A social worker has been struck off the register for stealing four air pistols and leaving a note saying ‘sorry’.
He was convicted of two counts of theft and sentenced to a 16 week Community Order and electronic monitoring after a police investigation. This triggered an investigation by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) into his fitness to remain on the social work register.
Abuse of trust
The HCPC panel said the social worker’s conduct amounted to a “serious abuse of trust placed in him by members of his own profession and also by service users as well as by other members of the club.”
The panel decided his conduct was “fundamentally incompatible” with continued registration as a social worker.
The HCPC panel heard the social worker, who claimed he was currently unemployed, in debt and needed the money, had taken the guns from the Cumberland News Rifle Club of which he was a member and key-holder.
A rifle club member who discovered the guns missing from their cases saw them advertised online. There was no sign of forced entry to the club.
The online advert featured a photo in which the guns can be seen resting on a sofa later identified to be the same as a sofa in the registrant’s house.
The police investigation uncovered on the social worker’s mobile phone the original photograph of the pistol, messages in relation to selling the guns, bank transfers for the payments for the guns as well as text messages and emails.
The social worker later named his ex-partner as a suspect, resulting in her property being searched.
The panel flagged this attempt to pass the blame on to an innocent person as an aggravating factor in its decision about the social worker.
The panel referred to an earlier case, R v. General Optical Council, which stated, “the seriousness of the criminal offence…is not necessarily a reliable guide to its gravity in terms of maintaining public confidence in a particular profession.”
The social worker has been struck from the HCPC register and will no longer be able to practise.