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Jailed drink-driving paramedic who killed cyclist after 10 pints avoids being struck off

Robert Woodruff was off-duty, drunk and looking at his phone when he veered onto the wrong side of the road and killed father-of-five Richard Goodwin, a tribunal allowing him to keep his medical licence despite his five-year jail sentence

A medical tribunal has refused to strike off a paramedic who drank 10 pints before getting behind the wheel of a car, using his phone and veering onto the wrong side of the road, hitting and killing a father-of-five cycling home.

Robert Woodruff was jailed last year for five years after admitting to causing the death of Richard Goodwin by dangerous driving, but may be able to continue his career as a medic following his prison sentence, the Daily Mail reports, after a Health and Care Professions Tribunal panel suspended his licence for 12 months, choosing not to strike him off.

The panel concluded it is not its role to "punish" and said pre-incident Woodruff had "dedicated his life to saving lives and not to wrecking them". The jailed paramedic, who was also banned from driving for seven years and eight months at last year's sentencing, told the HCPTS disciplinary hearing he was "not providing a defence to anything he had done" and is "passionate about helping and caring for the public".

The tribunal report said: "There is no doubting the seriousness of the conviction in this case. However, as referred to above, it is not this panel's role to punish Woodruff for a second time, but rather to ensure public confidence is maintained in the paramedic profession and [its regulator].

"It is clear that his appalling behaviour must be marked so as to send out a message to him, the profession and the public about how seriously the panel views this conduct. However, in light of the specific circumstances of this case and the mitigation provided, the panel did not consider his conduct to be fundamentally incompatible with continued registration.

"He had demonstrated significant insight and was clearly willing, and had taken active steps to, resolve matters. Although it would be some time before he had completed his prison sentence, and thus be in a position to resume his practice, the panel did not consider it necessary to remove him from the Register."

Woodruff, 36, had drunk ten pints of Guinness earlier on 26 June 2021 when he took the keys to his father's car and began the seven-mile drive to a female colleague's barbecue, repeatedly calling the woman as he drove.

The Hull Daily Mail reported from court how it was heard that Woodruff was again on the phone when he veered into the wrong lane and hit Mr Goodwin, carrying the cyclist 70 metres down the road and causing fatal injuries. The father-of-five, himself cycling home from a barbecue, was found dead in undergrowth by the roadside.

Ahead of the collision, witnesses reported seeing the drunk driver "bearing down" on them and being so close behind one driver that they could not read his registration plate. Compared to the speeds of the witness it was estimated Woodruff travelled at up to 80 mph, another driver who witnessed his actions in the moments before the fatal crash thinking, 'what an idiot'.

At court, Mr Goodwin's family reported finding the driver "smug" and local court reporter Mark Naylor said Woodruff "portrayed a pathetic figure. Unemotional throughout, he showed little interest in the proceedings".

The court also heard emotional accounts from Mr Goodwin's family, 19-year-old son Oliver saying "these past months have been the hardest months I have ever had to experience" and "it has affected me in so many different ways".

"I lie awake thinking of what it must have been like for my Dad. I have dreams that he is still alive. I still send him text messages, knowing that he will never reply," he told the court.

Back to the present and this week's medical tribunal, the panel report continued: "He [Woodruff] said he believed in rehabilitation and allowing people another chance and that he had support from family, friends and the local community, who are keen for him to keep his registration as a paramedic.

"He said that his references show that he is an excellent paramedic, as was supported by the judge's sentencing remarks. He referred to his [barrister's] comment about how he has 'dedicated his life to saving lives and not wrecking them'.

"He said the criminal charge was not a true reflection of who he is as a person and as a professional. The offence of causing death by dangerous driving is very serious. The outcome all too painfully obvious."

It is not known if Woodruff wishes to continue his medical career after the completion of his jail sentence.

Dan joined road.cc in 2020, and spent most of his first year (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. At the start of 2022 he took on the role of news editor. Before joining road.cc, Dan wrote about various sports, including football and boxing for the Daily Express, and covered the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for The Non-League Paper. Part of the generation inspired by the 2012 Olympics, Dan has been 'enjoying' life on two wheels ever since and spends his weekends making bonk-induced trips to the petrol stations of the south of England.

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22 comments

Avatar
Gus T | 8 months ago
8 likes

This incident happened near to me, the facts, as reported in the Courts, are that Woodruff had been thrown out by his wife after she discovered his extra-marital affair, he then went on a bender before going to visit his father. Upon leasving his fathers property he, allegedly, stole his fathers car in order to drive from Withernsea to Ottringham to see his girlfriend, a distance of approx 8 miles on a road with numerous twists and bends. His initial denfence was that the cyclist was on the wrong side of the road and he swerved to avoid Mr Goodwin who also swerved to the correct side of the road.

