Dr Kulkarni worked as a junior doctor for the Milton Keynes Hospital NHS Foundation Trust (the Trust). He was suspended following allegations that he indecently assaulted a patient. Dr Kulkarni was represented by a non-legally qualifi ed adviser from the Medical Protection Society (MPS) at an internal disciplinary hearing. His standard terms of employment stipulated that each NHS Trust must make its own arrangements for disciplinary proceedings. He was informed that under the Trust’s Policy he was not entitled to legal representation.

Dr Kulkarni sought a High Court declaration that the Trust was acting unlawfully and in breach of contract. He submitted that the Trust had discretion to allow him legal representation and that a failure to do this was a breach of his article 6 right to a fair trial under the European Convention on Human Rights. The High Court rejected these arguments and he appealed.

The Court of Appeal construed the wording of the Trust’s contractual disciplinary procedure to mean that he was entitled to representation by a legally qualifi ed person at internal disciplinary hearings, but this person could only be a friend, colleague, partner or MPS representative. They could not be a lawyer independently instructed by Dr Kulkarni. The Court also suggested that article 6 is engaged where an NHS doctor faces charges which could end his career if proved. A failure to allow legal representation would therefore have been unlawful.

Kulkarni v Milton Keynes Hospital NHS Foundation Trust