In January 2017, the High Court in England and Wales considered the appeal of Dr Ali Abbas against the decision of the Medical Practitioners’ Tribunal Service (“MPTS”) to cancel his registration with the General Medical Council (“GMC”).
In dismissing the appeal, Mr Justice Nicol addressed a number of issues which will be pertinent to many fitness to practise hearings.
In June 2016, following an full oral hearing, the MPTS upheld many of the complaints made against Dr Ali Abbas by the GMC. In so finding, the MPTS held that Dr Abbas’ fitness to practise was impaired and that he was guilty of deliberate and dishonest behaviour.
Accordingly, the MPTS recommended that the appropriate sanction was erasure from the medical register. In addition, Dr Abbas’ registration was immediately suspended pursuant to Section 38 of the Medical Act 1983.
Dr Abbas appealed the decision of the MPTS to the High Court on several wide-ranging grounds, which appeal was heard in January 2017.
In dismissing the Appellant’s appeal, a number of points of interest were addressed by Mr Justice Nicol. A copy of Mr Justice Nicol’s judgment can be accessed here.
1. Persons not called as witnesses by the GMC:
Dr Abbas argued that there were further witnesses not called by the GMC who Dr Abbas may have wished to give evidence before the MPTS.
Observing that the evidence advanced by the GMC was sufficient for the MPTS to find most of the charges against Dr Abbas proven, Mr Justice Nicol noted that, had the Appellant believed that any of the doctors not called by the GMC would have been in a position to give evidence in support of his contentions, Dr Abbas could have arranged for those doctors to be called to give evidence.
In this regard, Mr Justice Nicol noted that there are powers to compel the attendance of witnesses before tribunals of this nature.
2. Videolink Evidence:
Addressing the challenge by Dr Abbas of the hearing of evidence by videolink by the MPTS, Mr Justice Nicol observed the discretion of the MPTS to hear evidence in this manner.
In noting that the hearing evidence by videolink was a case management matter, Mr Justice Nicol further noted that “the hearing must still be fair to the parties, but the Appellant did not, and could not have, argued that the decision to allow [a witness] to give evidence via videolink led to the hearing being unfair.”
Whilst largely confined to its own facts, this judgment provides current guidance on issues regularly encountered in the context of Fitness to Practise hearings.