GDC Watch Spring: Convictions.
by Victoria Holden
It would be fair to say that the recent erasure of Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba from the medical register following a High Court challenge by the GMC against the MPTS decision to suspend her, has sparked outrage in the medical and dental professions. As someone who closely follows Fitness to Practise matters I was especially intrigued for reasons I shall explain in this article. Being convicted of a criminal offence, or accepting a caution brings with it a means by which a registrant will normally automatically face an allegation of impairment.  However, it is not for a Practice Committee to challenge the conviction or caution, or to punish a registrant again. In that sense, it is important to bear in mind the difference between a sentence and a sanction.  One is intended to punish the perpetrator for a crime committed in the past, whilst a sanction is intended to protect the public in the future. The GDC Indicative Sanctions Guidance explains to the Practice Committees how they should consider convictions and cautions, and reminds the PCC that it must give due consideration to the GDC guidance and standards which oblige registrants to maintain appropriate standards of personal and professional behaviour.  On the matter of cases involving serious sexual misconduct, for example, involvement in child pornography, the GDC PCC are advised that they may reasonably consider that erasure is the appropriate sanction. GDC FtP hearings duly demonstrate this principle is followed without exception, and there is a legal precedent established in the case CRHP v GDC & Fleischmann (the background was a conviction relating to distribution of indecent photographs of children) that a disciplinary sanction should not, as a rule, be less than a criminal sentence.   Bearing the GDC position in mind, and the gravity of child pornography offences both in terms of the moral reprehensibility and breach of public trust and confidence, it would be safe to assume that the GMC adopt the same principles.  
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