After being breathalised and confirmed to be over the limit, he was suspended by Yorkshire Ambulance Service and whilst suspended went on a "lads holiday" with his mates and then got a job as a delivery driver until the court case. Hardly the actions of a caring paramedic.

I think YAS sacked him but can not be sure about this.

He's a lying PoS and it looks like he has continued in this vein at the hearing.

 

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Griff500 | 8 months ago
3 likes

Interesting! Not allowed to drive for 7 years due to his irresponsible behaviour, yet with good behaviour in an alcohol free environment, he could be out and practicing medicine in 3 years.

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peted76 | 8 months ago
8 likes

He killed somone, while the sentence is significant at five years (in comparison to the usual slap on the wrist).. he should NEVER be allowed to hold a driving licence again. Owning a licence to drive a motor vehicle is a privilege not a right. 

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brooksby replied to peted76 | 8 months ago
6 likes
Quote:

The panel ... said pre-incident Woodruff had "dedicated his life to saving lives and not to wrecking them". 

So did Harold Shipman (presumably).

 

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the little onion | 8 months ago
8 likes

I'm not a bit torn on this - he should be struck off (and probably would be, if he were a doctor).

 

As a society, we do accept that for some professions, actions outside of work hours have a bearing on whether someone is suitable for that profession. For example, if a teacher were to be convicted of child abuse outside of work hours, even if they were an exemplary classroom teacher, there is no question that they would have their qualified teacher status removed, and never be allowed to teach. Similar asessments of professional competency apply to many other registered professions (police, law), and health care is included.

 

Frankly, if someone in healthcare showed an extremely reckless disregard for the safety of the public, such that they actually killed someone, then they should not be allowed to work in frontline health care.

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OnYerBike | 8 months ago
4 likes

I'm a bit torn on this one. On the one hand, his actions were abhorrent and the result tragic. But on the other hand, I am inclined to support rehabilitation, and if he can contribute positively to society in the future, then that seems like a good thing. I would note that his mitigation included "problems that he had suffered, including the factors that had led to his depression and drinking" (https://www.hulldailymail.co.uk/news/hull-east-yorkshire-news/killer-dri...) which suggests a clear route to rehabilitation by engaging with mental health and addicition support services. 

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Simon E replied to OnYerBike | 8 months ago
6 likes
OnYerBike wrote:

I am inclined to support rehabilitation, and if he can contribute positively to society in the future, then that seems like a good thing

Agreed. There's no reason why rehabilitation can't work for all but a tiny number, provided the resources are available.

However, like millions of others, he can still contribute to society without ever having a driving licence again. Lifetime ban please.

And I'd like to see him make a public information video about the life he ended and the consequences both for him and for the victim's family. It should be shown to every driver found to have been dicking about with a phone while driving (and their phone to be smashed to pieces).

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Secret_squirrel replied to Simon E | 8 months ago
1 like
Simon E wrote:

However, like millions of others, he can still contribute to society without ever having a driving licence again. Lifetime ban please.

Not sure I agree.  If watching BBC's Ambulance has taught me anything about Paramedics its that they sometimes drive the Ambulance.  I'd be happy for him to get his license back to support a return to the medical profession (assuming he can get a job offer). 

Unlike most killer drivers he has a massive opportunity to "pay it back" should he choose to.

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wtjs replied to Secret_squirrel | 8 months ago
2 likes

I don't think registered medical practitioners will be thrilled at paramedics being described as members of the medical profession. Paramedical profession, maybe?

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David9694 replied to wtjs | 8 months ago
0 likes

Covered by the  Health and Care Professions Council https://www.hcpc-uk.org/about-us/who-we-regulate/the-professions/ the College of Paramedics and recognition as  clinical group is comparatively new.  Perhaps that is what wtjs is referencing? A lot of GPs beg to differ there. 

https://collegeofparamedics.co.uk/COP/About_Us/The_Journey_of_the_Colleg...

Anyway, here's the link to the recent hearing. Woodruff has received a 12 month suspension from practice, which is the longest they give and it can be reviewed/renewed. 

https://www.hcpts-uk.org/hearings/hearings/2023/june/robert-woodruff/

Not sure what these two paras mean for the future: 
"With reference to his prison sentence, the Registrant said that he is now residing in Open Conditions."

"The Panel also noted that the Registrant had yet to complete his prison sentence from the Court and that, in accordance with the principle enunciated in [case] he should not be permitted to resume his practice until he had satisfactorily completed his sentence."

And if he is ever allowed to practise again, he's got to get a job somewhere. It's a seller's market.
If you're ever wondering why your ambulance trust is struggling to recruit, here is part of the reason - which do you prefer - the hands dirty buzz of the emergency ambulance, the call centre and the 24h shift system, or based at a nice, warm GP surgery doing mainly 9-5? 

