remain in their own homes for longer at the end of their lives, for approximately 20 years. In this role, Mrs Fisher had access to a debit card and the financial accounts of the charity.

However, in November 2017, a number of irregular financial transactions were noticed by the charity and it was discovered that Mrs Fisher had made a number of fraudulent transactions, using the charity debit card to pay off her credit card debts as well as make other purchases.

Mrs Fisher was interviewed by the police, made full admissions, and was given a conditional police caution on 17 July 2018. The conditional caution document states that the total sum she had taken was £58,113.

The Panel found the allegation proved on the basis of the conditional caution document which made clear that the caution was administered at Guildford police station on 17 July 2018, and was signed by Mrs Fisher. The offence referred to in the conditional caution document is fraud by abuse of position pursuant to the Fraud Act 2006, and the particulars stated are as follows: “Since 2013 you committed fraud in that, while occupying a position, namely being a trustee, in which you were expected to safeguard, or not to act against, the financial interests of Friends of the Beacon, you dishonestly abused that position intending thereby to make a gain, namely £58,113, for yourself”.

The panel referred to an email dated 17 June 2019 from Mrs Fisher's legal representative which states as follows: “I write on behalf of the Registrant to advise that she intends no disrespect to the HCPC or any HCPTS Panel but she will no longer take part in any HCPC proceedings and I am not instructed to make any representations on her behalf.

There were no submissions from Mrs Fisher before the Panel.

The Panel considered Mrs Fisher's full admissions to her employer as set out in the notes of meetings on 29 December 2017 and 3 January 2018. She was recorded to have been extremely distraught, and openly admitted her actions during those meetings, which the Panel took into account. However, the Panel also noted that the admissions were only made once the charity had become aware of the transactions.

The Panel also took into account the notes of the disciplinary hearing, at which it is recorded that Mrs Fisher “said that she didn’t have a good explanation as to why she had done this. SF had pushed it away and denied it to herself. SF explained that she found it overwhelming and was struggling to understand how she had behaved that way. SF said that she didn’t want to be that person and couldn’t give an adequate explanation…”

Mrs Fisher stated that she began by making a genuine mistake when using the charity’s debit card for a purchase for herself, but because she had not been discovered, she continued. In the Panel’s view, there is no evidence from Mrs Fisher of any insight into her wrongdoing, any reflection about it or indeed any real attempt to explain it.

"In the Panel’s view the Registrant’s actions were serious. She abused a position of trust in relation to a charity which was concerned with assisting the very ill and vulnerable and those who were dying. She did this for personal gain over a number of years. Her actions were premeditated, as seen from the false invoices she created to cover her tracks. Her admissions to her employer and the police were made only after the charity discovered her fraud. The amount she took was substantial," said the panel.

The Panel identified the following mitigating factors:

i.the lack of any previous regulatory findings against the Registrant;

ii.the Registrant has voluntarily paid £10,000 back to the charity.

The Panel identified the following aggravating factors:

i.Large sum of money taken;

ii.a high risk of repetition;

iii.pattern of dishonesty over several years;

iv.premeditated dishonesty;

v.abuse of position which resulted in theft of money intended for the use of a charity to support vulnerable and ill patients at the end of their lives.

In light of the nature of the dishonesty, and the abuse of the position of trust, the panel was of the view that the Registrant committed serious dishonesty which was neither minor or isolated, was premediated and prolonged.

"In the Panel’s view, the Registrant committed serious and deliberate dishonesty, which continued for several years. The Panel took into account the lack of explanation or indeed any submissions from the Registrant in respect of this hearing, the lack of any indication from the Registrant that she wishes to return to continue practising the profession, the lack of any evidence of insight or remediation, as well as the ongoing high risk of repetition The Registrant is either unable or unwilling to demonstrate insight or remediation. All of these factors led the Panel to decide that any lesser sanction would undermine confidence in the profession concerned or the regulatory process. Striking off is the only way in which the wider public interest can be upheld," said the panel.

The Panel therefore decided to strike Mrs Fisher from the HCPC register.

 

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