In a recent appeal by the General Medical Council (GMC v Dr Christopher Lamming  EWHC 3309), the UK High Court overturned a decision of the Medical Practitioners Tribunal (“the MPT”) to restore a medical practitioner to the register of medical practitioners (“the register”) who had previously been suspended and erased from the register for dishonest conduct.
In 2004, Dr Lamming was suspended for three months from the register for falsely claiming on his CV that he had a PHD from an American University and for other false and misleading claims in relation to his qualifications and experience. Thereafter he returned to work as a doctor. Following further disciplinary proceedings in 2007, Dr Lamming was struck from the register for the dishonest retention by him of a salary erroneously paid to him by the NHS in 2000 while he was on study leave in the United States of America.
In February 2017, Dr Lamming applied for restoration to the register. The application was granted by the MPT despite Dr Lamming providing evidence in relation to his previous suspension and erasure as part of this application that was inconsistent with the evidence he had given in 2007, at the time of erasure. In granting this application, the MPT stated that it would not “re-litigate the facts found proved by the 2007 Panel”.
The General Medical Council (“the GMC”) appealed this decision to the UK High Court on the basis that the MPT’s reasoning for restoring Dr Lamming to the Register was flawed in that they failed to address or reach proper conclusions on the central basis upon which the GMC had resisted the application in the first instance. The GMC argued that the previous sanctions had demonstrated that Dr Lamming had a propensity to be dishonest and his inconsistent evidence given as part of his application for restoration had shown a lack of insight into his dishonest behaviour and a continued tendency to act dishonestly.
High Court Appeal
The UK High Court decided to allow the GMC appeal and the decision of the MPT was quashed. It was ruled that the matter would be remitted to a differently constituted Tribunal for re-determination.
In making this decision, the Court held that the MPT had failed to address the issues they were required to address before they could reach a proper conclusion on the matter before them. It was found that the starting point was to consider the reasons why Dr Lamming was found to be impaired in 2007 such that erasure from the register was the appropriate sanction.
The Court found that the four principal reasons for the panel’s decision in 2007 were as follows;
- Dr Lamming had some insight into his actions and their consequences, but the level of insight was insufficient;
- Dr Lamming had a propensity to be dishonest;
- The panel had rejected much of Dr Lamming’s evidence, which had changed on more than one occasion; and,
- It was concerned that Dr Lamming’s dishonest actions amounted to a serious and deep-seated behavioural problem, leading to a risk of recurrence.
The Court held that the principal question which the 2017 Tribunal should have been minded to address when considering Dr Lamming’s application for restoration was whether the evidence which it had heard was sufficient to resolve each of the four issues in Dr Lamming’s favour.
This decision of the UK High Court, whilst not directly applicable in Ireland, will carry weight in this jurisdiction. It is therefore an important decision for Irish regulators to be aware of.
The decision emphasises the importance of panels satisfying themselves in restoration applications that the issues which led to erasure in the first instance have resolved such that restoration to the register is appropriate. In determining this, the reasoning of the previous panel responsible for the decision to erase is important as is the evidence previously given by the applicant.
The decision also highlights the importance of panels providing adequate reasons for their decisions to restore.
Authors: David McKechnie and Daniel Faulkner