Group sex nurse free to work after being cleared of misconduct

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A NURSE who engaged in group sex involving a teenage girl has been cleared of misconduct.

Rhona Sharman was accused by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) of having sex with an underage girl, encouraging her to have sex with others, filming the encounters and giving her alcohol in September 2011.

The NMC said yesterday that the sexual activity had taken place – but ruled there was insufficient evidence that Mrs Sharman knew the girl was under 16 at the time.

The ruling means that the staff nurse from Livingston, West Lothian, is free to resume her nursing career.

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Mrs Sharman covered her face as she left the hearing in Edinburgh at the end of the first day.

The second day of the hearing in Edinburgh was told that Mrs Sharman and the girl, believed now to be 18, met via an adult dating website used for casual sex.

But the NMC dropped the case after the girl – referred to as witness X – refused to give evidence in person.

Reading the closing statement, chairwoman Sally Ruthen, said: “Witness X is the only witness able to give evidence of what she told the registrant regarding her age.

“The actions in the charges are not in dispute. The only contested issue whether the registrant knew the age of witness X at the time.”

The hearing in Edinburgh was told that the girl lied about her age, claiming to be 17, the first time she met Mrs Sharman. The girl also told of her “previous experience” with married couples.

Mrs Sharman, who had 26 years’ experience in her profession, was said to have met the girl outside of her job with NHS Lothian.

First

The first charge against Mrs Sharman related to her second meeting with the girl.

She was alleged to have engaged in “sexual activity with Child A”, “caused and/or encouraged Child A to participate in sexual activity with Mr Y” and “caused and/or encouraged Child A to be present while you engaged in sexual activity with Mr Y”.

Mrs Sharman is also alleged to have “video-taped the sexual activity” and “offered and/or supplied Child A with alcohol”.

The second charge related to a third meeting with the girl later the same month.

Mrs Sharman is again alleged to have been involved in sex with the girl, got her to watch while she had sex, filmed the activity, and offered the child alcohol.

The second charge alleges that Mrs Sharman “caused and/or encouraged Child A to participate in sexual activity with Mr Y and Person C”.

But Ms Ruthen admitted  there were “inconsistencies” in the evidence given by witness X.

She said: “It is clear that Mrs Sharman did not meet the girl through any nursing practice.

Dating

“They met through an adult dating website which is used to facilitate casual sex.”

She told the nurse: “From the outset, you made it clear that you were not aware that witness X was under 16.

“Your position has always been that you thought that witness X was a consenting adult.

“The issue of witness X’s age is therefore the only aggravating factor.”

Ms Ruthven said that Salim Hafejee, case presenter for the NMC, had stated that witness X was underage and vulnerable at the time.

“But he submitted that assessing the age of an adolescent on the basis of their appearance is widely acknowledged to be very difficult,” she said.

She concluded: “Therefore, the panel determines that the NMC has presented insufficient evidence to find the facts proved and determines that you have no case to answer.”

Mrs Sharman declined to comment as she left the hearing.

A NMC spokeswoman confirmed that Mrs Sharman could return to nursing immediately.

Three of the five charges were dropped against Mrs Sharman on the first day.

One, which related to “indecent” texts, was scrapped after the panel heard that the girl had messaged the nurse, telling her of her “previous experience” with married couples.

Another which related to the nurse’s first meeting with the girl was also scrapped as the witness had admitted telling Mrs Sharman that she was 17, not her actual age of 15.

Mrs Sharman was suspended from her job in March 2012.

NHS Lothian refused to drawn on whether Mrs Sharman would be returning to work.

Alan Boyter, director of human resources for NHS Lothian, said: “We note the regulator’s decision in this case and would not comment further on staff matters.”

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