The Administrative Court (Mr Justice Blair) was asked to determine whether Article 6 (the right to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law) was applicable to disciplinary hearings. It is accepted that a person’s right generally to practise his or her profession is a civil right for the purposes of Article 6.
There is, however, no civil right to remain in a particular employment. The grey area lies where a dismissal for misconduct would effectively leave the person concerned unable to obtain another job in his or her profession. That can be particularly so in the case of a doctor employed within the National Health Service.
The court held that in ordinary disciplinary proceedings where all that is at stake is the loss of a specific job, Article 6 would not be engaged. However, where the effect of the proceedings could be to deprive an employee of the right to practise his or her profession, then the Article would be engaged. Article 6 would therefore be engaged where an NHS doctor faced charges of such gravity that, if proved, would effectively bar him from employment in the NHS.
Each case will fall to be determined on its own facts and on the nature of the charges being faced by the doctor concerned.
The case precedes a similar case pending before the Court of Appeal when this issue is likely to be reconsidered by the higher court.
The Queen on the Application of Mr Rajiv Puri v Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust