Occupational therapist, 34, avoids being struck off after beating boy, 4, with learning difficulties by repeatedly slapping him in the face when he failed to put his shoes and socks on
- Ramon Priess struck the child’s face at the Maximum Potential clinic in London
- Assault happened in front of boy’s mother and left him with a ‘reddened’ cheek
- Occupational therapist convicted of assault by beating following trial last year
- But a committee ruled he will only be suspended from profession for six months
An occupational therapist who slapped a four-year-old boy with learning difficulties when he refused to put on his shoes and socks has avoided being struck off from his profession, a court has heard.
Ramon Priess, 34, struck the vulnerable child’s face ’10 to 20 times’ after he pretended to be asleep at a session at the Maximum Potential clinic in Devonshire Place, central London, in April 2019.
The attack, which happened in front of the boy’s mother, left the child with a ‘reddened’ right cheek.
German-born Priess was convicted of assault by beating following a trial last year and was sentenced to 12 weeks imprisonment, suspended for 12 months.
But a conduct and competence committee of the Health and Care Professions Tribunal Service has ruled he will only be suspended from the profession for six months, after hearing it was an ‘isolated event’ and that he had apologised.
Ramon Priess slapped the four-year-old boy with learning difficulties ’10 to 20 times’ at the Maximum Potential clinic in Devonshire Place, central London, in April 2019
The tribunal heard the boy had difficulties with language, communication, motor skills, and possible Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
From January 2018, Priess treated him for ‘sensory processing difficulties’ during weekly 45 minute sessions at Maximum Potential.
Towards the end of a session in April 2019 the boy was sat on Priess’ lap when he asked the child to put his shoes on.
The tribunal heard the child then ‘played dead’ or pretended to be asleep.
In response, Priess slapped the right side of his face several times ‘initially leaving his cheek reddened and causing the child to cry’.
The mother witnessed the incident and spoke to the child’s father later that evening, who then sent an email to Priess.
He wrote: ‘[The child] came home today distraught. I am extremely disappointed that [he] was repeatedly slapped in an aggressive manner. This is extremely disappointing and unprofessional.
‘He has been crying hysterically, this is not what I expect from a qualified professional.’
Priess responded: ‘Apologies for what has happened today. This wasn’t meant to hurt him at all. He complained over pain in his mouth just before as well.
‘There is nothing I can do to justify what happened and I suppose it is probably best if [the child] stays with Maximum Potential and does not see me privately.
‘The lines are blurring between my professional relationship/private friendship with [the mother] and [the child]. They feel like family to me and I handled it in a way I would with my nephews and nieces.
‘Not acceptable from a professional view. I adore [the child] and can’t tell you in words how sorry I feel.’
In September 2019, Priess was charged with assault by beating but he left the UK in December 2019 and started work in a paediatric occupational health practice in Berlin, Germany. He was still working there in February this year.
The occupational therapist pleaded not guilty but was convicted following a trial at Westminster Magistrates Court in March 2020
He told the committee he had not practised without supervision since starting his new job.
He pleaded not guilty but was convicted following a trial at Westminster Magistrates Court in March 2020 and was handed a 12 week prison sentence, suspended for 12 months in June 2020.
The tribunal noted: ‘His actions constituted a criminal assault on a four-year-old child who had a number of developmental difficulties. The child was a vulnerable service user.
‘The child’s care as a service user had been entrusted to [Mr Priess] and he undermined that trust by doing what he did.
‘[Mr Priess’] actions were carried out in the exercise of registered practice. They were violent, amounting to an assault on a four-year-old child who was a particularly vulnerable service user.’
The tribunal decided to suspend Priess from the profession for six months instead of striking him off completely.
It added: ‘[Mr Priess] has insight, does appear to be willing to resolve matters, is unlikely to repeat the misconduct, and has apologised for his actions, which were an isolated event in his career.
‘A Striking Off Order would be disproportionate in all the circumstances.’
It is unclear if the suspension will affect Priess’ ability to practise abroad or if he will only be suspended in the UK, with the tribunal adding that it only ‘might have an effect on his ability to work as an Occupational Therapist in Germany’.
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