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Rich v General Medical Council (2013) All ER (D) 256 (May)

Carina May
20/06/2013
In March 2010, R, a doctor, was convicted of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, following a fight on a bus. He was sentenced to an indeterminate prison sentence with a minimum term of In March 2010, R, a doctor, was convicted of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, following a fight on a bus. He was sentenced to an indeterminate prison sentence with a minimum term of 42 months. The Judge found that R had a deluded belief that he was being followed and monitored, which gave rise to a significant risk of harm to the public and made it necessary for R to be imprisoned for public protection.

R's case was referred to the GMC's fitness to practise panel ("the Panel"), which had previously cautioned him for harassment. In R's absence in prison, the Panel found that his fitness to practise was impaired by reason of his conviction, and determined that it was in the public interest and proportionate for him to be erased from the medical register. In making these findings the panel considered R's departure from the standards of good practice and his lack of insight.

R appealed against this decision on the grounds that: (i) his interim suspension was unjust, as he had served three years of suspension since it had been imposed; (ii) a recent assessment of his mental health revealed that his mental state was normal; (iii) his conviction had been a miscarriage of justice (his appeal had been dismissed but Mr Rich was seeking a review by the Criminal Cases Review Commission); (iv) his prior caution for harassment was unjust; and (v) he had no prior history of convictions.

R did not attend at the appeal and was not represented. The High Court noted that it was established law that the principal purpose of the Panel was the maintenance of public confidence in the profession and the Court had to afford respect to the Panel with regard to the sanction imposed. The High Court noted that R had not challenged his interim suspension at the time and that any challenge was likely to have failed.

The High Court considered that R's mental health and previous caution were irrelevant to the Panel's decision, because the Panel had not relied upon these factors in reaching its decision, but instead on the fact that his fitness to practise was impaired due to his conviction for a serious violent offence and his lack of insight. The lack of prior convictions was also irrelevant, as R's conviction was sufficiently serious to justify the findings and sanction, even for a first offence.

The High Court concluded that the Panel's decision had been the only possible conclusion in the circumstances, which it had been bound to reach by the certificate of conviction and dismissal of the subsequent appeal. The Panel had applied the correct principles. It had properly considered the public confidence in the profession and imposed an appropriate sanction where a doctor had violated normal conduct by committing a violent offence. As a result, R's appeal was dismissed.

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