Ambulance trust job advert: https://beta.jobs.nhs.uk/candidate/jobadvert/C9340-APR-06-23

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Simon E replied to Secret_squirrel | 8 months ago
3 likes
Secret_squirrel wrote:

Unlike most killer drivers he has a massive opportunity to "pay it back" should he choose to.

I disagree.

Lots of people could be trained to drive an ambulance effectively. I'd rather not risk this supposedly 'remorseful' arsewipe be allowed behind the wheel of any vehicle again thanks, ambulance or otherwise. He can 'pay back' in other ways.

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hawkinspeter replied to Simon E | 8 months ago
4 likes
Simon E wrote:

I disagree.

Lots of people could be trained to drive an ambulance effectively. I'd rather not risk this supposedly 'remorseful' arsewipe be allowed behind the wheel of any vehicle again thanks, ambulance or otherwise. He can 'pay back' in other ways.

Absolutely. We should be stopping these sociopaths from ever being in control of large motorised vehicles. There's way too many people driving as it is, so let's take advantage of the people that demonstrate their incompetence to remove their driving licence permanently.

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EraserBike | 8 months ago
8 likes

Common theme in a lot of these stories is a Judge who seems like they're passing a sentence reluctantly and talk about how the killer is a really great guy who just had a bad day. No. This man probably drove drunk regularly and in the end he killed someone. Should be done for manslaughter and put away for a much longer time, never allowed to drive again and certainly not given a chance for a respected career. Judges in this country are a sick joke.

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festina replied to EraserBike | 8 months ago
3 likes

I agree, if he'd had a couple of pints and thought he might be in the limit is poor judgement but 10 f**king pints! This is someone who doesn't care what the rules are.

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SecretSam | 8 months ago
7 likes

"dedicated his life to saving lives and not to wrecking them"

Apart from the life he ended, obviously

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muhasib | 8 months ago
6 likes

The only way I would wish this individual to contribute to society as a paramedic again would be as a cycle responder; could the Tribunal have recommended this as the sole outcome to keeping his registration and indeed encourage Mr Woodruff to pursue as a practical demonstration of rehabilitation being more than just his platitudes spoken to the Tribunal?

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dubwise | 8 months ago
7 likes

Other people have lost their jobs for far less crimes.

This scumbag should never be allowed to continue in this profession.

I hope Woodruff dies a slow agonising death.

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AlsoSomniloquism replied to dubwise | 8 months ago
7 likes

He has lost his 'current' job as he has been jailed for five years so won't be earning. The report above has just stated that the board in charge of his license to be a paramedic have decided not to revoke that from him. Of course whether he can get a job as a paramedic once out of prison will be down to the places he applies to, if he even applies again. 

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chrisonabike | 8 months ago
11 likes

I'm not sure whether he should practice again but surely we should give serious consideration to him never driving again?

Unfortunately that sets up a familiar dilemma.  He's clearly behaved in a way pretty incompatible with due care for others.  Incredibly selfishly and FWIW as a 36-year old - he's not 16.  But comes the cry "but we need doctors!"  Shortly followed by "Oh, now he can practice again we must let the medics travel to save lives / reach patients!".

Currently I struggle imagine society / the law getting their heads round "you have a high-status responsible job" with "...but you're not allowed to drive".

Note: social status / job status is important here.  Consider - would we really give e.g. a carer this kind of latitude?  Yet they can be doing life-critical work.

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mctrials23 replied to chrisonabike | 8 months ago
9 likes

Indeed. This should be grounds for never driving again. I have no issue with him not being struck off however. Most jobs are not covered by a professional body so this wouldn't even be a discussion for most people. This isn't directly related to his ability to do his job although you would imagine that a paramedic would have seen first hand the damage from drunk or inattentive driving so the mind boggles that he did this. 

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qwerty360 replied to chrisonabike | 8 months ago
4 likes

Yep;

I can't really see this being a good reason to strike someone off; Ambulances have 2+ man crews, so presumably the service should be able to cope with a paramedic who can't drive.

Presumably it can also deal with some monitoring that they aren't turning up to work drunk (given afaik health care workers have a relatively high rate of alcohol abuse (questionable method of handling the stress of the job))

 

The only problem is it shouldn't be allowed as an argument for why they should get their licence back...

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Brauchsel replied to qwerty360 | 8 months ago
3 likes

If paramedics are under the same regulatory scheme as other medics, I think it is grounds for striking off. There's a clause about "undermining public confidence in the profession" or similar that's used to get rid of doctors/nurses who have done something pretty unwise or unsavoury in their non-professional lives. I think that driving while seriously drunk and killing someone would be covered by that. The professional body who took him to the tribunal may (should) appeal. 

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