Gynaecologist wins right to challenge fertility authority over raids at his clinics

BMJ 2007; 334 doi: (Published 29 March 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;334:659
  1. Clare Dyer, legal correspondent
  1. BMJ

    One of Britain's most successful practitioners of in vitro fertilisation won permission this week for a high court challenge to the legality of search warrants used by the watchdog on fertility treatment to raid his clinics.

    Mr Justice Holman gave Mohammed Taranissi the go ahead to seek judicial review on the basis that the action by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) was unjustified, disproportionate, and unlawful and that the evidence relied on by the authority in seeking the warrants to search his two London clinics was seriously defective.

    The warrants were used last January by inspectors from the authority and police to search Mr Taranissi's London clinics, the Assisted Reproduction and Gynaecology Centre and the Reproductive Genetics Institute (BMJ 2007;334:115, 20 Jan, doi: 10.1136/bmj.39097.746030.4E).

    The preliminary ruling means that the consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist has made out an arguable case, and another judge will go on to rule on his claims after a full hearing.

    But the judge rejected as “unarguable” Mr Taranissi's claim that the HFEA had obtained the warrants for the “improper and collateral motive” of seeking to protect its reputation.

    Mr Holman said the HFEA knew that a television programme was due to be screened on the night of 15 January alleging that Mr Taranissi had treated patients when one of his clinics was not properly licensed. Damage limitation might have been “a purpose” for obtaining the warrants the same day, but it was not “the dominant purpose,” he added.

    The judge said there had been “a strained relationship for a considerable period” between the HFEA and Mr Taranissi. The authority had described him as “difficult and awkward,” and he in turn had been critical of it. He was accused of carrying out 104 treatments at the Reproductive Genetics Institute at a time when the clinic was not licensed, but he insisted that the HFEA knew about his work and that there had been a misunderstanding.

    The HFEA said in a statement, “We are pleased, at this very first stage of the process, that the judge has struck out the central part of Mr Taranissi's case.

    The judge has found that it is not arguable that, in deciding to apply for a warrant to search Mr Taranissi's clinics, the authority acted for an improper or collateral purpose. He has also confirmed that the manner in which the warrants were executed by HFEA staff was not inappropriate.”

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