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Southall plans new career as expert witness in child protection cases

BMJ 2010; 340 doi: (Published 11 May 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c2529
  1. Clare Dyer
  1. 1BMJ

    David Southall, the paediatrician who was restored to the United Kingdom’s medical register last week, is about to relaunch himself as an expert witness in child abuse cases. Ten years after he last worked in child protection, but still a leading expert on fabricated or induced illness, he wants to help plug the gap left by doctors who are shunning the work for fear of career suicide.

    After 24 inquiries into his work over the past 12 years by the General Medical Council, his employers, a government commissioned review, police, the attorney general, and even the fraud squad and the Charity Commission, the former professor of paediatrics still sees it as his mission to stop children being harmed.

    Whether the way will now be clear for him to take up his shattered career again hinges on an imminent decision by the GMC. Dr Southall won his appeal against the council’s decision last year to strike him off the register but only on the basis that the fitness to practise panel gave inadequate reasons (BMJ 2010;340:c2448, 4 May, doi:10.1136/bmj.c2448).

    The Court of Appeal sent the case back to the GMC last week for rehearing by a new panel. But Lord Justice Leveson, who delivered judgment on behalf of all three judges, said that he was “far from convinced that the public interest would be served” by a rehearing of the factual allegation that Dr Southall had accused Mandy Morris, during an interview with her 12 years ago, of killing her child.

    Dr Southall maintains, backed up by a social worker who was present, that he never made the accusation but merely outlined a range of scenarios.

    It seems likely that the GMC, whose fitness to practise panel took him to task for “deep seated attitudinal problems” in the Mandy …

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