Social worker involved in drunken domestic disputes is banned from practice for a year

The practitioner showed no insight into how her behaviour in her private life could damage the reputation of the social work profession, said the Health and Care Professions Council

Fitness to practise hearing

A social worker has been suspended from the register after police officers were called out to two domestic disputes between her and her then partner.

The first altercation took place in Melanie Cullen’s home in May 2011, a panel of the Health and Care Professions Council’s (HCPC) conduct and competence committee heard. A neighbour reported the event to the police, but, when officers arrived 30 minutes later, things were quiet.

The following month, police were called again to the house, this time at 4:20am. Cullen was disruptive and abusive to the police, refusing to speak to them and swearing at them in front of her children, the panel heard.

She later admitted she had been under the influence of alcohol.

During the dispute, a dustpan and brush was thrown over a fence towards the house of a neighbour. A police officer asked who had thrown it and Cullen lied and said it was her.

Cullen did not attend the HCPC’s hearing, but said in her written submissions that she lied to prevent the police taking action against her partner.

But the panel said: “On both a subjective and objective basis Ms Cullen knew it was wrong to give a dishonest account to a police officer. Her action in this respect was dishonest.”

She also maintained that she did not refuse to speak to the police, but rather was scared to in the presence of her partner.

Cullen was dismissed from her position as a social worker at Durham council in May 2012 following an internal disciplinary review. She had worked there since February 2000.

In her letter to the HCPC, Cullen argued that her fitness to practise was not impaired. “No incidents occurred at work,” she wrote, adding that her practice had not been affected by the events in question.

However, the panel found her lack of insight into how her behaviour in her private life can damage the reputation of the social work profession concerning.

Taking into account the fact that the misconduct included dishonesty, it decided that a 12-month suspension was appropriate.

Read the full notice of decision

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