Doctors’ critic resigns from guidance group after protestsBMJ 2010; 341 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.c6248 (Published 03 November 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;341:c6248
The controversial parents’ advocate and campaigner Penny Mellor has stepped down from the General Medical Council’s expert group on child protection in the face of a High Court challenge to the GMC’s decision to recruit her to the group.
Papers served on the GMC by the paediatrician David Southall argue that her inclusion in the group is “illegal, perverse, and unethical” and contrary to the public interest and the spirit of the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006.
Dr Southall also contends that Mrs Mellor’s appointment is contrary to the GMC’s obligations in respecting the professional status and work of the doctors it registers and contrary to its role, as established with the Charity Commission, to regulate professional practice and provide advice on standards of conduct and performance and on medical ethics.
The GMC is a charity, and the Charity Commission had agreed to be named as an interested party to the judicial review proceedings that Dr Southall was seeking permission to bring.
Mrs Mellor has run a campaign for years targeting a number of doctors involved in child protection, attacking them on the internet and filing complaints against them with the GMC and their employers. Dr Southall, an expert on fabricated and induced illness in children, is one of her chief targets. She has admitted playing a part in around 30 complaints against him.
When her appointment to the expert group, which is drawing up new guidance for paediatricians in child protection cases, was announced last July, there was an outcry from paediatricians (BMJ 2010;341:c3788 doi:10.1136/bmj.c3788). The group Professionals Against Child Abuse (PACA) described it as an “affront to paediatricians and other professionals involved in child protection work” in an open letter to the GMC’s chairman, Peter Rubin.
Mrs Mellor served a prison term in 2002 for conspiracy to abduct a child to Ireland to keep her out of the hands of social services, who wanted to take her into care. She was sentenced to two years in jail, reduced to 18 months on appeal, and served eight months.
The trial judge told her, “Impervious to debate, convinced you are right, you have traduced, complained about, and harried dedicated professional people working in this difficult area.” He said she was being punished for “orchestrating an abduction of a child, in part at least for your own propaganda purposes,” adding that family members, who also received prison sentences, were unlikely to have participated without her encouragement.
Dr Southall’s application for judicial review quotes from comments posted on the web by Mrs Mellor, including, “Wake up and smell the coffee our police because David Southall is a serial killer and he’s done it right under your noses,” and (of judges and the lord chancellor), “Got you now you bastards. You corrupt sons of bitches the whole judiciary in the UK is bought and paid for.”
Mrs Mellor declined to speak to the BMJ, but the GMC confirmed her resignation. Its chief executive, Niall Dickson, said, “In a letter to the GMC Mrs Mellor explained she had decided to resign because she felt that the response to her membership was detracting from the important work of the group. We respect Mrs Mellor’s decision and accept the reasons she has given.
“We established this group to develop guidance that will help doctors involved in this complex and challenging area of practice to interpret and apply the standards expected by the GMC. We are determined to ensure that parents, children, doctors, and other professionals are able to take part and help shape this important guidance.”
Cite this as: BMJ 2010;341:c6248