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Divisional Court rules on GMC disciplinary panel’s decision to admit hearsay evidence


On 21 June 2011 the Divisional Court (Laws LJ and Stadlen J) handed down its judgment on a judicial review application by paediatric cardiologist Dr Bonhoeffer against the decision of the GMC's Fitness to Practice Panel ("FTPP") to admit hearsay evidence in disciplinary proceedings against him.
Following detailed survey of the case law on the admissibility of hearsay evidence in criminal and disciplinary proceedings, the Court ruled that the FTPP's decision was irrational and constituted a breach of the doctor's right to a fair hearing under Article 6 of the Human Rights Convention. The Court rejected the FTPP's conclusion that whilst the evidence would not be admissible in criminal proceedings, it was nonetheless desirable to admit it in light of the public interest in investigating the serious allegations in question and the FTPP's duty in protecting patients, maintaining public confidence in the profession and upholding proper standards of behaviour. In particular, the Court noted that the serious nature of the allegations did not diminish but heightened the importance of the procedural safeguards to be afforded to the accused.

The judgment is here.

Kelyn Bacon appeared as junior Counsel for the GMC.