By Rachel Schraer
A social worker who was caught taking indecent photos up the skirt of a woman on a train platform without her consent has been struck off.
Joseph David Brown was caught by a fellow passenger at Wimbledon train station in August 2012 photographing an “attractive woman in a short skirt” without her permission, a panel of the Health and Care Professions Council’s (HCPC) conduct and competence committee heard.
Subsequent to being interviewed by the British Transport Police, Brown’s home was searched and electrical items containing indecent images were seized. These included upskirt photographs and videos, as well as footage of a female friend using the shower in his home.
He had just handed in his notice to the NSPCC and accepted a position at the London Borough of Wandsworth at the time of his arrest.
In March 2013, Brown was convicted at Westminster Magistrates Court of seven counts of outraging public decency and one count of voyeurism, for which he has been sentenced to 111 days of a sexual offenders’ treatment programme and 24 months of supervision by a reporting officer, as well as being placed on the sex offenders register.
Brown attended the hearing, but left shortly after it commenced. He was comforted by his wife as he expressed regret for his actions. He was in tears when he told the panel: “The offences occurred when I was incredibly depressed. I am in the process of recovering from what were traumatic events for my wife and I last year. It’s quite difficult emotionally to relive this again.
“I am fully repentant and take responsibility for my actions. I do feel this is out of character, but I accept that I am no longer fit to practise, and nor do I wish to.”
The HCPC’s presenting officer, Mary Page, acknowledged that his risk of reoffending was “low”, but argued that, nevertheless, the impact on public confidence in social workers must be considered and “safeguarding the profession” should be a priority.
She said: “Social workers are in a position of trust to care for fundamentally vulnerable people, some of whom might have been, or are at risk of being victims of sexual offences.”
His conviction for sexual offences, therefore, would serve as a serious impairment to Brown’s fitness to practise, she said.
Brown’s good record of professional competence and character references from his parish priest were used in mitigation.
However, the panel considered that “to take no action or to impose a caution would not be appropriate given the sexual nature of the offences.
“Members of the public would be concerned if a registrant were permitted to remain on the HCPC register while subject to a sex offender notification requirement, given the nature of the role, which may involve working with vulnerable individuals.”
As such the panel has decided that a striking off order was appropriate.