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Privy Council sets aside GMC ruling

BMJ 2000; 320 doi: (Published 25 March 2000) Cite this as: BMJ 2000;320:822
  1. Clare Dyer, legal correspondent
  1. BMJ

    The Privy Council has set aside a General Medical Council ruling striking a GP off the medical register for sexual improprieties after throwing out one of the charges found proved by the GMC.

    The three judges dismissed a charge that Emmanuel Nwabueze had had sexual intercourse at his surgery at Prestatyn in Clwyd on 26 December 1995 with a former patient.

    The judges—Lord Hope, Sir Patrick Russell, and Sir Andrew Leggatt—ordered that Dr Nwabueze should be re-sentenced on the remaining charges found proved against him, if those charges are held to amount to serious professional misconduct, at a new hearing. No date has yet been set for the rehearing and sentencing.

    The GP has been practising since his name was ordered to be erased from the medical register last April and is continuing to practise pending the new hearing.

    In an unprecedented move before the Privy Council hearing, the GMC won an injunction against Richard Colman, one of the five member panel of the professional conduct committee that heard Dr Nwabueze's case, banning him from disclosing details of the panel's confidential deliberations to the GP's solicitor.

    Dr Colman, a York GP, wrote to the GMC's president, Sir Donald Irvine, after Dr Nwabueze was struck off, expressing his concern about the proceedings. He felt the panel's chairman, Jeremy Lee-Potter, had been “too dominating.”

    He also contacted Dr Nwabueze's solicitor, Ralph Shipway, offering help in preparing an appeal to the Privy Council, but the GMC injunction prevented him from speaking to Mr Shipway about the panel's discussions, which took place in camera.

    The Privy Council held, in an appeal brought by John Roylance, former chief executive of United Bristol NHS Healthcare Trust, that the GMC's in camera discussions are protected from disclosure by public interest immunity. Dr Colman, who is no longer a member of the GMC, fears that the system may not offer enough safeguards for doctors at a time of growing pressure to get through an expanding caseload quickly.

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