Judge refuses to extend interim order due to unreasonable delays.

Registered Nurse, David Miller, was initially made subject to an interim suspension order in May 2009 in relation to allegations of dishonesty and aggressive conduct towards patients and members of the public.

A High Court Judge, Mitting J, extended the order beyond the 18 month maximum imposed by the Interim Orders Committee (IOC) in November 2010 but expressed concerns about the speed of the investigation.

In September 2011, a further application for extension of the interim order was submitted to the High Court by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). Mr Justice Blake refused to extend the order, despite the fact that the IOC had expressed concerns that the Registrant’s aggressive behaviour may be unremedied.

In making his decision, Mr Justice Blake referred to authority that disciplinary proceedings are the determination of a civil right or obligation within Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights. This means that the NMC and the High Court are required under section 6 of the Human Rights Act to ensure that cases are progressed to a hearing expeditiously.

Mr Justice Blake acknowledged that disciplinary bodies have finite resources but said that, in the instant case, there had been a failure to progress matters within a reasonable timeframe.  

He hoped concerns about delay would be brought to the NMC’s attention, so that due priority would be afforded to cases in which a Registrant is interim suspended, and that real problems in progressing an investigation would be communicated to the court at the time of making an application for an extension.

This case highlights the importance of carrying out investigations in regulatory cases promptly. A failure to do so in a case where a Registrant is subject to an interim order may mean they can return to unrestricted practise despite potentially being a threat to the public.