The Administrative Court has held to be ‘irrational’ and a breach of Article 6 of the ECHR (see case above) a decision by the General Medical Council (GMC) to admit hearsay evidence when such evidence would not be admissible under the criminal laws of evidence. In Bonhoeffer v General Medical Council, Professor Bonhoeffer, a consultant paediatric cardiologist, had been charged by the GMC with impairment of his fitness to practise following allegations of sexual misconduct with young boys in Africa. Following investigation of these allegations by the British police, only one victim, A, supported the allegations so a criminal case was not pursued. The GMC had called for the transcript of A’s evidence to be admitted in evidence at a hearing to determine Professor Bonhoeffer’s fitness to practise, without calling A.
Professor Bonhoeffer applied for a judicial review of the panel’s decision to admit the hearsay evidence at the hearing, citing Article 6 in his support of his claim that there needed to be adequate safeguards in place when admitting such evidence. The Court held that whilst there is no general rule that a person facing disciplinary proceedings may cross examine witnesses, the case should be determined according to the general obligation of fairness imposed on the fitness to practise panel by general common law principles and Article 6. On the facts before them, it would be unfair to admit A’s hearsay evidence. The Court emphasised the importance of procedural safeguards at common law and under Article 6. The more serious the allegation, the greater the importance of proper procedural safeguards.