Nurse struck off for getting NHS-leased car washed after son shot rival in back seat

A mental health nurse has been struck off after taking an NHS-leased Mercedes to a car wash after her son shot his love rival in the back seat.

Patricia Dean, who has more than 25 years of experience, was jailed for 18 months for assisting her son Vincenzo De Falco, who shot a love rival with a shotgun from point-blank range in January 2019.

De Falco shot the man in the leg in the back seat of the car, which was being leased to Dean by the NHS.

Once Dean was aware of what her son had done, she took the car to a car wash in a failed attempt to get rid of the evidence, Manchester Evening News reports.

Dean allowed her son to drive the Mercedes-Benz C-Class when he needed it.

On the night of the shooting, De Falco travelled to Rochdale and got involved in an argument with an ex-partner of his then-current girlfriend, and shot him in the leg before dumping them on the street.

He then devised a plan to hide the car and get it cleaned, which Dean did.

The pair were arrested two days after the shooting.

De Falco was jailed for more than 11 years last November.

A hearing was held last week by the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s (NMC) Fitness to Practice Committee to judge if Dean’s fitness to practice was impaired by the conviction.

Dean was already dismissed from the hospital she worked at, Manchester North General Hospital, in October last year.

At the outset of the hearing Dean is said to have told the panel that while she accepts she was convicted of a crime, she did not do this willingly or knowingly.

Therefore she did not admit that her fitness to carry on practising nursing was impaired.

The report says that there is no ‘statutory definition’ of fitness to practice, however, “the NMC has defined fitness to practise as a registrant’s suitability to remain on the register unrestricted.”

Matthew Kewley, representing the NMC, said the conviction is such “that a finding of current impairment is required only on public interest grounds in order to maintain public confidence in the profession and in the NMC as a regulatory body and to declare and uphold proper standards of conduct.”

He added that Dean had breached ‘fundamental tenets’ of the profession and that her conduct was not ‘easily remediable’. Mr Kewley argued that Dean should be struck off on public interest grounds.

Comments made by the judge, Tom Gilbart, at her trial were referenced in this hearing, including that her actions were “extremely serious criminality” and the assistance she provided to her son to try and avoid prosecution was “clear, serious and significant”.

And “although the offence occurred solely in the course of your private life it is of such a serious nature that this also impacts on your registration as a nurse and has caused serious damage to the reputation of the profession.”

Dean is said to have contacted the NMC at the time of being arrested and told the panel that she has always followed the code of conduct and practised lawfully.

Dean said that since the conviction she has decided to “voluntarily” remove herself from the register in order to ‘not cause further embarrassment’ and to carry on with her life. This was so her name could be removed without a ‘bad stamp’ against it.

The report goes on to say: “The panel noted your explanation of your conduct and your denial of criminal intent or conduct. If correct, your case is a tragic conclusion to a long and successful nursing career.

“Nevertheless, you were found guilty before a Judge and jury who heard all the evidence which included details of phone calls made, people you met and your movements after the shooting.

“The panel found that the behaviour leading to your conviction had breached the fundamental tenets of the nursing profession as you acted without integrity and were found to be dishonest.

“It was satisfied that your behaviour undermined the reputation of the profession and that confidence in the nursing profession would be undermined if its regulator did not find charges relating to your conviction extremely serious.

“The panel recognised that you understood that the public would be shocked to hear a nurse had behaved in the way that led to your conviction.

“However, you showed only limited insight into the impact your conviction may have on the reputation of the profession and trust in nurses and tended to focus more on the impact on yourself.”

It added: “The panel bore in mind that the overarching objectives of the NMC are to protect, promote and maintain the health safety and well-being of the public and patients, and to uphold/protect the wider public interest, which includes promoting and maintaining public confidence in the nursing and midwifery professions and upholding the proper professional standards for members of those professions.

“Having regard to all of the above, the panel was satisfied that your fitness to practise is currently impaired.”

Dean has therefore been struck off the register on the grounds of “public interest”.

The report concluded: “The panel considered that this order was necessary to mark the importance of maintaining public confidence in the profession, and to send to the public and the profession a clear message about the standard of behaviour required of a registered nurse.”