The High Court has granted Social Work England (SWE) extensions to a number of ongoing fitness to practise cases. These hearings were necessary because SWE was not able to conclude the hearings before the expiry of existing restrictions. The merits of these cases turned on the individual circumstances of each case.
This was an application by SWE pursuant to Schedule 2 §§14(2)(3) of the Social Workers Regulations 2018, for a 9-month extension (to 20 December 2022) of an interim order which is now an interim suspension order (“ISO”) which was due to expire on 21 March 2022.
Mr Justice Fordham granted a 6-month extension, saying:
“Although criticised by Ms Wilson, the passage of time is properly addressed in the SWE witness evidence. SWE recognises that, having reached the disclosure stage, it should now be possible to have a final determination of this case between May and July 2022. In those circumstances, I can end where I started. I am satisfied that it is necessary and proportionate that a 6 month extension of the ISO be granted.”
SWE application, pursuant to Schedule 2 §14(2)(3) to the Social Workers Regulations 2018, for a twelve-month extension (to 15.3.23) of an interim suspension order (“ISO”) originally imposed by a panel of adjudicators (18.1.19 for 18 months) and twice extended.
This case, first raised with the Claimant’s predecessor the Health Care Professions Council in November 2018, arose out of an arrest and investigation being commenced by North Yorkshire Police. An individual’s post was being said to have been intercepted by the Defendant and, unknown to that person, a credit card account had been set up in that person’s name. Various bank cards in various names were then found on a search of the Defendant’s home. Those matters have been under investigation ever since. But then in December 2021 – 3 years later – the Claimant was informed by Gloucestershire police that it had been investigating similar alleged offending, arising out of the same pattern of stealing and exploiting people’s post, evidently from their letter boxes.
Mr Justice Fordham granted the extension, saying:
“Having considered the facts and circumstances of this case, I entirely agree with that cogent reasoning. The twelve-month further extension sought is plainly justified as necessary and proportionate. I will make the Order in the terms sought.”
This application, for a five-month extension to 19 August 2022 of an interim suspension order originally imposed by a panel of adjudicators on 20 February 2020 for 18 months and extended once by this Court which, unless extended by this Court further, is due to expire on 20 March 2022.
Again Mr Justice Fordham granted the extension, saying:
“I am satisfied, applying that approach, that the Claimant has discharged the onus of showing the necessity for the extension of the interim suspension order and for its five-month extension duration to 19 August 2022. That established necessity is for the protection of the public, including in particular service users, as well as the broader public interest and public confidence. In those circumstances it is not necessary to go further and consider the best interests of the Defendant, but of course I have regard to her position and the prejudice to her in considering whether to make the Order. The concerns first raised with the Claimant’s predecessor the Health Care Professions Council in January 2019 relate to conduct which included – as is alleged – the Defendant borrowing sums of money from a vulnerable service user, and supplying class A drugs to that service user. A second series of concerns then arose out of a sentence in the criminal court in January 2020 for drug-driving offending, which – it is alleged – needed to be and was not reported to the Claimant by the Defendant. In the most recent review of the interim suspension order in January 2022 the specialist review panel described the allegations against the Defendant as extremely serious and wide-ranging, including significant breaches of professional boundaries and various abuses of a vulnerable service user, together with allegations of drug-related criminal behaviour resulting in a criminal conviction for two offences. That panel was satisfied, on the material before it, that there remained a high risk of repetition of the alleged behaviour and that continuing an interim order was necessary to protect the public. Looking at the case afresh, and on the materials before me, I agree with that assessment.”