In the recent case of Levy v General Medical Council, Dr Levy, a forensic psychiatrist within high security prisons and hospitals, received a police caution for making a false representation under the Fraud Act 2006 (presenting a fraudulent car insurance certificate to police officers) and was subsequently convicted of driving without insurance. During a police interview, Dr Levy claimed the car insurance had been organised by a relative, but at a subsequent police interview which he requested, he admitted to creating the false document himself.
At a hearing before the General Medical Council’s Fitness to Practise Panel (GMC FTPP), Dr Levy said again that a member of his family had helped him to renew his car insurance and gave him the false document. Dr Levy claimed he was not wilfully dishonest but took responsibility in order to protect the relative.
The FTPP hearing was adjourned for six months and, when the hearing resumed, Dr Levy admitted he had not been truthful when he told the police, and later the FTPP, that the false document had not been created by him. He said this dishonesty was uncharacteristic of him and he felt guilty and ashamed.
The FTPP was concerned that Dr Levy had lied under oath to his regulatory body. The FTPP found Dr Levy’s fitness to practise was impaired by reason of the police caution, the conviction for driving without insurance, failing to disclose the conviction to the GMC, and lying under oath. A nine month suspension was imposed upon Dr Levy’s registration to be reviewed before the end of that period.
The FTPP’s decision was confirmed to Dr Levy in a letter and he was told that it would be of assistance to the panel if written testimonials of his good character, evidence to show he had enhanced his insight into his dishonesty and evidence to show that he had kept his medical knowledge up-to-date could be made available at the review.
Dr Levy appealed the sanction under Section 40 of the Medical Act 1983. He claimed that this indication of the evidence the panel would find helpful was a mandatory imposition of matters that he would have to put before the panel which was setting him up to fail as it required compulsory issues to be presented on review.
The matter was heard before His Honour Judge Pearl in the Administrative Court. Applying the principles in Cheatle v GMC , His Honour Judge Pearl held that there was no foundation on which Dr Levy could show the sanction was wrong, and that in professional disciplinary tribunal hearings, issues of professional judgment were often at the heart of the case. He also referred to the case of Raschid and two important principles: that it was crucial to maintain public confidence in the profession; and that special place should be given to the judgment of a specialist tribunal.
In relation to public confidence, and particularly in the context of Dr Levy’s prison work, the FTPP’s serious view of his dishonesty and the continuing dishonesty when he lied under oath to FTPP at the initial hearing was not surprising.
With regard to the requirements of paragraph 115 of the Indicative Sanctions Guidance, it is not always necessary to direct a review hearing. Should a review take place, the FTPP may make clear what they expect the doctor to do during the suspension period and the information he should submit in advance of the review. It is an indication of what the reviewing panel might find helpful, and should be helpful to the doctor also. This is what the decision letter to Dr Levy requested with a view to reinstating his registration at a review hearing. Such expressions of expectation do not amount to an appealable decision under the Medical Act 1983.
The appeal was dismissed.