Social worker convicted of theft and drink driving is suspended
HCPC suspends social worker who stole more than £6,000 from her employer and was convicted of drink driving during difficult personal circumstances
Published on 13th September 2019
A social worker convicted of both stealing from her employer and driving while under the influence of alcohol has been suspended from the social work register.
On 8 September 2016, Miss Donna Louise Fallows was convicted of driving a motor vehicle after consuming alcohol on 05/05/2016 at Staffordshire Magistrates Court. The proportion of alcohol in her breath was 117 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath, which exceeded the prescribed limit which was contrary to section 5(1)(a) of the Road Traffic Act 1988 and Schedule 2 to the Road Traffic Offences Act 1988.
Miss Fallows was ordered to pay a fine of £1,000 plus costs and a victim surcharge totalling £720 and she was made the subject of a driving disqualification to run for 28 months which would be reduced to 21 months if she completed an approved course.
However, Miss Fallows did not inform the Health and Care Professionals Council of her conviction when she applied to re-register as a social worker on or around 27 October 2016. She was obliged to inform the HCPC under the terms of paragraph 9.5 of the HCPC Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics which states “You must tell us as soon as possible if you accept a caution from the police or you have been charged with, or found guilty of, a criminal offence”.
"It is clear to the Panel that at the time of making her application for registration, the Registrant must have been aware of the conviction for driving with excess alcohol. That conviction had taken place 49 days before her registration application," said the Panel. "The Panel is satisfied that when the Registrant made her application for re-registration it was clear in her mind that she was making a declaration, namely that she had not been subject to a criminal conviction, that she knew was untrue."
It is clear to the Panel that such conduct would be considered as dishonest by applying the objective standards of ordinary decent people. The particular asserting dishonesty is proved.
Furthermore, while she was employed as a Team Manager by Staffordshire County Council, Miss Fallows was convicted of stealing money to the value of £6,466.90, belonging to Staffordshire County Council between 31/05/2016 and 14/10/2017, contrary to section 1(1) and 7 of the Theft Act 1968 on 21 August 2018, at Staffordshire Magistrates Court.
Miss Fallows pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a Community Order including a curfew for eight weeks with electronic monitoring and a Rehabilitation Activity requirement to run for up to 30 days. She was also ordered to pay costs and a victim surcharge. A hearing of the Health and Care Professions Tribunal Service noted that while Miss Fallows did not attend the hearing, she sent a letter dated 16 August 2019 stating that the Community Order was revoked on 21 June 2019 on the ground of her good progress.
The Panel noted that Miss Fallows has shown some insight in that she has repaid the stolen money to her employer. At the Magistrates’ Court she made a full admission in respect of the charge of theft and had made admissions to the police. The Panel has taken into account that she entered a not guilty plea to the charge of driving with excess alcohol. She had 19 years’ experience as a social worker without any previous failings that are known to the Panel.
The Panel has taken full note of all that Miss Fallows said in her letter dated 5 December 2017 that she sent to her employer in which she described a history of difficult personal circumstances which she believed had pressured her into committing the offence of theft. That letter was brutally honest in making a full acceptance to colleagues that she had committed “unlawful, despicable and unacceptable behaviour”, said the Panel. The Panel has also noted the account given by Miss Fallows in that same letter that at the time of the excess alcohol offence she was generally consuming too much alcohol as a result of domestic and financial pressures.
The Panel concluded in view of the particular context underpinning the theft offence, there is a low risk that Miss Fallows would commit a further offence of theft. However, the Panel takes the view that there is little recognition on the part of the Registrant of the damage she has caused to the reputation of the social work profession in her commission of the offences of theft and driving with excess alcohol.
The Panel gave credit to Miss Fallows for her actions referred to in her letter dated 16 August 2019 where she highlighted her openness in confessing her theft to her employer and the police. However, there is no material information as to what work the Registrant is currently undertaking.
The Panel concluded that whilst there is some unsupported evidence from Miss Fallows as to insight and remediation, there has not been sufficient insight particularly with regard to the dishonesty in connection with failing to disclose the excess alcohol conviction to the HCPC and the effect of the theft conviction on the profession and trust in social workers.
In conclusion, the Panel is satisfied that the misconduct was a serious breach of the Standards. However, Miss Fallows has shown some insight and the assessment of the Panel is that an offence of theft is unlikely to be repeated. The likelihood of Miss Fallows driving with excess alcohol being repeated is more difficult to judge. However, the Panel takes into account that the difficult relationship has now ended and she clearly expresses shame and sorrow for her past behaviour. On that basis the Panel finds that it is more likely than not that Miss Fallows will not commit a further offence of driving with excess alcohol.
Therefore, the Panel is satisfied that, potentially, this case can be suitably dealt with by means of a Suspension Order for a one year period.
That order will be reviewed before it expires and Miss Fallows will be invited to attend a
review hearing. This Panel cannot bind the subsequent review panel. However, it is clear to this Panel that a later review panel would be helped if the Registrant were to attend that future hearing so that the panel can hear directly from the Registrant.
Not less than 28 days before the review hearing the Registrant must provide to the HCPC:
• A copy of testimonials in respect of any paid or unpaid work carried out by the Registrant since her employment with her employer ended.
• A detailed written reflective piece prepared by the Registrant that deals with the Registrant’s thoughts on:
- the theft and the driving with excess alcohol offences; and
- the impact her misconduct has had on public confidence in the social work profession and the impact on her employer.
• An account of the training and counselling that the Registrant has received and what she has learned as a result of this.
• A contemporaneous record of Continuing Professional Development carried out by the Registrant.
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