Social worker suspended for drink driving and failing to inform HCPC
Regulator suspends social worker for 12 months after she failed to inform employer or HCPC of her conviction for drink driving
Published on 24th September 2019
A social worker who was convicted of driving while under the influence of alcohol and who failed to inform the regulator has been suspended from the social work register.
Miss Kara Crowther was convicted on January 2018 at West Yorkshire Magistrates’ Court for driving a motor vehicle, on a road on 24 December 2017, under the influence of alcohol.
She had consumed so much alcohol that the proportion of it in her breath, namely 63 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath, that it exceeded the prescribed limit. Contrary to section 5(1)(a) of the Road Traffic Act 1988 and Schedule 2 to the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1998.
The Panel took into account the Memorandum of an Entry in the Register of Bradford and Keighley Magistrates’ Court, which confirmed that on 30 January 2018 Miss Crowther pleaded guilty to the offence.
It was also alleged that Miss Crowther failed to inform her employer and the Health and Care Professions Council - which is required as part of her registration.
Miss Crowther was employed at Parallel Parents as a Foster Development Worker at the time of the allegation. JL, Miss Crowther's Supervisor, attended the hearing in person and provided live oral evidence.
JL explained that she had a supervision meeting with Miss Crowther on 10 January 2018, however, Miss Crowther did not inform her that she had been charged on 24 December 2017 with driving over the prescribed limit.
JL first became aware of this issue on 12 January 2018 when a colleague support worker, AM, told JL about a conversation she had had with Miss Crowther who had told AM about the fact she had been arrested for drink driving but asked AM to keep this secret.
Following the conversation with AM, JL arranged a formal meeting with Miss Crowther on 15 January 2018 where JL and AM were present at this meeting, together with other members of staff. At this meeting, JL stated that Miss Crowther had been charged with driving with more than the prescribed limit of alcohol in her system. This was the first time Miss Crowther had disclosed this information to her employer.
She said that she knew she should have told her supervisor immediately upon being charged with a criminal offence, but she had not done so because she was trying to figure out what to do. She stated that she knew “her job will go” and she had been looking for jobs where she did not need to drive.
JL’s evidence was supported by the contemporaneous documents made available to the Panel. The Panel found that Miss Crowther failed to disclose to her employer that she had been charged on 24 December 2017 with driving over the prescribed limit and this disclosure was not made until the formal meeting on 15 January 2018.
Further, JL confirmed that it was she who informed the HCPC that Miss Crowther had been charged with drink driving by a referral dated 24 January 2018.
The Panel found that Miss Crowther knew that she should have informed her employer immediately upon being arrested and charged by the police with a criminal offence. She deliberately delayed in doing so and deliberately set out to deceive her employer.The Panel found that, viewed objectively by the standards of ordinary decent people, Miss Crowther's conduct was dishonest.
"The Panel considered that the drink driving offence had no direct bearing on the Registrant’s competence as a Social Worker. However, although she was not working at the time of the offence, driving was a critical aspect of her Social Work role. The conviction brought the profession into disrepute. Moreover, the Registrant acted dishonestly in seeking to conceal the fact she had been charged with a criminal offence from her employer and regulator," said the Panel.
The Panel recognised that Miss Crowther entered an early guilty plea to the most recent criminal charge. At the meeting with her employer on 15 January 2018, she acknowledged that she had been “really stupid”. This demonstrated a degree of insight on the part of Miss Crowther, the Panel said.
However, this was the second time that Miss Crowther had been convicted of drink driving within a four-year period. She drove her car under the influence of alcohol notwithstanding that she had previously undertaken a drink drive awareness course. The Panel considered that she had not learned from her previous experiences.
The Panel stated that Miss Crowther had a previously unblemished career as a Social Worker. No concerns have been raised with the Panel in relation to her competence.
In the particular circumstances of this case, the Panel did not consider that her actions are incapable of remediation. The Panel concluded that a period of Suspension would provide the necessary level of public protection for its duration. It would mitigate the risk of repetition which the Panel addressed above and the wider public interest concerns that arise in this case. It would allow Miss Crowther an opportunity for reflection in which she may potentially develop fuller insight into her failings and make attempts to remediate her behaviour.
The Panel decided to suspend Miss Crowther for 12 months which would enable her to develop appropriate insight and take appropriate steps in relation to remediation.
"The Panel wishes to make clear to the Registrant that it would be in her interests to engage in future proceedings and, in particular, to attend future hearings," said the Panel.
It may also be advantageous to future panels if Miss Crowther produced a reflective piece concerning the circumstances leading to her conviction and addressing her failure to immediately inform her employer and the HCPC of the fact she had been arrested and charged. She should also provide an indication of he current employment status and her future intentions in respect of her profession, details of steps taken to keep her knowledge and skills up-to-date and testimonials and references from current and recent employers and/or voluntary organisations that she has worked for.
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